Nervous Kayes benefits from Mashrafe's advice
"My boss really inspired me today. He said, 'You are not dying. Life is not going to be over if you score zero. It doesn't matter. But when you play badly, you get out of the team. So think normally.' After talking to him, my pressure got released."
This was Imrul Kayes, talking about how Bangladesh captain Mashrafe Mortaza, his "boss", helped him deal with a sudden attack of nerves just before the second ODI against Zimbabwe in Mirpur. This was Kayes' first ODI since the World Cup, where he did quite badly. He had replaced Anamul Haque midway through the showpiece tournament and, to be fair, it was like airlifting someone from Kathmandu to the top of Mount Everest, so poor was his preparation for the matches in Australia and New Zealand.
Here, too, he had been a late replacement. First in the squad for the injured Soumya Sarkar and the later on Sunday night, when Shakib Al Hasan left Dhaka to be with his new born daughter in the USA. Between his last ODI fifty, in March 2014, and this one, he had scores of 9, 1, 1, 5, 2, 2 and 5. But one can't forget that in between the World Cup woes and this comeback, he had been Bangladesh's highest scorer in Tests and the most improved batsmen in the format.
Mashrafe noticed the nervous Kayes, while the rest of the team were walking around and chatting with each other. "I told him that he thought too much during the World Cup, so 'you didn't get the runs. So don't think this time.' Sometimes it is good not to think too hard. I wanted him to play freely like he does in domestic cricket," Mashrafe said.
And it worked. Kayes was named Man of the Match for his 76 off 89 balls with six fours and four sixes in an innings that features a relaxed and attacking approach, which is rare with Kayes. He said he was eager for this opportunity and happy that he grabbed it, but rued getting out when he did - in the 32nd over, leaving a lot to do for Sabbir Rahman and Nasir Hossain at the back end. Bangladesh eventually added only 90 runs in the 18.3 overs they batted after him.
"I think every comeback is important for me," Kayes said. "I felt bad after playing poorly in the World Cup. I told myself if I get an opportunity, I will try to make the most of it. Luckily I got the chance and it worked out for me. I did get out at a bad time. There was pressure on the team. I think the next time if I get an opportunity, I will go for a century, definitely.
"When I had scored 30-40 runs, then I got confidence - the way I play domestic cricket, I started playing like that… I was a bit low on confidence before 30, but after that I played normally."
Mashrafe agreed that while Imrul should be relieved with his knock, he should have batted longer. "There weren't any batsmen apart from Nasir and Sabbir after he got out," Mashrafe said. "I hope he will not let it go next time."
Mohammad Isam is ESPNcricinfo's Bangladesh correspondent. @isam84