Following disappointing home series against Sri Lanka, the buzz around cricket circles has been the possible return of Mashrafe Bin Mortaza to the T20I side as Bangladesh Cricket Board (BCB) president Nazmul Hassan said on Tuesday that he had asked the inspirational cricketer to make a comeback in the just-concluded two-match T20I series against Sri Lanka.
Hassan also added that he will urge Mashrafe to consider coming back for the upcoming tri-nation Nidahas Trophy, a T20I tournament scheduled to take place from March 6 also involving India and hosts Sri Lanka.
It is quite a change of heart from Hassan. The 34-year-old Mashrafe – who now plays only one format as the ODI captain -- retired from T20Is in April last year in Sri Lanka, and it was then understood that he was persuaded into the decision by the powers that be which included the board president and the then coach Chandika Hathurusingha.
“We have many talented cricketers in the country. But the problem is who to replace. If we don't give the youngsters the opportunity to play then how will they compete. So it's important to give the youngsters some opportunities in the team to play now,” Hassan had told reporters in Colombo last year.
With the recent losses to Sri Lanka in all three formats, the BCB seems to be retreating from their previously stated position. The request for Mashrafe's return seems to have stemmed from one of two factors – a quick-fix magic solution as the team are in the doldrums and in the absence of a coach they are thought to be in need Mashrafe's well-documented inspiration, or there are really no alternatives in domestic cricket. It may also be mentioned here that Bangladesh have played just four T20Is since the Sri Lanka tour.
“In the first place I have to question the departure of Mahsrafe from the T20Is,” former Bangladesh captain and chief selector Faruque Ahmed told The Daily Star yesterday.
“I am still not sure whether he took that decision willingly or the situation was created for him to quit. Yes, as a bowler he is still good in the shortest format of the game and there is no doubt over his leadership quality. I am not sure whether his [possible] T20 return is because of his form or whether the board is trying to regroup the team as they are looking clueless after the defeats in the home series. That may be why Mashrafe's name is coming... for damage control. I am not sure whether his return will ultimately help the team in T20 cricket in the long term,” he said.
With the economy rate of 8.04 runs per over Mashrafe has picked up 42 wickets in 54 T20Is. He also led from the front to take Rangpur Riders to the title in the fifth edition of the Bangladesh Premier League, picking up 15 wickets in 14 games at an economy rate of 6.74.
According to the Tigers' former fielding coach and BPL franchise Comilla Victorians head coach Mohammad Salahuddin, Mashrafe is still one of the best options for the Tigers with the new ball in the shortest format of the game.
“For me it's not about making way for others in T20Is; I would instead play my best bowler in the side. I think with the fast bowling attack we have at the moment, Mashrafe is the best bowler in the team as we do not have such a bowler in the team who can bowl well with the new ball. Mustafizur Rahman is not bowling with the new ball as we use him after the Powerplay, so who will bowl with the new ball? You need a frontline bowler with the new ball. I have witnessed him in the domestic circuit during the BPL and he is still bowling well in ODIs. You need to have a bowler to win a T20 game,” Salahuddin said.
Salahuddin added that T20s are not just about young blood, but it also requires someone who can use his head and perform under pressure.
The selectors did try a few youngsters in the two-match T20I series against Sri Lanka in the likes of Mahedi Hasan, Zakir Hasan, Nazmul Islam, Abu Jayed and Afif Hossain, but according to chief selector Minhajul Abedin it is difficult to judge a cricketer by their performance in just two games. He also added that the inclusion of Mashrafe in T20Is will certainly bring some hope for the Tigers before going to the Nidahas Trophy.
“As T20s are the best platform to try new players in the side we did have a look at some young players who have performed well in the domestic circuit recently. However it is difficult to comment only by their performances in two games,” Minhajul told The Daily Star yesterday.