Mashrafe Bin Mortaza made the ODI series against West Indies all his own……
Let me clarify myself at first. I don’t belong to the school of those blind fans, who always think that whatever their heroes do, is always correct and defend them by abusing – a modern trend among the fans, which is getting worse day by day. In that sense, I am not a worshipper of Mashrafe Bin Mortaza, who, at present, is that public figure, against whom you cannot say anything in Bangladesh. If you say so, well, the consequences won’t be good.
I do have my own complaints against Mashrafe. For example, I don’t appreciate the way he allows a bunch of greedy reporters to hang around him and gives them the opportunity to exploit his image to fill their pockets. I don’t appreciate the idea of making someone a God-like figure, who could neither be asked tough questions nor criticized if he is doing something wrong. And, it’s hard to accept a group of reporters portraying Mashrafe as a freedom fighter or even putting him on the same platform alongside the heroes of independence of Bangladesh!
I am one of the cricket followers in the land of emotions, who criticize such acts. I don’t know how to hog the limelight by going with the wind, but only know that no one is bigger than the team and country. They say, Mashrafe does not care about such things, but I ask, if he doesn’t care, why does he allow them to hang around him?
What I always like to witness is the cricketer Masharfe, who can be analysed in various aspects from the perspective of the game like we do in case of Shakib Al Hasan, Mushfiqur Rahim, Mahmudullah Riyad or Tamim Iqbal. Let us think of Mashrafe as a human-being who is blessed with dedication, willpower, cricketing skills and leadership qualities. Such qualities have made him one of the best in Bangladesh cricket’s history and a neutral writer’s pen would not move if he starts thinking Mashrafe either as a God or one of the heroes of independence of Bangladesh!
When the matter is about dedication and willpower, there is hardly anyone in the current Bangladesh team to hold a candle to Mashrafe. For the last seventeen years, this lad from Narail has given his all for the betterment of Bangladesh cricket. His whole body is nothing but a case study for the medical students who wish to build a career in Orthopaedics. His knees have borne the weight of the nation and at times they have denied supporting his body, but the man’s willpower has always propelled him to move on.
His willpower has helped him to move on and even if he is not available in Test matches, the 50-over format has remained the platform for the exhibition of Mashrafe’s cricketing skills and leadership abilities. Still today, in coloured clothes, the man remains a symbol of hope.
Bangladesh needed a massive psychological boost after a horrendous Test series. With people like Chris Gayle and Andre Russell around along with some exciting limited-overs customers, West Indies started off the three-match ODI as the favourites. But one man’s fighting qualities halted their progress – Mashrafe led from the front to defend a total, which was not enough the way limited-overs cricket is played today. Mash displayed his ability to pitch on the right lengths according to the demand of the situation.
With the new ball, he hit the good-length area more, which exposed Evin Lewis, and started to mix up his deliveries when the track started to slow down – the cross-seamed deliveries and roll off the finger ones suffocated the home team’s batters. Mash ended up with four wickets in the match and the Tigers took the lead in the series by a handsome margin. The partnership between Tamim Iqbal and Shakib Al Hasan hogged the limelight, but Mash was instrumental in this win.
The second ODI was a heartbreak and the third one could not be allowed to slip away.
Mash knew he should step up yet again and when Tamim Iqbal was dismissed at a crucial juncture in the match, as number six Mashrafe walked out to bat. The team required acceleration and thus, Mash decided to go after the bowling with his ability to clear the distance. For a while, there was a talk in the Bangladesh cricket fraternity of whether Mash could be used a floater in the batting order because of his power-hitting abilities. But it remained just a thought as the others stepped up to do the job.
In the third ODI at Providence, that thought came into a reality.
When Mash came out to bat, 11 overs were left and Bangladesh badly needed to accelerate to post at least 300 so that they could challenge the home team on such a small ground and good batting track. Mash did not wait too long to shift into fourth gear. His unorthodox style of batting took the West Indian bowlers to the cleaners. Within six overs, the Mashrafe-Mahmmudullah pair scripted a 53-run stand and when Mash left the scene, Mahmudullah carried on the momentum gifted by his skipper to post 301 for 6 in 50 overs.
Well done Bangladesh! First series win outside Asia since 2009. Team work pays off and it did. Keep the wins coming. Mashrafe Mortaza, good knock & 2 valuable wickets. Led from the front. #WIvBAN
— Jaanvi 🏏 (@ThatCricketBuff) July 29, 2018
Chris Gayle and Evin Lewis looked ominous with the bat. But there entered Mashrafe again. Lewis had to surrender to a length ball. The West Indian batters kept on posing a threat and with the wicket helping less, Mash decided to stop the leakage of runs. Shakib and Mehidy Hasan Miraz were used smartly whenever any of the bowlers leaked runs. Even Mash himself was proving costly and thus decided to rotate his bowlers so that the home team never gained the upper hand.
But at one point, he ran out of options and had to rely on his pacers who were proving costly. Mash took the risk and when 28 runs were required off 12 balls with two hitters at the crease, the ball was thrown to Rubel Hossain.
Bringing on Rubel in the 49th over was nothing but a courageous decision as the pacer had not bowled well in previous overs.
But Rubel leaked just six runs in one of the most important spells of his cricketing careers.
In the twinkle of an eye, the scenario of the match changed.
Mashrafe left the field with a smile and for a while, the frustration of Test series has vanished.
It was a much needed victory for the Tigers. There has not been anything to cheer about throughout this year and this win was required to bring back the lost confidence.
— Bangladesh Cricket (@BCBtigers) July 29, 2018
“If you consider the last three or four months, we really needed to win this series,” Mash said after the match. He then added, “It is a good sign ahead of the Asia Cup. But we have a lot to improve. A series win isn’t everything. We have missed out on a lot of areas. Rubel did exactly what the team needed, which is a sign of our improvement but we need them consistently. We need to improve in our batting too”.
That’s how a captain should be! The Bangladesh captain is not over the moon after winning an ODI series outside home after nine years! But, he still thinks about improving more. The skipper is hungry and when a skipper is showing such intent, the mood among the players changes automatically. They feel the eagerness to perform and deliver their very best no matter how tough the situation is.
In my opinion, the three-match ODI series was the series of Mashrafe – a series to remember as a Bangladesh cricket follower for a long time. A series to praise the man named Mashrafe Bin Mortaza.