Mortaza raring to go against Zimbabwe
Bangladesh captain Mashrafe Mortaza is confident about his comeback during the five-ODI series against Zimbabwe at home between October 27-November 5.
Mortaza, 26, who underwent arthroscopic surgery on both knees in Melbourne after injuring his right knee during the tour of West Indies in July, said he was raring to go after six weeks' rehabilitation.
"The rehabilitation process continues and I'm recovering well," he said during an interview to Bangladesh daily Prothom Alo. "I am training intensively with the physio and have been running for the last four days. I hope to be back to full fitness soon."
Mortaza had injured his right knee while bowling on the third day of the first Test against West Indies in St Vincent and missed the rest of the tour, with Shakib Al Hasan replacing him as captain. The latest setback was one of many during his international career, but Mortaza hopes to emerge stronger this time.
"I have been injured at crucial moments in my career," he said. "The biggest jolt came quite early, when I was bowling well during the series against England [in 2003-04] and then injured myself in Chittagong. I was shaping up to be one of the best then. The recent one in West Indies came at another critical juncture in my career, just when I had got the captaincy. During the tri-series involving Sri Lanka and Zimbabwe, I had felt that if I could continue running in for another five years, things would look bright. But it was not to be."
Mortaza will hope to savour his first series win as captain, after missing out on the celebrations in West Indies, where Bangladesh achieved clean sweeps in the Tests and ODIs. "I haven't quite realised the weight of responsibility," Mortaza said. "If you go by the records, I have led the side for just three days. But Shakib has done the job admirably."
He repeated a point he'd made in the West Indies, that Bangladesh, to make themselves a potent force in world cricket, will have to make the most of whatever international fixtures they get. "We are definitely motivated for international fixtures. The pressure that an international game brings automatically creates the motivation. It's a difficult position one faces. Whoever underperforms, or is the cause for defeat, faces the biggest problems.
"Bangladesh have had little international success and are yet to make any significant strides - hence the dual pressure of one's performance as well as the nation's expectations."
Mortaza said Shakib would once again be key to the team's fortunes. "We might be a small team but Shakib is no small player. I would rate him higher than Yuvraj Singh. But when they walk out together, most commentators single out Yuvraj as a class player. No one recognises Shakib's efforts, that's what angers me."
The captain would also have to play his part with bat and ball. "My batting strengths have been well developed right from the beginning. But before stepping onto the international stage, the focus on bowling kept me away from batting in the nets. That's where it possibly fell way, and I feel I could have contributed more with the bat. I'm as much as fault for not honing my batting skills, as were the situational demands."