Mashrafe Mortaza did not feel completely satisfied with his bowling, but never allowed that negativity to affect his captaincy © BCB
As he walked back to the dressing room as night set in at Zahur Ahmed Chowdhury Stadium, Mashrafe Mortaza told a confidant he was not “balanced” while bowling. “There is something wrong. I have to figure it out,” he said, and repeated it.
He had taken two wickets in the first ODI, ran in hard, was never short of a smile and there was even a sighting of a dive across the pitch to stop a front-foot push. Mashrafe had bowled in three spells, and tested the batsmen each time.
Whether he had corrected the balance issue, his three early wickets in the second ODI jolted Zimbabwe. He kept bowling off-cutters – slow or fast – and Hamilton Masakadza, Vusi Sibanda and Sikandar Raza inside-edged, missed or top-edged. Zimbabwe attempted to fight, but the early setbacks were never mended and Mashrafe was adjudged Man of the Match despite Arafat Sunny taking one more wicket.
Again, Mashrafe said he was not fully satisfied with his effort. Perhaps he was thinking of the 18-run over to Elton Chigumbura during the batting Powerplay. But it was sandwiched between two Shakib Al Hasan overs that cost only one run, which meant Bangladesh never really lost grip of the game at that stage.
“I got wickets, but I could only hit the right areas 80 percent of the time,” Mashrafe said. “I am not bowling at my quickest and neither have I been able to give my all. I think there is something missing in my bowling. It doesn’t mean that I would have got more wickets, but in terms of satisfaction, it is around 80 percent.
“I was completely happy with how I bowled against India and West Indies. It didn’t matter if I took wickets. It is not that I am not happy now. I have the confidence. I haven’t hit my areas consistently. There is still room for improvement. Maybe it is because there has been some gap between the last time I played international cricket and now. I think it will come back in due course.”
For a cricketer who is standing on legs that have sustained a number of surgeries, he can be granted a bit of negativity. But it has not crept into his captaincy. Far from it, Mashrafe has always come across a leader who puts across challenges for both his opponents and his team-mates.
He has had two stints as Bangladesh captain and stepped in for the injured Mushfiqur Rahim to lead them in the two T20s against Sri Lanka in February. Although both matches were lost, Mashrafe set fields and made bowling changes that were refreshing and also has shown time and again his ability to unite the team, and distribute his confidence among newcomers and those out of form.
On Sunday too, he took a couple of risky calls: he decided to bat first even with the possibility of dew later in the evening, and it ultimately worked out despite the other punt nearly ruining his plans. Even if it didn’t pan out, there had been some sense in hiking Shakib and Mushfiqur up the order after a 158-run opening stand, but Sabbir Rahman, who had made his ODI debut in the previous game, was elevated to No. 5 and prolonged the wobble.
“We had the confidence that we can win by batting first. We also had the lack of dew from the previous game in mind. We got the ball to turn in the evening. So I thought maybe I can take the risk of fielding in the dew.
“If [Sabbir Rahman] had made runs, we would be called successful. He batted confidently in the last game, which prompted us to send him ahead. We thought of giving him more overs to bat. It was a positive move, but he couldn’t pull it off. It can happen. But Mominul is our No. 3 [batsman].”
When he was asked to comment on Zimbabwe’s state, Mashrafe did what Mashrafe does. He never minced his words and showed a clear awareness of the bigger picture.
“Confidence comes with winning. The team that loses, they are slightly behind in those stakes,” he said. “We should not be focusing on how they feel. For most of the year we have been in their position. We have lost a lot of matches. We have finally got some consistency so we hope to hold on to that going into the World Cup.”