2018 has been a magnificent year in all formats for Mushfiqur Rahim. His match-winning contributions have emerged as the highlight of Mushfiqur's performance throughout the year, and he was an obvious choice to be declared The Daily Star's Sportsperson of the Year. The 31-year-old also became the first wicket-keeper batsman in Test history to score two double-hundreds when he hit a brilliant unbeaten 219 against Zimbabwe. The dependable cricketer spoke to The Daily Star's Mazhar Uddin about his performances in 2018 and his plans for the upcoming year. The following are the excerpts of the exclusive interview:
The Daily Star (TDS): You were named The Daily Star's Sportsperson of the Year for your brilliant batting in 2018. How would you assess the year?
Mushfiqur Rahim (MR): Alhamdulillah, it always feels good but there is no end to doing better. The type of shape I was in over the past two-three years, I think I could have done even better in 2018. But overall, 2018 was not bad. I tried to be consistent but I could have done better. As a team we missed opportunities to win two-three trophies in 2018 -- it was a mixed bag but overall I think we had the consistency. It will help us in the coming year, which will be more challenging.
TDS: Which knock in 2018 would you rate as your best?
MR: Test cricket has always remained the top among the three formats, so I think I will keep my unbeaten 219 against Zimbabwe up there. The type of situation we were in after losing three early wickets on an unpredictable Mirpur pitch was tough. I had a good partnership with Mominul Haque and I think credit should also go to him. Along with the skill, I was able to keep the mental discipline during that knock, so I think it was my best knock of 2018.
TDS: 2019 will be challenging for Bangladesh as most of the matches are abroad, including the World Cup in England and Wales. What areas do you think you as an individual and the team can work on?
MR: It's always challenging to bat in New Zealand but there will be sporting pitches in ICC events like the World Cup. The series against New Zealand will be challenging. Although we lost the match, we did pretty well in Wellington last time and have good memories there. They have some skilful bowlers like Trent Boult and Tim Southee and we know where they are going to attack us. I will start working on those areas during the Bangladesh Premier League; it's a different format but it's always good to be in match mode. As a batting unit I think it will be a huge challenge and three-four experienced batters need to step up so that, as our bowling unit is relatively inexperienced, we could provide them enough opportunities. The format in the World Cup this time is very even for everyone as we will get enough opportunities to play and I think it is suitable for us. If we can start the year well in New Zealand, which will be tough but not impossible, we can gather momentum for the World Cup. Our best achievement in was reaching the quarterfinals and I believe we have the ability to go right to the top this time.
TDS: Talking about the inexperienced fast bowling attack, what can we learn from India, who have developed a dangerous pace bowling unit both home and abroad?
MR: It's a huge factor and the main thing is to have that hunger. If someone asks me which format I want to play I would say Tests. It's a matter of love and passion -- if our bowlers don't believe that they can take 100 or 200 Test wickets and don't try to be match-winners, it will be tough. You have to dream -- it won't come easily. You have to bowl 25-30 overs in each innings. You need that fitness, mental toughness and also the skill. Your competition has to be with [Jasprit] Bumrah, [Mitchell] Starc and even if you don't have that much pace you can work on your line, length and swing. Look at Mohammad Abbas making life hell for Australia and New Zealand, that too in the UAE. He does not have enough pace but just focuses on a specific area and bowls continuously with just a little movement.
TDS: Were you disappointed at not being picked for the Indian Premier League?
MR: It was not in my hands. There are many calculations for the franchises as each team can have four foreign players in the playing eleven. I also heard that the BCCI has not allowed replacements for players in World Cup squads. So, even if a player from Bangladesh got a chance, he would have to return midway through the tournament to take part in the tri-series in Ireland. I never had high hopes of the IPL as I have not sent my name that frequently for the auction, but there was an opportunity this time around. As it did not happen, I am not bothered at all. My job is to play well for my country and if I get a call to play somewhere else during the journey that's obviously an honour.