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Friday, October 30, 2020

Mashrafe Mortaza to step down as captain after Zimbabwe ODIs

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Mashrafe Mortaza will quit as Bangladesh’s ODI captain after the third final ODI against Zimbabwe on Friday. This gives him possibly one chance to lead Bangladesh to their 50th win under his leadership in this format, a landmark in one of the most important phases in Bangladesh cricket’s development. Mortaza will, however, continue to make himself available for selection and isn’t retiring just yet.

Bangladesh’s next ODI assignment is a one-off game in Karachi on April 1. But Mortaza’s decision to resign as captain comes following BCB president Nazmul Hassan’s announcement two weeks ago that this series would be his last one at the helm.

“I am leaving the Bangladesh captaincy,” Mashrafe said at the pre-match press conference in Sylhet. “The third ODI [against Zimbabwe] is going to be my last game as captain. I took the decision myself. As a player, I will keep trying to give my best if I get the opportunity. I wish the next captain all the best.

“I believe that Bangladesh team will reach the next stage under him. I will try to give him all the support through my experience. I think the three available senior players each have the ability to lead the side. Hope the BCB takes the best one of them.”

Mortaza has been an iconic captain, leading a turnaround of sorts through. The first signs of change came in 2015 when he lead Bangladesh to the World Cup quarter-final. That was followed by series wins over Pakistan, India and South Africa. Then, they made the 2017 Champions Trophy semi-final.

In all, he won 49 out of 87 ODIs as captain. Bangladesh also won 10 T20Is in 28 matches under him. Bangladesh also won the only Test he captained in (2009), which also happened to be his final match in whites.

BCB appointed him the limited-overs captain in 2014 to arrest the team’s slide under Mushfiqur Rahim, who continued to remain Test captain until end of 2017. During his tenure, he managed to bring the best out of a number of players, most notably Mahmudullah and Rubel Hossain during the 2015 World Cup.

Players like Taskin Ahmed, Mustafizur Rahman, Soumya Sarkar, Sabbir Rahman and Liton Das also got their big breaks under Mortaza. Two of his more notable series came in 2018 and 2019 when Bangladesh beat West Indies in their backyard, as well as lifting their first tri-series trophy in Ireland. Recently, Mortaza became the fifth bowler to take 100 wickets as captain, and during his 2014-20 captaincy reign, he was the side’s second highest wicket-taker behind Mustafizur.

Mortaza said he was never interested in perks of captaincy, just like he has denied the perks that come with being a Member of Bangladesh’s parliament. “I never took myself to be an ambassador when I played or led Bangladesh,” he said. “Now I have another identity. I am an MP. But I have not taken the red passport [diplomatic passport], car or house. I try to stay as far away from them as possible.

“My whole career was shaping up to take this chair [of captaincy], and the moment I got it, I had already attained what I wanted. I have no more ambitions. So I used this chair positively, rather than influence it differently.”

Mortaza’s emotional press conference turned a tad light when he was asked of his future. “I am everything due to cricket. If I didn’t finish playing cricket, I would have been doing fish farming,” he said. “My future definitely includes cricket, and if a player requires me, I will give it my best. I have to do my work in my constituency until the next election.”

Asked whether the country’s Prime Minister, Sheikh Hasina, knows about his decision, Mortaza replied in the affirmative. “I don’t think she should be bothered about something so small. Somehow she knows, though.”

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