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Mushfiqur Rahim and Angelo Mathews: Players who revel in captaincy

Mushfiqur Rahim (left) and Angelo Mathews © Getty Images
Mushfiqur Rahim (left) and Angelo Mathews © Getty Images

Bangladesh captain Mushfiqur Rahim played a fluent knock against India during their loss in the first One-Day International (ODI).  The wicketkeeper-batsman has hardly been perturbed by Bangladesh’s ill-fated fortunes in the recent past. On the very same day, Angelo Mathews scored a century for Sri Lanka against England.  R Vishal analyses the two players, who seem to get better with the additional burden of captaining their respective teams.

Talismanic cricketers are treated with kid’s gloves across the world. After Sachin Tendulkar’s ill-fated reign during 1996-00, India made sure they didn’t saddle the batting legend with arguably the toughest job in cricket — leading Team India.  As for the player to be appointed as captain, the rules were written in stone. The best player of the team is given the job.

And through the centuries, the pattern has remained the same — in cricket and across sports. It could be argued that Clive Lloyd wasn’t the best player in the team even though he took West Indies to stratospheric heights. It was probably with Lloyd, where the foundations of a new-age captain took shape. As for keeping the team’s talisman away from the spotlight, the trend caught on. Post 2010, we have had Kumar Sangakkara and AB de Villiers either relived or kept away from captaincy and wicketkeeping duties.

Like de Villiers, Jacques Kallis was warded off other responsibilities to solely concentrate on his game and the latter was the torchbearer of South African cricket. Mushfiqur Rahim and Angelo Mathews are now in a league of their own. When everyday rigours of leading a group take a tool on stalwarts, Mushfiqur and Mathews seem to revel in it.

In Mathews’s case though, it has to be said that he was penciled for the role since a tender age. He captained Sri Lanka’s Under-19 team and has had a whirlwind rise to the throne with the senior team. His team was in a precarious position after losing a Test against Pakistan at Abu Dhabi. However, Mathews elevated himself into an excellent Test match grafter to post 91 and an unbeaten 157. Since then, his batting has been on a steep rise. His fighting century in what was a backs-to-the-wall situation at Lord’s displayed the mental steel and fearlessness of a No 7.

Just like Mathews, Bangladesh’s Rahim has led by example with his fearless brand of batting. Pushed into captaincy at 22 after the country’s poster boy, Shakib Al Hasan looked rather hassled by it during his tenure. A vocal presence behind the wickets, galvanising his troops and barking out instructions, Mushfiqur commands respect from his peers. Despite the team continuing to be the whipping boys of the big teams, the diminutive right-hander has stood like a rock in the middle-order. In Tests, Mushfiqur averages 42.52 in with a double century to boot as captain. His One-Day International (ODI) average as skipper is healthy too, at 35.70.

Perhaps it was symbolic that both Mathews and Mushfiqur posted vital knocks for their teams on the very same day. Star players are thriving too. Shakib has been playing with a new lease of life under Mushfiqur. With Mathews at the helm, Sangakkara continues to reach new heights with his batting. The captain duo are stroke-making batsmen with age on the side, being handed over the job of rebuilding the team. By not delving deep into tactics, Mushfiqur and Mathews have set the gold standards for young captains playing under lofty expectations in recent times.

(R Vishal is a journalist and alumnus of Asian College of Journalism. He can be followed on Twitter@vishhell)

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