Bangladesh v India, World Cup 2015, 2nd Q-F, Melbourne March 18, 2015

Mashrafe out for Melbourne redemption

Mashrafe Mortaza has visited Melbourne several times since 2003 and they've all been painful. On Thursday, the 31-year-old, who has braved surgery 11 times, will be back in the city to lead Bangladesh in arguably the biggest match of their history
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"This is the first time I am walking in Melbourne. Walking, playing. The previous times I used to walk for a couple of days and then straight to bed. This is the first time I am seeing Melbourne properly."

It is nothing short of remarkable that Mashrafe Mortaza has braved at least 11 surgeries, most of them in Melbourne, in a 14-year-long career to have come this far. In an interview to Bangla daily Prothom Alo, Mashrafe spoke about his associations with the city, which he visited for the first time in 2003, and how all of them have been painful.

"It is true that I have had a lot of hard times in Melbourne," he said. "I have had one operation after another here. They used me make me unconscious to operate, so I didn't understand what was happening."

In stark contrast, this time in Melbourne, on the eve of arguably Bangladesh's biggest match, Mashrafe will lead a team that has looked aware of its strengths and weaknesses and assured of its ability to fight.

Bangladesh have already achieved the goal they had before the World Cup - making the quarters - with the England win. The Prime Minister's congratulatory message boosted their cause as they gave New Zealand a tough fight. Now, they are free of expectation.

"The group stage was more important for us because back home all people are expecting that we beat some bigger side and go through," Mashrafe said. "That was more pressure, I think. For tomorrow, I think as I said, the boys are very relaxed. They just want to perform on the biggest ground. They have played already on this ground, but that match wasn't good for us. Hopefully we'll play our best tomorrow, and the boys are really excited."

Bangladesh will need to fight again, and that fight will start with Mashrafe, who has had a role to play in each of the three Bangladesh wins against India. The first came in the winter of 2004 - he scored an unbeaten 31 in that game in Dhaka, and then picked up the wickets of Virender Sehwag and MS Dhoni.

Mashrafe Mortaza - "I have had a lot of hard times in Melbourne, I have had one operation after another here. They used me make me unconscious to operate, so I didn't understand what was happening" © AFP

His best performance came in the 2007 World Cup in Port-of-Spain, on March 17, 2007, two days after the death of his close friend Majurul Islam Rana, to whom he dedicated the win. Mashrafe then played an important role in another win against India, on March 16, 2012 in the Asia Cup. That Bangladesh are facing India in March again could be taken as portent for something.

But Mashrafe wasn't looking back, saying "2007 is not going to help us." At 31 years, he has seen enough pain. He has taken it in his stride and kept moving forward. He is applying the same learning to his team.

Appointed the ODI captain following a terrible 2014 for Bangladesh, in which they suffered 13 straight losses in ODIs along with an embarrassing loss to Hong Kong in the World T20s, Mashrafe has led the team within a short space of time to a first appearance in the quarter-finals. More impressively, he has done so in a manner quite unlike the Bangladesh we know.

Bangladesh have been able to build a campaign with a new-found calmness, which has parallels with Mashrafe's successes in his ongoing battle with his body. He hasn't been considered for Tests since 2009 and so, he has been able to extend his limited-overs career. Likewise, Bangladesh did not let the battering against Sri Lanka affect them too badly; they sprang back with consecutive wins against Scotland and England.

It could be the change that Mashrafe has brought. An extrovert, he commands respect among the seniors and puts the newer members of the team to ease. It's the same trait that endears him to the owner of the small road-side eatery, which he still frequently visits, at Zero Point in his native Khulna.

"The group stage was more important for us because back home all the people are expecting that we beat some bigger side and go through" © AFP

"He is someone who always talks to the young players and the seniors, keeps motivating them," Shakib Al Hasan said about Mashrafe's style of leadership. "He is someone who is very friendly with everyone, he is very close to everyone. A player can come to him and say whatever he feels like and they can discuss. That's a very good sign."

On the field, Mashrafe has led with the bowling. His economy of 4.89 is the best among Bangladesh's frontline bowlers despite the lack of pace. On another day, he could have picked up a few more wickets in the match against Sri Lanka - Lahiru Thirimanne was dropped twice during his excellent first spell of 6-0-20-0 - but his two timely strikes to dismiss Alex Hales and Joe Root in the game against England twice broke England's momentum. Among the tallest in the team, Mashrafe's standing in the inner circle, closer to the bowlers and in the middle of the field, has led to better visible control.

But Mashrafe was modest in his assessment of his role and chose to look at the bigger picture, to the challenges that lay ahead beyond the World Cup: "I actually haven't changed anything. As I said, the credit should go to the boys. They've adapted very well. And I say that challenge is still going on because 2015 has just started."

Melbourne may be exhilarating or Melbourne may hurt, but it seems that, under Mashrafe, the team will keep moving forward.

Devashish Fuloria is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Abhinav on March 19, 2015, 4:09 GMT

    What a brave player Mortaza is! He has been the backbone of Bangla attack even acter being in and out so many times. He has maintained his intensity and commitment despite these hurtful breaks. Great cricketer, great leader, responsible team player and an honest person. Good luck for the Quarterfinal, from an Indian fan!

  • Iqbal on March 19, 2015, 3:25 GMT

    Toss by India choose to bat first, I reckon there is only possibility to have for Bangladesh to restrict within 300 or lesser they have a chance to surprise world of cricket today is test bowling of both teams will decide the fate of 2nd quarter final India Vs Bangladesh.

    Wajid Karachi, Pakistan

  • David on March 19, 2015, 2:50 GMT

    @Rawdy.Raathore .... Go Group B? That is the most pathetic thing I've ever heard. I swear Indian fans in general are some of the most ignorant fans in the world. No real analysis, no real understanding of the game. Just really loud and obnoxious.

    @Rahul Sisodia ... I don't really understand what you are saying. I guess you are trying to compare each and every side of the two groups. IF so, let's see: IND = AUS, NZ > SA, SL>PAK, ENG>WI, BD>ZIM, IRE>AFG, SCO>UAE. Only Ireland in Group B was better than their counterpart in Group A, otherwise Group A had th better team in every ranking. Everybody talks about England playing bad, but WI was worse. They were one Chris Gayle 200 away from being eliminated.

  • Alex on March 19, 2015, 0:38 GMT

    Mashrafe is a fighter. He needs to get indian openers in single digit for bangladesh to have chance

  • Dummy4 on March 18, 2015, 23:28 GMT

    @OZCRICKET

    Dear, I have noticed each and every fact out there, maybe in Group A, BD VS ENG or SCO VS AFG You take as most competitive, but Group B had 6 tough teams, who played toughest of they could have played, If you take out in as a league standing IRE and ZIM will be standing much higher than ENG, AFG, SCOT and/or BD. There was competitive cricket all around in both the groups, but it doesn't mean Group A was group of death. ENG were patchy and thats the only big Y BD is in quarters, if they would have played to their basics, I bet BD had to walk on hot iron to defeat ENG.

  • MS on March 18, 2015, 20:31 GMT

    Love Cricket, Play good cricket, nothing is impossible Mash, Tigers nations can sacrifice anything to survive and save the tiger nations. Do the best and try just one day, just tomorrow, that's enough.

  • MS on March 18, 2015, 20:28 GMT

    Total Bangladesh is converted into Tigers Zone, Tigers converted into cricket players, Mashrafee converted into planner and other all players converted into dangeruos, tigers ate so many, will eat another two, they are roaring for fight with Lions. We think always when our cricketers going abroad for win, they converted their face into tigers, if tomorrow we see players face, if it really looks like tigers, they will win and after that when they will return in country, all Bangadeshi nations will be united and country will be realized how much tigers borned here. Tigersr never think who is in front of them but it might be any team...just think have to win. Win is the solution only if wants to clam total Bangladeshi tiger nations, we feel proud our cricket tigers. Tigers are hungry for hunts somebody tomorrow.

  • MS on March 18, 2015, 20:10 GMT

    Hi Bangladeshi All Cricketers who will play in Melbourne today for QF match, do you know today we all Bangladrhi Nations turned in to tigers untill win the game, who ever in front we dont want to see, our mission is now in successful track to defeat others, we all tigers need food as we are hungry today, Mash be cool, tigers never thinks about his food, whoever in front just show your tiger sign and eat by every beat and bat.

  • Rawdy on March 18, 2015, 20:07 GMT

    @ozcricket Yesterday Pool B team won. Today you will same result. Next 2 days you will see Pak and WI taking out both over rated Hosts in their own backyards! Go Pool B!

  • Taufique on March 18, 2015, 19:44 GMT

    Excellent article, Mr. Devashish. He is from Narail, not Khulna.

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