Mortaza looks to future as fans welcome team home
The fans who turned up at the Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport to welcome the Bangladesh team back home from Australia waited from the afternoon till well into the evening on Sunday but couldn't catch a glimpse of their heroes, who had to take different routes out of the airport due to security reasons. But standing in the late afternoon heat, handling the mosquito bites after sunset and staying away from the police batons could be soothed by what Mashrafe Mortaza said about them, and the rest of the cricket fans in the country.
Minutes after arriving in Dhaka, the Bangladesh captain paid tribute to the players, team management, the BCB and the fans for standing by the team during the World Cup. As he spoke at around 8.40pm local time, there were long lines of fans outside the airport premises on the Dhaka-Mymensingh highway, around 5000 in total. They had been waiting for hours, with the unattainable hope of garlanding the players, taking autographs or posing for a photo.
Such access wasn't even available to the lucky few who could get inside the airport's VIP arrival lounge as many of the players skipped through the international terminal and had their cars waiting at the domestic terminal. Some who live northwards from the airport had to be escorted through private areas. Tamim Iqbal was the first to rush through, as the other players waited for their luggage and for the traffic to clear at least towards Uttara, the city's northern suburb.
Mashrafe, visibly tired after a flight out of the World Cup took them to Dubai first and then returned to Dhaka, said he wanted to look to the future, but was glad to see that cricket retained a special place in the lives of his countrymen, despite defeat in their quarter-final against India.
"It is great to see that everyone is here," Mashrafe said. "This is totally different. I have seen this before but still it makes you feel great. We always feel for the people of the country. Cricket has taken a special place in our country. We want to play well for the masses.
"It has been three days since the India game. I can only speak in terms of the cricket. We are disappointed with the loss. Everyone hoped it would be a good game, but it wasn't to be. And everyone saw what happened. I don't have to explain it. But life goes on. We have to look ahead. Bangladesh felt bad, but there's a series coming up. Support us, we will play well."
Mashrafe said that he wanted more consistency from the team, who put on a rare all-round performance at the World Cup. He said that the coach, Chandika Hathurusingha, gave the players the liberty to play their way, while also praising Mahmudullah, Mushfiqur Rahim, Rubel Hossain and the three newcomers.
"The coach gave us the freedom, which helped the overall confidence," he said. "Consistency is the most important thing. The graph is looking better now and, to become a better side, we must hold on to this performance.
"Mahmudullah was extraordinary. He went through a lot for the last couple of years. Mushfiqur Rahim has been doing well for 3-4 years. Rubel Hossain was brilliant, Taskin Ahmed bowled well. Soumya Sarkar came into the World Cup after just one international match and impressed everyone. Sabbir Rahman also did well."
When asked who he would pick as Bangladesh's Man of the tournament, Mashrafe said he would split it between two of his trusted lieutenants: "My men of the tournament would be Mahmudullah and Mushfiqur."
Mohammad Isam is ESPNcricinfo's Bangladesh correspondent. @isam84