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Mashrafe Mortaza wants Bangladesh to 'change some perceptions' at his last World Cup

He reckons that it might be better for his players to stay away from social media - 'it creates trouble' - at the showpiece event, but stresses that it's not a team rule

Mashrafe Mortaza is pumped after getting a wicket  •  AFP

Mashrafe Mortaza is pumped after getting a wicket  •  AFP

There's no pressure on him or on the team at the World Cup, Bangladesh captain Mashrafe Mortaza said, but hoped the players would put up a show that would help change perceptions about them.
There has been speculation about Mashrafe's future at the top level following his election as a Member of Parliament in January this year, and given how the Bangladesh Cricket Board has often reacted to results in major tournaments, a lot might depend on the team's result in England and Wales. But even if he does continue playing, there wouldn't be any more World Cups for him, the medium-pace-bowling allrounder stressed.
"This is definitely my last World Cup. I have to perform as a player, and of course, my role as captain is going to be important too," he said. "I have to fulfil my duties, but there's nothing more I can do. There will be pressure at the World Cup. I don't have any personal goals. I never want to take any extra pressure. I am a believer in luck, so what is meant to happen, will happen.
Social media will neither harm us, nor will it be of any help to our cricket. It would be better not to focus on it
"We must work really hard, and it is important to find out if we are prepared to do that. The best teams sometimes don't make it to the semifinals, let alone win the World Cup. There's no pressure on us to win the World Cup, or even reach the semifinals. We just want to play well."
Mashrafe called on the players to try and make Bangladesh a better-regarded side by the time the World Cup gets over. "If you ask all the experts, analysts and former players about their favourites for this World Cup, none of them will pick us," he said. "I think we can change some perceptions if we can do something this time, more than how much it changed in the past. It is a great opportunity for us."
Some Bangladesh players have, over the years, been trolled incessantly by fans on social media, and Mashrafe suggested that, as far as possible, the players should avoid such distractions for the duration of the World Cup.
"Social media will neither harm us, nor will it be of any help to our cricket. It would be better not to focus on it," Mashrafe said. "It is a matter of personal choice. I am on social media but it doesn't affect me. I know it is the same for Shakib [Al Hasan]. It might affect others. There are no team rules for it.
"Since it creates trouble, it is better to stay away from it. We have to be totally focused on the World Cup for two months."
There has been talk in cricket circles in the country that the current Bangladesh squad is their best ever. While the lack of debate and controversy following the selection announcement on April 16 has contributed to this notion, Mashrafe pointed out that the side has largely remained unchanged since the 2017 Champions Trophy, as well as the Asia Cup where they lost to India in the final.
"There is little importance placed on whether this is our best squad or not. We had a similar squad in the Asia Cup and nearly won it. We made the semifinals of the 2017 Champions Trophy, with mostly these players," he said. "They have not become the best team by doing anything extraordinary in the last two years. The best team doesn't always do well. Only those who perform in the field, get the best results."

Mohammad Isam is ESPNcricinfo's Bangladesh correspondent. @isam84