Mashrafe Mortaza January 15, 2013

'I'm a big fan of McGrath's consistency'

Champion tree-climber, swimmer and one-time fast driver Mashrafe Mortaza talks about the things that make him tick

We hear you're an expert tree climber?
I have been climbing trees since my childhood. Whoever has climbed trees will tell you it is very hard to go up coconut and palm trees. One night I fell off a coconut tree and it hurt, but I didn't break anything. My friends told me that since I wasn't hurt, I should go up again. And so I did.

Did tree climbing ever come handy in your fast bowling?
I think more than the climbing it was my swimming in the Chitra river that helped me. From a very young age I swam in the middle of the river, mainly against the tide. I remember I could do it for two hours at a time, so that has helped make my body very flexible, and helped me recover so many times from injury.

Are fast cars still a passion?
Not only cars, I used to ride motorcycles very fast, too. But I have stopped doing both since Manzarul Islam Rana died in 2007.

Is it true that Dav Whatmore, the former Bangladesh coach, wasn't too keen on sitting alongside you while you were driving?
[Laughs] Yes, that was the day I was getting married. Dav was one of the invited guests and I picked him up from the Jessore airport. I was driving a Toyota Corolla-G. I put him in the front seat and just took off. I think he was scared, but he didn't say much!

Bangladesh's most popular bachelor, Shakib Al Hasan, got married recently. As a married man yourself, what is one piece of advice you would like to give to him?
There's a life outside cricket which is much bigger, so I hope he takes this opportunity to have the benefit of this new phase in his life.

Tell us about one wicket you enjoyed planning and taking.
It has to be the wicket of Sachin Tendulkar in 2004, which was also the only time I got him out in Test cricket. I had him leg-before off the first ball of the second day. He was in good form after scoring a double-hundred in the first Test in Dhaka, so I just wanted to bowl as straight as possible, stump to stump. The ball moved in and I trapped him.

The wicket of Rahul Dravid in the first Test, where I had him bowled, was also one I enjoyed taking, because I had planned it.

What is the fastest you have ever bowled?
It was on my first tour with Bangladesh, in New Zealand in 2001. I bowled very quick at the time. I was clocked at 145-146kph.

Is there a fast bowler you would like to learn one skill from?
My idol is Courtney Walsh, for his personality on and off the field and his greatness as a bowler, but one thing that I have always loved is Glenn McGrath's line and length. In every condition, he knew where to bowl, and invariably it was the right area. I just admired his consistency, where he always bowled in one place.

What is one thing a tourist should never do on the streets of Dhaka?
He cannot be careless about his moneybag and mobile phone.

Tell us about a sledge you cannot forget.
I tried to get on Damien Martyn's nerves during the Fatullah Test of 2006. He wasn't having the best time with the bat and I kept needling him about getting dropped. He replied a few times but I kept saying things. In the end I think I had him confused with the way our conversation was going!

Have you ever done anything on the field for which you got a rap on the knuckles?
During the first over of the Asia Cup final [2012], Mohammad Hafeez was having some issues with his helmet and he kept me waiting a few times. It got on my nerves and I gave away ten runs, I remember. I was quite ticked off, and had I said what I had in mind, I would have been in trouble.

What has been the most high-pressure moment of your cricketing career?
I have never really had such a moment, but every time I got out injured and felt helpless because I couldn't play, it was very stressful. That is when I was under pressure. When a player gets dropped, he can bat or bowl his way back into the team, but I have had ten major operations on my leg and every time I had a layoff, it was a long one.

Is there a match from the past where you wanted to be the player who turned the game on its head?
I missed the Multan Test in 2003. I so wish, even today, I had bowled in the Pakistan second innings, especially the closing stages of that game. We were closing in on a great victory against Pakistan but we ultimately lost by one wicket. I still wonder what would have happened if I was given the ball when we needed that last wicket we never got.

Tell us something we do not know about you.
I think I would have to say it is my adaptability when it comes to being comfortable with my surroundings. If you tell me to sleep in a cow shed, I think I can sleep well there. I have slept in the best of hotels, but I can adapt better than others.

Mohammad Isam is ESPNcricinfo's Bangladesh correspondent