At the age of 34, with 17 years of top-level cricket already having tortured his knees, Mashrafe Bin Mortaza yesterday created a Bangladesh List A record that aptly owes much to endurance and longevity.
In the ninth over of Khelaghar Samaj Kallyan Samity's chase of Abahani's 241, the Bangladesh ODI captain had opener Robiul Islam Robi caught behind to become the highest wicket-taker in a single edition of the country's lone List A competition -- the Dhaka Premier League. He went past Abu Hider's tally of 35 for Gazi Group last season and took two more in Abahani's victory yesterday to sit on 38 with one game to play, 10 ahead of the next names on the list this season.
After the match, when faced with queries about how an international star at his stage could be so motivated for a domestic competition, Mashrafe's words proved that part of the reason for his longevity is that there is never a lack of motivation.
“I knew at the start of the league that I have a chance to play the full season since I am not playing T20Is and would not play in the [T20I tri-nation] Nidahas Trophy,” Mashrafe said. “The mindset was about being prepared ahead of the next ODI series [against Afghanistan in June], which is why this league is important to me. So far it's been going well.”
Those familiar with Mashrafe's words will know that his assignments with the national team is foremost in his thoughts, even if the assignment is a fair way off. It is therefore no surprise that he has been the country's best ODI bowler since 2015, and his motivation to improve shows no sign of waning.
“It [this league] was a good opportunity for me to express myself. I have been able to do a lot of new things in this league, which perhaps I did not hope for. Even though it is not international quality, it has helped me increase my self-belief. Maybe I can build it up even further while working with coaches during the off-season, so that I can utilise those things in the international matches. My personal aim was to keep in good shape and have good practice. The big thing is I have so far been able to do what I focused on.”
Abahani have all but won the title this season, which means that the Mashrafe charm -- he captained Rangpur Riders to the BPL title last year -- continues unabated. “You of course have to do the hard work, but I believe in luck a lot. I would have been happiest if we won the Nidahas Trophy.”
Mashrafe, however, was not there for the Nidahas Trophy final. But whatever format he is playing for the Tigers, this DPL season is just another reason for fans to hope for his continued presence.