When the team management announced on Monday night that the Bangladesh team would not have a full training session the following day, many guessed that one player would make the trek to the Zahur Ahmed Chowdhury Stadium in Chattogram.
“Concentration is a matter of practice – it does not come all of a sudden. So as I said, preparation is a big deal for me,” said Mushfiqur Rahim on the evening of November 12, minutes after becoming the first Bangladeshi to hit a second double-century on the second day of the second Test against Zimbabwe.
“And I try to practise in a way that is close to the match situation. I try as much as possible to keep my concentration level high and not get out for an entire net session. It helps me a lot in the match. It gives me a lot of confidence that I have done my part and if Allah helps me, I can execute on the field,” he had added.
It was hardly a surprise that two days before Bangladesh are set to take on West Indies in Chattogram, Mushfiqur was at the nets for an extended batting session.
His devotion to practice has now become part of Bangladesh cricket folklore -- as early as 2013 then spin bowling coach and former Pakistan off-spinner Saqlain Mushtaq had said that he had not seen anyone who worked as hard at his game than Mushfiqur.
But more than during the hullaballoo of a team practice session, Mushfiqur's monk-like obsession with honing his craft can be seen at optional practice sessions, during which the focus is on one or two players doing the extra yards.
On Tuesday, he batted for more than an hour against off-spinner Nayeem Hasan, Under-19 leg-spinner Rishad Hossain and two net bowlers bowling medium pace. In that hour and 15 minutes, Mushfiqur concentrated on every ball as if he was batting in a Test match. Balls on a length outside the off stump were left alone regularly, overpitched balls driven and when the spinners gave it too much air and not enough dip, he advanced down the track and dispatched them.
Except for a leg-before shout from Rishad when Mushfiqur went down for the sweep -- it had struck him outside the line of off stump -- there were precious few instances of him not being in control of the shot.
He finally left the net and when all around him thought that his enormous appetite for practice had finally been sated, he put his helmet on again after a five-minute breather and set off to the nets on the other side of the ground. With head coach Steve Rhodes yet to arrive with the next batch of players opting to practice, Mushfiqur took it upon himself to lay two granite slabs on the practice wicket and proceeded to bat against a bowling machine for the next 25 minutes.
The balls picked up pace once it kissed the surface of the granite but Mushfiqur was up to the task -- hooking, pulling, ducking, weaving and playing lifters safely down at his feet.
Near the end of the session, Mushfiqur went for the hook and top-edged one, letting out an anguished cry as he realised that in a match setting that he so painstakingly tries to stimulate, that would have cost him his wicket.
Soon he walked off, with that lone false shot perhaps proving the spark of dissatisfaction that will make him practise with equal intensity the following day. But for all those who were watching enthralled, it was quite obvious that Mushfiqur will be more than ready for the West Indians when the first Test gets underway on Thursday.