Mohammad Mithun wants to strike back at online trolls by scoring runs again

Like all cricketers, Mohammad Mithun knows the business. You play well, you will be in the team. You are not doing well, you will be on the right track. He’s seen enough of this world to know what’s going on in between as well. But even Mithun could never have prepared for the amount of abuse he has suffered over the past six months.

Well-known personalities being abused and trolled on social media platforms in Bangladesh are as common as anywhere else in the world. One of the biggest targets is cricketers. Although there have been cases of underlying religious currents in the targeting of certain players and their family members, overall the abuse of cricketers on Bangladesh’s social media has generally been linked to performance. And Mithun’s streak of low scoring this year, a common occurrence among Bangladeshi hitters, set off a barrage of abuse and trolling so relentless that he took some of his teammates by surprise and worried them for him.

It started with criticism of his batter when he failed to score in the second test against the West Indies in Dhaka as his place on the team was quickly questioned. An unbeaten 73 against New Zealand didn’t help matters either, as it was followed by scores of 6, 4, 1 and 0. The memes and the trolls were brutal and then came the abuse. There is also a strange suggestion going around that Mithun is favored when it comes to selection. It became a well-established notion on Facebook groups when he was chosen as a replacement for the T20I side for Zimbabwe and Australia. The meanest comments sprouted whenever there were pictures of him smiling or laughing with his teammates, like he wasn’t allowed to be a normal person when he wasn’t scoring points.
Mithun has averaged 23.16 in nine ODIs this year and has only 30 runs in four innings in the other two formats. In his latest streak, Mithun only managed 51 points in Zimbabwe’s ODI last month. This included a crucial hand in a great chase in Game 3. He added 57 for the third wicket with an endemic Tamim Iqbal, but when Tamim and Mahmudullah lost successive deliveries in the 35th, Bangladesh needed Mithun to keep up, as he gave the strike to Nurul Hasan, who smashed six fours during their 64-race fifth wicket stand. Mithun didn’t escape criticism for his 30 of 57 balls, but his teammates appreciated the value of those innings, especially when they lost two senior hitters in quick succession.

In fact, Mithun remained a replacement for the Zimbabwe and Australian T20Is, the latter simply because the bio-bubble rules meant Mushfiqur Rahim and Liton Das would end up missing the Australian series.

Quite predictably, he’s now out of the T20I squad for the five-game series against New Zealand set to start on September 1. Even Mithun expected the decline, and it gave him time to step away from the traumatic months, during which he felt belittled and stuck in this circle of abuse.

“It’s insulting when people try to make a joke on you,” Mithun told ESPNcricinfo. “First, no one has the right to do it. You don’t deserve such behavior as a human being. I’m not just talking about a national cricketer. It applies to everyone. You are in control of your life and except your family members no one else should have a say. Second, I think we can only work around this culture, which shows no signs of change.

“The senior players talked about [online abuse] in the past but nothing has changed. I feel like those who laugh at me don’t have a lot of knowledge about cricket. I’m preventing myself from seeing social media, but can you just ignore it? Your friends will eventually show you these tips. I was watching Virat Kohli’s interview with Dinesh Karthik before the series in England. I agreed with Kohli when he said that these people [who abuse Kohli] does not mean anything to him. They haven’t made him what he is, so why should he bother with what they say? “

The online abuse targeting Mithun was at its worst during the Zimbabwe series, where it ultimately affected his staff and strength. He said his captain Tamim understood this immediately and tried to calm him down.

“I talked to the coach about how the square cut is my favorite shot. It’s one of my killer shots,” adds Mithun. “I like anything that has width. Zimbabwe managed to restrict me, but at the same time it is very common for a player, when going through a bad pass, that he can even play his best shot. .That’s what kept happening. To me Tamim bhai noticed my frustration and told me not to think too hard about the problem. I have to think simply and effectively to move forward, he told me.

“My failure was my inability to deal with the mental pressure I was under [from the online abuse]. Now I have the time to work on my overall mentality, to decide how best to tackle this type of abuse. At the same time, I want to have more clarity in my game. “

“I think right now I’m in a good technical position,” Mithun said. “I don’t think I would have done runs in New Zealand [on two tours] if I had technical problems. Under these conditions, you are quickly discovered. I think I can do well in other conditions as well. “

Mithun’s 73s on this tour had almost even circled the Bangladesh tour of New Zealand after getting off to a terrible start. He hit two sixes and six fours in his 57-ball shot which gave his team one final fulfillment after Tamim’s cautious departure. But the visitors dropped three crucial strikes in their defense, undermining their 271 defense.

Mithun also had runs in the ODIs in New Zealand in 2019, but this time around he only made 11 more in the third ODI and the two T20Is he was selected in after that half. century. And he thinks he couldn’t quite replicate the mentality of that good run for the rest of the tour.

“In this year’s heats in New Zealand I was in a good headspace,” he recalls. “I was making good decisions. There were fewer negative thoughts. So those factors also have to be in place to be a more consistent player. Only a player knows his inner workings, although many outsiders think they have understood the player. People say this cricket is 80% a mental game, but we barely focus on that part. I think on that aspect too, we have to think right. “

“It’s not the end of my career, and I’m not too old either”

Mithun has the ambition to come back strongly

After his low scoring ODI streak against Zimbabwe, Mithun expected to fly home the next day, but coaches told him to stay with the T20I squad, mainly to make sure Bangladesh had enough replacement players. eventually, they even ended up losing Mushfiqur and Liton for the Australia series. Mithun, who hasn’t played any of those eight T20Is combined, understood why he was with the team, but also realized it wasn’t to help his career.

“I think it was the first time I was with the team even after doing badly, and it’s mainly because of the pandemic,” he says. “I didn’t play any games, but I was with the team. I was serving a goal for the team. They needed to keep some players in the bio-bubble. It wasn’t like I was doing it. was kept in the squad to be supported, so I could come back. Now I don’t need me anymore, so they let me down. It’s that simple [as that]. “

Mithun now finds himself at a crossroads in his career, but not necessarily his first. He went through the national routine for eight years before making his international debut in 2014. It was a rough start when he couldn’t establish himself as a white ball hitter. Around 2018 he was a more regular ODI cricketer before making his test debut after playing a Bangladesh record 88 first class matches. Some say the starting point of his career was Bangladesh’s match against New Zealand in the 2019 World Cup. Many criticized him for hitting slowly, but he was only carrying out orders from the locker room to play a anchor role with big hitters on the other end.

However, Mithun believes the way forward for him is to become a mentally stronger person to get out of this funk. He says that at 30 he still has time to make his comeback, and maybe at least in ODI, he’s still someone management sees as a middle-of-the-road option.

“I have to find where I need to improve, sometimes I feel like I’m stuck in the same place,” he says. “I want to come back strong. I have to improve as a player. I was struggling with my pace during the pandemic. These things are hard to discover when you play continuously. You need time to think. am taking this positively.

“It’s not the end of my career, and I’m not too old either. I think it’s quite normal for a player to be sent off when he’s not doing well. I have been sent off. of the team in the past, so I have to find a way to be a better player again. I want to serve the team better rather than playing inconsistently. I always wanted to dominate playing for Bangladesh, but that didn’t didn’t happen like that. “

Mithun’s vast experience, in addition to the comfort of returning to his family after a long stint in the bio-bubble, already gives him insight.

“It is very obvious that if I don’t play well, I will be abandoned. It’s no secret. You are doing well, people will congratulate you and cement you a place in the team. You are not playing well, you are doing well. are left out.This is a simple theory.

Mohammad Isam is ESPNcricinfo’s correspondent in Bangladesh. @ isam84

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