If I were to show you a photograph of Shakib al Hasan, would you know who he was?
As Mushfiqur Rahim scored his eighth ODI hundred on a tricky wicket in Dhaka against Sri Lanka this year, the Bangladesh stalwart passed 6500 ODI runs in an impressive career so far.
In 212 ODI innings with the bat for Bangladesh, Rahim has batted at four in 104 innings, churning out over 4000 runs at an average of 44.49. So how did Rahim get this far as a player in 50-over cricket?
During the 2007 ICC Cricket World Cup, Rahim batted at four for the first time in his ODI career against England. But that was a one-off as performances at number four were few and far between until Bangladesh’s rebuild came after the 2011 ICC World Cup.
Despite a few good performances here and there, consistency was hard to come by as Rahim averaged 29.5 in 33 innings at the end of 2013 batting at four.
But an unexpected transformation was finally set to come for Rahim, a transformation opposition teams would not expect. Come the 2014 Asia Cup, Rahim started the tournament with a bang with a quality 117 against India.
Yet just as the consistency came at number four for Rahim, new coach Chandika Hathurasingha would shift Rahim to six, while Mohammed Mahmudullah would bat at four for Bangladesh until the end of the 2015 ICC Cricket World Cup.
As Rahim would be promoted back to number four in Bangladesh’s ODI series versus Pakistan after the World Cup, he would prove to Hathurasingha that he belonged there.
With Bangladesh in a rut at 2-67 in the 21st over, Rahim came in and swept the Pakistan spinners while mercilessly picking apart the Pakistani quicks en route to a 77-ball 106. And his runs weren’t being scored only in Bangladesh.
In the 2017 ICC Champions Trophy, Rahim scored 163 runs in four matches with two 50s against England and India in the tournament and would score a highly impressive 110 not out in Bangladesh’s tour of South Africa a few months after the Champions Trophy.
But Rahim’s best two ODI innings would come in the 2018 Asia Cup in the UAE.
To say playing international cricket in the UAE is a massive challenge is an understatement. Despite the crazy Dubai heat, Rahim would bat for over 48 overs, helping Bangladesh post 261 thanks to his 150-ball 144 – his highest score in ODI cricket to date.
His 144 would be enough, as Sri Lanka were bowled out for 124. Come a virtual semi-final clash against Pakistan with the winner set to face India in the final, Bangladesh would need Rahim to step up with Tamim Iqbal and Shakib Al Hasan ruled out from the tournament due to injuries.
And boy, did he turn up again. As Shaheen Afridi and Junaid Khan ran riot in Abu Dhabi, Mushfiqur would soak up the pressure, before attacking Pakistan’s spinners in the middle overs.
But Rahim would rue a missed opportunity as Shaheen Afridi had him caught behind for 99. Despite this, Rahim’s man of the match performance with the bat would see Bangladesh defeat Pakistan on their turf (as the Pakistanis have played the majority of their home series in the UAE post-2009) and make the Asia Cup final.
Rahim’s ability to step up in big tournaments would continue in the 2019 ICC Cricket World Cup.
Scoring half-centuries against South Africa and Afghanistan, he would also score an impressive 102 not out versus Australia at Nottingham – becoming the third Bangladesh batsman to score an ICC World Cup century in the process.
Since the beginning of 2014, Rahim has scored 4104 ODI runs at an average of 49.44 and a strike rate of 87.84, alongside seven hundreds and 28 half-centuries.
Unlike players such as Eoin Morgan and Ross Taylor, he doesn’t have the luxury of batting more aggressively due to a lack of firepower in Bangladesh’s lower middle order.
Despite all this, Rahim has shown tremendous consistency, scoring runs against all opposition teams and in crunch situations.
Amongst players who have batted at number four in ODI cricket, Rahim is the tenth highest run scorer at number four in one-day internationals.
With time still on Rahim’s side, there’s a very good chance that he will leapfrog the likes of Mohammad Azharuddin, Mohammad Yousuf and Michael Clarke in that list and make the top five among most ODI runs scored at number four.
While Shakib Al Hasan is Bangladesh’s greatest cricketer in all formats, Mushfiqur Rahim has made a very fair case of being Bangladesh’s greatest ODI batsman to date. And it’s time his name is mentioned among the modern day great number fours of ODI cricket.