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February 6, 2009
Mashrafe Mortaza, the Bangladesh allrounder, has said his lucrative IPL contract is a reward for hard work and a consistent season. Mortaza, 25, was picked up by the Kolkata Knight Riders for $600,000 after a protracted bidding war with Kings XI Punjab that saw his value shoot up to 12 times the base price.
"Obviously I am pleased. I feel this is a result of all the hard work I have put in over the years and also a reward for being consistent this season," Mortaza told PTI.
Mortaza's value to Kolkata was no surprise, both in cricketing terms - the Knight Riders are without Shoaib Akhtar and Umar Gul - and as a "local hero", given his ethnicity. What did raise eyebrows was Punjab's relentless bidding, and Mortaza offered one explanation for that. He said Yuvraj Singh, the Kings XI Punjab captain, had promised him to take him on. "I often had conversations with Yuvraj and he said he would take me in his side," Mortaza, who figures at No. 8 in the ICC ODI rankings, was quoted as saying.
That Punjab's pursuit of Mortaza was not just a red-herring to catch Kolkata off guard was confirmed by franchise stake-holder Preity Zinta. "Mortaza is a great player, an all-rounder and we wanted him. But you win some, you lose some," she said.
Mortaza is excited about playing in Kolkata, and under Sourav Ganguly. "I have lots of friends and fans in India. I love being there and it is a pleasure to play in India, he said. "Kolkata is just next door and I know how much people there admire Bangladeshi cricketers… my challenge is to go over there and prove my worth."
Lalit Modi, the IPL chairman, said he thought Mortaza's signing made great business sense for Kolkata. "We were all very surprised (at Mortaza's price tag), but it makes great sense for them. Bangladesh falls in Kolkata's catchment area under a new proposal we are discussing on letting franchises stage matches overseas. This could work well for KKR later."
Mortaza's windfall was acclaimed by his captain, Mohammad Ashraful - who himself was signed up by the Mumbai Indians. "I am very happy for Mash [Mortaza] as he has been outstanding day in and day out for us."
The one Bangladesh player who surprisingly didn't make the cut, though, was Shakib Al Hasan, and Mortaza spared a thought for him. "I would have been a lot happier if Shakib had got a team because he truly deserved it for his sensational form with the bat and ball," he said.
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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