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Mashrafe Mortaza has made his much anticipated return to International Cricket after missing out World Cup 2011 due to a persistent knee injury in Bangladesh's opening defeat in the Zoom Ultra ODI series against Australia. Zeeshan Mahmud writes on the momentous occasion of a revered cricketer of Bangladesh who stood tall against all odds and delivered again.

Darshan of a fighter who refuses to give up

Published: 12th April, 2011

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The sky is bright pouring with sunlight. Usual group of fans convene in BC chat room basking in the pre-game high. The first ball hasn’t been bowled yet. No matter what maybe one’s personal reservations for Mashrafe bin Mortaza, everyone holding their breath to witness the comeback of a hero – or what in Bangla known as, ruddhoshashe opekha kora.

Yes, this is before the Bangladeshi batting shenanigan would descend into abysmal level. This is before, yours truly, a die-hard fan would hit the snooze button and abandon watching a drivel display from batsmen. It’s in the quantum world, where all possibilities exist, and where each and every ball has the potential to collapse into a wicket phase. This is all before the result would be an inkblot. But, even Rorschach embeds sublime pattern and beauty. And beauty it was- the very first wicket of the match. The delivery that got Brad Haddin out.

The match was scheduled to begin at 9:30 am, local time in Mirpur. As crowd thronged in the stadium, Shakib won the toss and elected to field first. Shafiul began his spell leaking six runs in the first over cuing the Narail express to enter and…blow off steam.

At this time, curious reader may be reminded how Mashrafe was out of the international arena on-and-off for almost more than a year and who made no attempt, whatsoever, of his emotional outbursts in local media. But, all the hoopla of him not being selected in the 15-man squad created a rift among his followers, and understandably so. One might discern that it wasn’t exactly sympathy, but lack of empathy that might have upset the stalwart opener. Injury would be hindrance; and the star bowler would never get a chance to play in another World Cup.

Mashrafe, however, would not go on to disappoint the 160 million united fans. Going back to our story, he would start his spell conceding only 1 run of his first over keeping his length and line tidy. It’s in the 3rd over, however, that Shafiul would show his lack of experience. Unlike Mashrafe, Shafiul had more time in the nets under the tutelage of bowling coach, but he would fail to put his thinking cap on with awry length down the leg, being whipped over for four, then unable to prevent singles, ending with a figure of 2-0-13-0 at the end of the over.

Mashrafe would begin the first ball of fourth over to leak 2 runs. But , it is then the crowd gets the glimpse of a genius delivery that bears the typical signature of his draw of first blood. Having given 2 runs already, Mashrafe would quip back varying a slower delivery, bowling back of a length ball to bluff Haddin, who would make room for himself coming down the track, exposing his stumps as ball would go on to clip the stumps and... Timber! Australia would lose their first man in the 4th over at 16. Yes, Mashrafe has just made his return statement, making a believer of his most bitter critics as the whole stadium would erupt in uproar.

Morale of the story? Masharfe has "it". Sure he would end up as the most expensive bowler with innings figure 9-0-65-2 at a rate of 7.22 runs an over. Yes, he is a terrible death bowler. Yes, he has issues with weight and can be visibly seen to be run out of breath. But, like it or not, at the end of the day, Mashrafe is an asset. And, what he needs to realize is that despite caustic critique from some his toughest fans, we are all in the same boat at the end of the day. There remains vast improvements to be made to his bowling and fitness, but what you cannot take away from him is experience. Whether it is bowling over Rahul Dravid's stumps in opening over in Chittagong test, or his Arjun like wit to get Andrew Symonds run out in IPL T20 or the display of his intelligent variation to get Haddin's wicket after opponents brisk start and to curb the runrate down or even hitting four consecutive sixes against India gives the viewer rare glimpses of his genius and capabilities- the one that cannot be ushered by Rubel or Shafiul, as experience still has precedence over sporadic successes.

I would venture it again: Mashrafe is an asset and it is about high time the board sort out their differences with him. Call him obhimani, or a prima-donna, but you cannot deny the fact that he can deliver on demand as was the case when the match started, expectancy was sky high before esprit de corps would fizz out like a deflated tire.

 

About the author(s): Having graced the forum behind the dramatis personae of Gopal Bhar, Zeeshan now chiefly lurks here for nearby free iftar locations ie when not contemplating about Gödel, Escher and Bach or other meta-mathematical themes. He is also the author of "Collected Writings on Cricket".

 

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