Mortaza backs Ashraful to shine

Mashrafe Mortaza is confident of fulfilling the responsibility he has been given and is focused on improving Bangladesh's standing in Test cricket

Judhajit Basu
Judhajit Basu
Mashrafe Mortaza speaks to the press before a  practice session, Dhaka, December 19, 2008

Mashrafe Mortaza believes his team can overcome the debacle at the ICC World Twenty20  •

Mashrafe Mortaza, Bangladesh's new captain, is confident of fulfilling the responsibility he has been given and is focused on improving his team's standing in Test cricket during the upcoming tour of the West Indies.
"Our performance in Tests has been nothing to write home about and, keeping in mind that we begin with Tests in the West Indies, I want to begin practice in a way that will help us put our best foot forward," Mortaza told Cricinfo. "I hope the tour will be a great launchpad and that all the players contribute."
The man whom Mortaza expects to play a key role in achieving that objective is Mohammad Ashraful, whom the Bangladesh board relieved from captaincy so that he could concentrate on his batting. "I don't think there will be any problems working with Ashraful," Mortaza said. "The kind of player Ashraful is, he will be playing his best game as always.
"He will not be playing for me, but for the country. He's not immature and, being a professional player, he knows very well what is expected from him. I believe he will shine."
Mortaza's appointment as captain was fast-tracked after Bangladesh's first-round exit from the World Twenty20 in England, where they lost both group matches against India and Ireland. "We did play well against the big teams, especially India," Mortaza said. "We may have been lacking a little in stability but I don't think we played too badly and the criticism has been a little over the top. We hope to sort out these shortcomings and next time we'll make sure such matches don't slip from our grasp."
Mortaza was not worried about a possible dip in his own form owing to the pressure of leading and resurrecting the team, having had captaincy experience with Khulna Division and Abahani Limited in domestic cricket. "There's no need to think about it too much," he said. "It all depends on how well you can overcome the burden. Captaincy definitely brings pressure but if you can enjoy it, it's worth it."
His task could become easier with the readmission of former ICL players into the Bangladesh fold. While Ashraful's team was depleted with the exodus of 13 players to the unofficial league, they could be available for selection during Mortaza's term after the Bangladesh board offered them amnesty in May.
"They haven't returned to the national fold yet and I wouldn't take too huge a stride forward, thinking about the future," he said. "Hopefully they will get permission to play in the Dhaka League and the National Cricket League and, if they perform well, I don't see why they can't make it to the Bangladesh team. Once they are back in the squad, they will be like the others, who have come through on merit, and won't need to be handled separately."

Judhajit Basu is a senior sub-editor at Cricinfo