Bangladesh’s greatest cricketer Mashrafee Mortaza doesn’t play Test matches any more but is upbeat about how the Test team is evolving. He talks about the emotional characters in the side, the passionate fans, and how age hasn’t mellowed his adventurous spirit. Excerprts
There are so many emotional characters in this Bangladesh team. Like Mushfiqur Rahim or Shakib Al Hasan. T 20 cricket, Rahim tweeted his glee after India’s exit from T20 World Cup for example, Shakib was caught making obscene gestures during live games.
You can’t live your whole life without making mistakes, isn’t it? As a person, you shouldn’t try to do anything mean—but sometimes mistakes can happen. As a player, I prefer to just go play and enjoy. No need to show that sort of stuff.
It must have been tough to recover from that heart-breaking loss against India in the T20 World Cup in the last over
It did hurt a lot. Just look at how we went into that game. One of our best bowlers Taskin was banned for his action just a couple of days before. It was a big shock to miss out those two guys in a big tournament like that. It shook up the team but I think we regrouped really well and managed to fight. We should have won the game but we lost it in the last over.
It was hurting but as I said you have to learn from mistakes. I hope that will work as a good lesson for us in future. When you lose as closely as that, you will get upset and it hurts a lot. The next morning, I told myself and the team that you have to tell yourself next time you find yourself in that situation, you have to tell yourself that I would be the matchwinner.
It’s been said that India has shown big-brotherly attitude in some ways to Bangladesh. For example, this is the first-time Bangladesh are playing a Test in India. How do you view it?
There is no use getting hurt and disappointed about it. Yes, India haven’t hosted us. You have to look at it very simply. When you get the chance, make it count and show that you are good enough to play. There is no use thinking about any negative thing or the past. Grab the chance, even if you play just one Test, make it count and put the best cricket forward.
There have been instances in the past when Indian administrators, fans and even cricketers have said uncharitable stuff about Bangladesh. Be it Rajsingh Dungarpur telling your youth team in 2001 that lose but lose well or Sehwag saying that Bangladesh is an ordinary side and that they can’t get 20 wickets. How did you handle all that?
I always respect Sehwag as a player. He is a legendary cricketer. So many batsmen have learnt great things from him. He said what he said that day. What can we do but just go out and play well. You can’t react. Why get angry about it? You can’t perform on field if you are angry. As for the other instances, some I don’t even remember now! But I will say this—there is no use complaining about external things. There is no use letting it affect us. So many times, these things happen, and in every country. When you play in Australia, someone would talk. Similarly in South Africa. It’s better not to let it affect us or get hurt about it. There’s no use to react, just play your best cricket on the field.
In the recent times, Bangladesh have made big strides in international cricket— in ODIs, and also in Tests. What’s been the difference?
In the past, we knew we have to try our best in batting, bowling and fielding. As in let’s focus on the areas, do the best, and see where it takes us. There was a lot of hope that we would do well. Now this team knows it is capable of doing well. We hoped we would do well then, this team knows it can do well. That’s the difference. As for Test cricket, I think there is a lot to improve still. This is a developing team but one growing in confidence.
Coming to Tests, Bangladesh have played well but it seems they are not able to keep up the intensity for the full five days. Coach Chandika Hathurasinghe called it a lack in concentration. How do you view it?
I won’t say inability to keep up the intensity. Even in New Zealand, we played eightmatches in all. Every match we got a chance. In the Test (Wellington) we got nearly 600. Unfortunately, a couple of our main batsmen got injured. We played well but results didn’t come. The concentration skills will come with more matches. The more you play Test cricket, the youngsters will learn all these things. There is no need to worry. I think the guys can fight it out over five days.
There has been murmurs about Mushfiqur Rahim’s captaincy – his tactical skills. How do you see him?
He is a brilliant batsman. Rahim has been outstanding, a very disciplined and hardworking guy. I think Bangladesh cricket will go up with him as captain. He is doing a fantastic job. In the last one year, see the results. We did well against Pakistan, we could have won the series against England but we missed out. We played competitive cricket in New Zealand. I think he is the best guy for the job at the moment.
How do you handle the emotional fans back home?
Look, our country is full of emotional people. You are playing for the country and the situation does get a lot emotional for the fans. They react from their heart. When you win or when you lose. Yes, they do get angry when we lose but it’s normal. When your country is following you, they want you to win. You can’t control those things as a player. What you can do is go out there and play your best cricket. It’s just not the fans, players also get emotional. So, there is no use blaming the people.
You are a superstar in Bangladesh but you have managed to remain grounded, they say, and is loved universally by the people. How have you handled fame so well?
Whatever I am, by the grace of almighty I am here. It’s not that I just made it myself. Everyone is trying hard in life. I worked hard. Just like others. There is nothing to get arrogant or too proud about it. I represent my country and will get more fame than others. I just wanted to play cricket and be a good human being. I try not to hurt anyone. I have never enjoyed showing off or living that kind of a life. You have to be a decent human being. I have learned that from my parents—I have to remain the same. I have not tried to change my character. I still have friends from the past. From my young days. My philosophy in life is to try and make people happy as much as I can. Don’t intentionally hurt anyone. Don’t do anything mean.
You were quite adventurous in your younger days— like jumping of bridges onto moving trucks. Has the age mellowed you a bit?
No no, I’m still the same! Just make sure you are not doing harm to anyone else. You are free to enjoy. I still climb trees, walking wherever, jumping and swimming in rivers. You have to enjoy life.