mortaza

Born October 5, 1983, Mashrafe Bin Mortaza is the current One-Day International (ODI) captain of the Bangladesh cricket team. A genuine fast bowler, his entry to the Bangladesh team was sensational as he was picked after playing just a single First-Class match. His captaincy has been inspirational, as the team tasted success against the heavyweights such as India, Pakistan and South Africa under his leadership after reaching the quarter-final stage in World Cup 2015. Chinmay Jawalekar looks at 15 interesting things to know about the cricketer.

1.  Early days: Young Mashrafe Mortaza enjoyed playing football and badminton besides cricket. He also loved swimming and motorcycling. Those days, he loved batting more than his current craft of bowling.

2.  Emergence: Mortaza was sent to a bowling camp run by former West Indian bowling great Andy Roberts, then a temporary bowling coach for Bangladesh. Impressed by his pace and aggression, Roberts recommended his selection for Bangladesh A. His notable performance for Bangladesh A on India’s tour, where he led the bowling attack in four matches and picked up eight wickets, fast-tracked his selection into the national team.

3.  International debut: Mortaza made his Test debut for Bangladesh soon after he was selected midway during the Bangladesh A tour to India and sent back for national duty. Playing against Zimbabwe, he took four wickets in the only innings. His ODI debut came later in that month against the same opposition, where his impressive spell of 8.2-3-26-2 couldn’t avert a Bangladesh loss. He was only 18 when he made his debut.

4.  Test debut also the First-Class debut: Mortaza’s Test debut was interestingly also his First-Class debut. In the process, he became the 31st person to have achieved this, and and third since 1899.

5.  Injury plagued-career: Mortaza’s career has since been a story of frequent injuries and comebacks. After playing his first four Tests he missed the series against Pakistan in January 2002 after suffering from a back injury. While recovering, he suffered a knee injury while skipping and had to be operated. As a result, he was ruled out of action for a further eight months. He played just 12 Tests in the first three years of his international career. He has had operations on his legs, knees and ankles, taking a severe toll on his body and ruling him out from more number of matches than what he has played since his debut.

6.  Success: In 2004, playing against India, Mortaza produced a dream spell and scripted Bangladesh’s first ODI victory over neighbouring giants India. He scored 31 not out and picked up the important wickets of Virender Sehwag and MS Dhoni to help his side win a close encounter by 15 runs. He was declared Man of the Match in the historic win.

His 4 for 38 against India at the Port-of-Spain during the 2007 World Cup helped Bangladesh post their second win over their neighbours. He was once again Man of the Match. By now, his stature in both Bangladesh as well as international cricket had risen and soon after the World Cup, he was appointed vice-captain of the Bangladesh team and captain in 2009.

7.  Captaincy: On his maiden tour to West Indies as captain he led his side to its first overseas win, albeit against a weakened side though. But another injury meant he was ruled out of the remainder of the series and his deputy Shakib Al Hasan took over as captain.

8.  Return to cricket: Frequent injuries meant he never played Test cricket again. Though he continued to excel in the limited-overs’ format.

9.  Indian Premier League: He was bought by Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) for $600,000 during the 2009 Indian Premier League (IPL) season. Bollywood divas Preity Zinta and Juhi Chawla, co-owners of Kings XI Punjab and the KKR respectively, fought intensely during the auction over buying him. After 83 bids spanning an electric half-hour, Juhi won him for the KKR. It was the longest bidding in IPL history, and the 12-fold improvement on the base price of $50,000, the steepest ever.

Surprisingly, he ended-up playing just one match for KKR, in which he went for 58 runs in 4 overs, of which 22 came off his final over where Rohit Sharma’s last-over blitz won his franchise Deccan Chargers an epic match.

10.  Bangladesh Premier League: In the first season of Bangladesh Premier League (BPL), Mortaza led Dhaka Gladiators to the title win. In the same tournament, he was reportedly approached for spot-fixing.

11.  A bowling all-rounder: Although primarily a bowler, Mortaza is an aggressive batsman who takes the opposition attack head-on. A ferocious striker of the ball, he holds Bangladeshi records for highest strike rate in Tests (67.2) and for scoring most runs in an over in an ODI (26 including 4 sixes). He also holds the highest 9th-wicket partnership record in both Tests and ODIs for Bangladesh — 77 with Shahadat Hossain vs India, 18 May 2007 and 97 with Shakib vs Pakistan, 16 April 2007 respectively.

12.  Hammered by Brendan Taylor: On August 2, 2005, in an ODI against Zimbabwe at Harare, Bangladesh had scored 236. In reply, Zimbabwe were struggling at 220 for 7 after the 49th over. The final over was to be bowled by Mortaza with Brendan Taylor at the crease. The famous last over saw Taylor smacking two sixes — including a last-ball six — and a boundary before he sealed the game for his country.

13.  2015 World Cup and present: Under his leadership Bangladesh made it to the quarter-finals of World Cup 2015, where the team lost to India in a match marred by a controversial decision involving Rohit Sharma, who won it for India. Post-World Cup, Bangladesh have enjoyed a dream run under him, beating Pakistan, India and South Africa back-to-back in bilateral ODI series.

14.  Nick names: Hi on-field exploits have earned him the title of “Narail Express”, a remote town from where he hails, and “Prince of Hearts”.

15.  Man of ethics: A man of ethics who stands by his team mates, Mortaza deactivated his official Facebook fan page earlier this year following abusive comments on a photo uploaded by teammate Nasir Hossain. His decision to remove his page was in protest and a gesture to stand by his colleague.

(A self-confessed cricket freak, Chinmay Jawalekar is senior writer with CricketCountry. When not writing or following cricket, he loves to read, eat and sleep. He can be followed at @CricfreakTweets)