Mashrafe Mortaza has said he gradually developed the ability to separate his role as bowler from his limited-overs captaincy of Bangladesh. Mashrafe took 2 for 42 in the first ODI against Afghanistan, as Bangladesh held their nerve for a seven-run win.
"I don't end up complicating things," Mashrafe said. "I try to keep my on-field decision-making and bowling as normal as possible. I try to compartmentalise everything. It has turned into a habit actually. I have been captaining for almost the last two years. I have become a lot more relaxed now."
On a flat pitch, Mashrafe showed great composure with the batsmen coming hard at him, particularly in his last two spells in which he kept set batsmen Hashmatullah Shahidi and Rahmat Shah in check, before taking the wicket of Najibullah Zadran in his last over. Mashrafe conceded 10 and 13 in those two two-over spells to help his side keep the game within control.
"I always try to bowl consistently on a flat surface," Mashrafe said. "In modern cricket, the batsmen charge at you but if you keep bowling in the same spot, there's some chance of success. So I try to focus on that - plus, there's always luck. They needed about six runs an over at one stage but when Shakib and I came on to bowl after the 30th over, we could bring that up to seven runs an over."
Mashrafe's steady performance was overshadowed by those of Shakib Al Hasan and Taskin Ahmed, but he was content to remain in the background and quietly contribute to the team's victory. With that victory, Bangladesh are now one away from their 100th ODI win, and from sealing the three-match ODI series. Almost two years into in his third stint as Bangladesh captain, after two short stints in 2009 and 2010, Mashrafe is presiding over one of the best ever phases of Bangladesh cricket.
"Someone would have been the captain, but it is going to be a big achievement," Mashrafe said of Bangladesh's imminent ODI milestone. "We will try to make sure that we can achieve it in the second ODI but for that we have to play a better game."
One area where Bangladesh will hope to show marked improvement is the fielding. They put down three chances in the first match, with one drop each from Imrul Kayes, Mahmudullah and Mushfiqur Rahim. Mashrafe said that improvement in that department would have to "come from the inside" and go hand in hand with improved body language.
"It is not right to give poor fielding as an excuse. Fielding is such a thing that it has to come from the inside in order to improve. I hope we improve in the second game. I think our body language was also not right, which made it harder."