Mortaza shoulders pace burden
Mortaza shoulders pace burden
By Shahid A. Hashmi (BBC)
Mortaza impressed many observers in Australia
Nineteen-year-old Mashrafe Mortaza's greatest cricketing ambition is to become his country's Courtney Walsh.
The Bangladesh paceman was motivated by watching Walsh on television while growing up.
And if he is anything like his idol when he takes on England this month, the tourists might have something to worry about.
"I have always admired Walsh's discipline, he was different," Mortaza told the BBC Sport website.
"Then when I started playing I saw Wasim Akram bowl and admired the great Pakistani bowler's destruction of his opponents."
if he overcomes fitness problems he has the talent to go places
Bengali journalist Utpul Shuvro
Mortaza hails from the small town of Narail, not far from the Indian border.
His father initially wanted him to look after the family's chicken farm.
But Mortaza, whose nickname Koushik means "son of a saint", had other plans.
Now he stands out as the sole true fast bowler in a side full of medium-pacers, and carries the hopes of millions of his countrymen, of lifting the standards of Bangladesh cricket.
Test cricket's 10th nation has only recently begun to show signs of improvement after losing 20 of their first 21 Tests, 15 by an innings and nine inside three days.
"It has been a tough journey for me and my team but I promise that we will lift ourselves as we are learning fast," Mortaza says.
Wasim advised me to be patient, keep up my fitness and work hard
He was spotted by cricket scouts four years ago and was given his first chance in the Asia Under-17 Cup in Dhaka, where Bangladesh lost the final to India.
"I took six wickets in three games and we beat Sri Lanka in the semis which led me to believe I could go to the distance and play internationally."
A subsequent tour of India with Bangladesh A brought 16 scalps in four matches, paving the way for a Test debut.
He made his Test debut against Zimbabwe in Dhaka in November 2001, celebrated removing Grant Flower for his first wicket and finished with 4-106.
That prompted Grant's brother Andy to describe him as a "future star for Bangladesh".
Sir Richard Hadlee also praised his talent when he played two Tests in New Zealand but the tour ended with a serious back problem that ruled him out for some time.
Born: 5 October 1983, Norail
21 wkts at 41.57
Best: 4-106 v Zim, Dhaka 2001/02
"Mashrafe is our 'Narail Express' and if he overcomes fitness problems he has the talent to go places," says Bengali journalist Utpul Shuvro.
A freak accident in June last year damaged his knee ligaments, depriving him of good exposure in Sri Lanka and at the World Cup in South Africa.
But a phone call to a certain Pakistan great meant he kept up his belief.
"After I missed two tours I called Wasim Akram and he advised me to be patient, keep up my fitness and work hard.
"That I did and am now in good shape."
Mashrafe then impressed the Aussies in Darwin on his comeback tour.
"Playing in Australia against the likes of Steve Waugh and co was a hell of an experience," he says.
Just where he goes from there, only time will tell.