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Nafees: Team combination saw Fizz dropped from Mumbai, not performance

  • Published at 09:15 pm May 24th, 2018
  • Last updated at 06:20 am May 26th, 2018
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Both Nafees Iqbal and Mustafizur Rahman returned home a couple of days back, following which Nafees took some time off to speak exclusively with Dhaka Tribune

Former Bangladesh batsman Nafees Iqbal had joined the IPL T20 franchise Mumbai Indians management to guide Tigers pacer Mustafizur Rahman in the 2018 season. Mustafizur is only the second Bangladeshi, alongside all-rounder Shakib al Hasan, to participate in this year’s tournament. However, Mumbai failed to make it to the play-offs, while Mustafizur got to play only seven off the 16 matches this season, taking just seven wickets. Both Nafees and Mustafizur returned home a couple of days back, following which Nafees took some time off to speak exclusively with Dhaka Tribune. Here are the excerpts: 

What is your take on Mustafizur’s situation in the latter stages of this IPL?

He was always among their top three bowlers, and initially part of the playing XI. However, at one point the team management thought they were missing out on a batsman so they dropped Mustafizur due to team combination. [Jasprit] Bumrah is their No 1 bowler, [Hardik] Pandya is an all-rounder while [Mitchell] McClenaghan was taking wickets. So it was very unfortunate Mustafizur had to sit out, he might not have been at his best but was performing. So there was no option but to rest him. He was never left out from the team despite sitting out so many games. The coach in the shape of Mahela [Jayawardene] and bowling mentors Shane Bond and [Lasith] Malinga were regularly working with Mustafizur in the nets and made him understood that it was not his performance but rather team combination due to which he was not in the playing XI.

What did bowling mentors Bond and Malinga make of Mustafizur’s bowling? 

They both were very helpful to Mustafizur and worked closely throughout the season. Malinga is the master of yorker and variation, which he tried to teach Mustafizur. Bond worked on the field setting. Mustafizur was always the focus of the team management, despite not playing matches. Malinga and Bond were always busy, looking into his footages and comparing his action now to when he started his career. There was one time Mustafizur had to undergo screening to find out if there is any difficulty with his action and whether he had recovered from shoulder injury.

What did Mustafizur particularly work on?

They focused on variation and field placing. Nowadays a bowler cannot rely fully on the captain but make his own decisions and utilise his knowledge. So Mustafizur worked on field placing, depending on the situation of the game, and his plans against a particular batsman. Both Bond and Malinga shared a great deal of knowledge with Mustafizur.

How did Mustafizur react?

He is a shy kind of person and keeps to himself, but not introvert. So it takes him time to open up and it was the same with Mumbai – he started enjoying after the first 10 to 12 days. He was not playing matches but having a good time with the team, becoming a darling of the side. One evening we had an open chat where my advice to him was, “You have to be open when you come to an overseas team. People will take you wrongly if you are too much to yourself.” Eventually we had lots of fun in the camp, he had started speaking in the team meetings, giving his inputs, and this was my aim with Mustafizur.

What was your role when Mustafizur warmed the bench?

You can tell that my job was that of an interpreter but the opportunity of working with one of the biggest cricket franchises in Mumbai meant a lot to me. Whenever the coaches were talking to Mustafizur it was not like I was only translating, there were always discussions. I enjoyed those conversations a lot as there was a lot to learn from those conversations with greats like Mahela, Malinga and Bond. My role was to make sure Mustafizur understood what the team management wanted from him and that he quickly understood the team DNA.

The whole stay was like an internship for me. I was initially taken there for three weeks but they made me stay the full season. I was made a part of the team where I attended all the meetings, practice sessions and travelled with the team to all the matches. 

Being a Test player I always got respect in the team, along with the fact that I am already the manager of T20 franchise Khulna Titans in the BPL. So these factors might have made them keep me the full season and create opportunity for me to learn.

Given your experience of working with Khulna, did you get to share stories?

There were lots of queries regarding the BPL, starting from high-profile cricketers and coaches to former cricketers. Some coaches even said they would be happy to work if there is any opportunity. They rate the BPL very highly. They now know that the BPL has come a long way to how it was in the beginning, with all the disputes and everything. They believe the BPL is growing.