The biggest question faced by a cricketer is when he should retire? Has the time come for Mashrafe Mortaza to ask himself the question is debatable? With age catching up, and with injuries, being a dominant factor of his career has also started taking their toll.
For some, Mashrafe is still playing because he is a good motivator and the one who commands respect from every cricketer of the team. As a captain, he is perhaps the only one in Bangladesh who can gel the team together as a unit.
But are these enough for someone to retain a place in team? Mashrafe knows the answer is ‘no’, especially in Bangladesh where people get impatient very easily. There are lots of young players coming up. So Mashrafe cannot occupy the place in the team simply because he can motivate the others.
After hitting Mohammad Amir for two successive fours, that turned the Asia Cup game against Pakistan last week, Mashrafe told reporters that he will continue as long as he can make these kinds of contributions. His contribution may not come in the shape of a quick-fire fifty or a devastating spell, but still they need to be useful, ones that can change the course of a game.
Mashrafe did it with the bat against Pakistan and showed that he can be a game changer with the ball too against Netherlands on Wednesday. Bangladesh was looking down the barrel when he took the ball in the 17th over. Netherlands needed 42 runs off 24 balls at that stage with two set batsmen at the crease.
It was the time for Mashrafe to call his strike bowlers Al-Amin Hossain and Taskin Ahmed. But Mashrafe preferred to back himself. He conceded just one run in the previous over. So it was not a surprising decision. What surprised most is the accuracy of his bowling. In his long career spanning 15 years, Mashrafe played lot of matches and has been accurate on most of the occasions. Yet this turned out to be an exceptional over.
The match was getting slowly out of the grip and somebody had to produce some magic to keep them in the contest. It was the game Bangladesh had to win. Mashrafe could not find a better occasion to bring his best.
What followed after was incredible!
Roelof van der Merwe somehow managed to dab the first ball to third man for a single and was well beaten on the second ball, which hit the stumps, only for the bails to remain unmoved.
Van der Merwe was beaten again on the third delivery before he found a thick edge off the fourth. The next two balls yielded just one run to put the pressure back on the Netherlands with the equation coming down to 39 off 18 balls.
Given the kind of pace attack Bangladesh boast of, it was tough for any team to achieve that target, let alone the Netherlands.
So it was no wonder to see them losing by eight runs in a game that their captain Peter Borren later said they should have won in 18 overs in an ideal situation.
Borren admitted Mashrafe’s over ‘killed’ them and was echoed by Tamim Iqbal, who carried Bangladesh’s batting burden to hit an unbeaten 83 off 58 balls to set up their total.
“He has been serving us for 15 years this way, so we believed he will do something good,” said Tamim.
For another match, retirement talks were shelved and everybody only praised Mashrafe, the game changer of Bangladesh.