Mashrafe Mortaza's leadership took Bangladesh cricket to next level © AFP
Mashrafe Mortaza’s leadership took Bangladesh cricket to next level © Getty Images

Mashrafe Mortaza registered his 15th win as captain of Bangladesh after they beat South Africa by seven wickets in the 2nd One-Day International (ODI) at Dhaka. Pramod Ananth feels, although Mortaza deserves credit for leading the team to new highs, he is fortunate to have a bunch of talented players around him.

Bangladesh suffered their worst possible humiliation when the lost by 60 runs to Canada in ICC Cricket World Cup 2003 at Durban. From there, things could only get better and it did. Here we are in 2015; Bangladesh are suddenly a force to be reckoned with. They made it to the quarter-final of a World Cup for the first time in history, completed a 3-0 whitewash over Pakistan and recorded their first ever series win against India. READ: Have Bangladesh conquered their fear of losing?

They have followed up one good performance after another (albeit at home) and have proved that their impressive run in the World Cup was no fluke. They have not only qualified for ICC Champions Trophy 2017, but put West Indies’ and Pakistan’s place in the tournament in jeopardy. READ: Bangladesh await their biggest test at home against South Africa

All said and done, all these things could not have been achieved if Bangladesh did not have a bunch of talented players in their ranks. One player that immediately pops into our minds is Shakib-Al-Hasan: currently the undisputed No.1 all-rounder in the world, Shakib has time and again delivered with bat and ball in all three formats. Recently, he achieved the feat of becoming the only player in the world to be the leading run-getter  and be the leading wicket-taker for is country in T20Is. His ability to churn out runs and squeeze wickets on any surface is something Bangladesh will be grateful for. READ: Bangladesh secure spot in Champions Trophy 2017

Mahmudullah has produced some stunning performances with the bat of late. He scored back-to-back centuries in the World Cup, the only Bangladesh batsman to do so. The ideal man at No.4, Bangladesh need someone like him to steady the ship and score runs at a brisk pace. His ability to play the big innings too is admirable. READ: Shakib Al Hasan must step up to help Bangladesh be consistent

Others, like Taijul Islam, Mustafizur Rahman, and Taskin Ahmed have  made immediate impacts. But has Mortaza in his reign as captain contributed as much as he should have?

If one just goes by numbers they look ordinary. As captain Mortaza has not had a single 5-wicket haul, his best bowling figures being 3 for 31. For a player who opens the bowling for his country, one needs to be more productive. But one thing that might go in his favour is his excellent economy rate. He bowls an accurate line and length, taking the pace off the ball if necessary, the spoils of which are perhaps exploited by other bowlers. He can also hit some lusty blows down the order, but has rarely played an innings one would call something that changed the game at the death.

Bangladesh were heavily dependent on spin till some time back — till Rubel Hossain came to the forefront and young Taskin stepped up. Of late, young Mustafizur completely blanked India in the recent series with 13 wickets in the three-match series. In between all this, Mortaza has played the quiet role of a mentor, taking the backstage, bowling in short bursts to cut the runs down. It is the leadership skills that Mortaza possesses that sets him apart.

The younger players in the team seem to be thriving under Mortaza. He may not as influential with ball or bat compared to some others, but has certainly got the backing of his men.  Bangladesh also seem to be enjoying cricket under his captaincy. Enjoying the game is something great captains like MS Dhoni has greatly stressed upon since the beginning of his tenure, and it has taken him and his team to great heights.

Mortaza knows the journey ahead will be tougher, but Bangladesh are certainly heading in the right direction with some talented players. They certainly have no player better than Mortaza to lead them on to the next phase.

(Pramod Ananth is a reporter at CricketCountry. He has represented Karnataka table tennis under-15, and is a hardcore supporter of Liverpool FC. His Twitter handle is @pramz)