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The strange silence on Mahmudullah's last day of Test cricket

The only sign that a career had ended was a guard of honour at the start of play

Mohammad Isam
Mohammad Isam
Mahmudullah made his highest Test score in his final Test match  •  BCB

Mahmudullah made his highest Test score in his final Test match  •  BCB

Mahmudullah's final day of Test cricket was an intriguing one.
At the start of play, he was given a guard of honour by his team-mates. He even led them out onto the field. But from then on he just faded into the background.
He didn't take a catch. He wasn't needed to bowl any overs. He was just there, experiencing the last highs of a gruelling format as Bangladesh completed a fine victory over Zimbabwe.
Mahmudullah has been on a bit of a roller coaster ride this series. Called up as an emergency replacement. Batting at No. 8. Making his highest Test score (150). Retiring mid-way through the game. And walking into the sunset with a Player-of-the-Match award. All of that merits some sort of noise. Except there was none.
In the presentation ceremony, Mahmudullah came up, collected his prize, spoke about his innings and went back. No mention of a career coming to an end. Just a strange silence.
Bangladesh's captain Mominul Haque had a tougher gig while addressing the post-match press conference. He was bombarded with questions about his team-mate's retirement, to which, once again there was silence.
But eventually the "I can't comment" turned into a long-winded reply about dedicating the victory to Mahmudullah.
"It is his personal decision," Haque said. "It is difficult for me to comment on it. Anyone can take a personal decision.
"We thought that if that's how it is for him, we would dedicate the win to him. I heard that he won his debut Test as well, so he has now won his last match as well. If that's how it is, although I don't know."
The questions wouldn't stop. The press wanted this silence broken. Finally when Haque was asked to describe Mahmudullah's last day in Test cricket was, the emotions came out.
"As a young captain, I am supposed to feel bad," he said. "If I don't feel bad, it is unusual."
Mahmudullah announced his retirement to his team-mates after the end of the third day's play. As much as the decision was shocking, it was the timing that took everyone by surprise. Cricketers don't usually quit in the middle of a match.
The news sparked strong rebuke from BCB president Nazmul Hassan who, in an interview to Prothom Alo said Mahmudullah's decision was "unusual", "unacceptable" and based on "emotion". He also accused the 35-year old of going back on his word - specifically those on a form that the BCB had provided to its players to determine their availability for each of the three formats.
Hassan's anger has been the only non-wishy-washy response to the matter of a Test career ending. Even Mahmudullah hasn't said a word in public. This, despite coming on a video shot by the BCB on the day he told his team-mates of his decision.
ESPNcricinfo understands that the BCB has sent instructions to the touring party not to speak publicly about Mahmudullah's retirement.
Bangladesh's cricketers have a bumpy history when it comes to retirement. Aminul Islam, the former captain who made a century in their inaugural Test, never formally announced his retirement. The exits of Akram Khan, Khaled Mashud and Khaled Mahmud were all uneasy as well. Javed Omar retired in 2014, seven years after his last international match, apparently carrying disappointment with the selectors' treatment at the time of his axing.
Mashrafe Mortaza, who led Bangladesh to 50 ODI wins in a celebrated captaincy stint, is still in limbo. He had a public fallout with the BCB over the timing of his retirement and since then he just hasn't been picked to play.
Mahmudullah meanwhile will continue to be in Zimbabwe. He is in the ODI side and leads the T20I team.

Mohammad Isam is ESPNcricinfo's Bangladesh correspondent. @isam84