Among the fabulous five of Bangladesh cricket, Mahmudullah Riyad is arguably the one who tries to keep the lowest profile when it comes to facing the media. A soft-spoken batsman has grown as a cricketer over the years and is now rated as a big-match player in the Tigers' ranks, being the only Bangladeshi to smash back-to-back hundreds in the last ICC World Cup in 2015. The 33-year-old will once again shoulder a lot of hopes in the upcoming World Cup campaign in England and Wales this summer. The Daily Star's Mazhar Uddin caught up with Mahmdullah for an exclusive interview, speaking about Bangladesh's chances at the World Cup, his personal preparations and injury updates along with a few other topics. The excerpts of the interview are below:
The Daily Star (TDS): What is the condition of your injured shoulder?
Mahmudullah Riyad (MR): At the moment it's not bad. I started rehabilitation two days ago and at the moment it's getting better. When the reports came and I first heard that it was a grade 3 tear, I was honestly scared. But after talking to the physios, including the BCB doctor, they said that many of the players are playing despite having this injury. The plus point for me is that I am not facing any problems in my batting because of this injury. If I am able to start throwing and bowling then everything is good. I was feeling some stiffness in my shoulder for the past four months but as we had continuous games I couldn't realise that. During the third ODI in New Zealand I dove full length while fielding and I think the injury became worse after that. The pain gradually increased during the first Test and I bowled only one over. After doing the scan I got to know that it was serious.
TDS: There is talk of surgery…
MR: The reason for the talk of surgery came because Mehedi (Hasan Miraz), Rubel (Hossain) and Mustafizur (Rahman) faced the same problem. However, Rubel and Mustafizur are fast bowlers and the shoulder is a big factor for them so they decided to undergo surgery at the initial stage. Because I am mainly a batsman and an-off spinner, I think it won't be a big problem for me which I realised after talking to the physios.
TDS: How was the tour of New Zealand as a team?
MR: It was a mixed bag as a team but as a captain my message was: we are here to win. We couldn't do that may be due to a lack of application but everyone had that belief. It was a good learning experience.
TDS: You struck a century in Hamilton again, the same venue where you registered your maiden Test ton.
MR: Obviously I felt good and I remember Tamim (Iqbal) said to me jokingly after the game in Hamilton to take some of the soil from there with me as I have had quite a few good scores on that ground.
TDS: Did the New Zealand tour and everything you went through change your perspective on life?
MR: I thank the Almighty for being alive after the situation we went through. I don't think anyone can forget the incident. It was a matter of a few minutes; anything could have happened, I might not even have been alive now. It was due to blessings from everyone. When I first spoke to my family after the incident everyone was crying and they were shocked because nobody imagined such thing could happen in New Zealand. I feel bad whenever I watch the videos and for those who lost their lives. I want to also thank the BCB for its support in such a difficult time.
TDS: In your twelve-year international career, how much would you rate yourself out of ten?
MR: Five, maybe six. I think I should have done much more as far as my ability is concerned. There were a few instances when I was unable to deliver and couldn't finish the game when batting at five or six. Hopefully I can give myself more points when my career is over.
TDS: You have risen to big occasions in the past, especially in the ICC events including the last World Cup and the Champions Trophy where you scored hundreds. How are you preparing yourself for the upcoming World Cup?
MR: Preparation is very important. If you talk about the previous World Cup and the Champions Trophy, we had good preparations. In 2015 we had a camp in Australia which helped us a lot to get used to the wickets. We did something similar in England ahead of the Champions Trophy. Once again, we are going to Ireland and we will also have a camp in England before the World Cup. I think each individual has their own way of preparing and one should know what type of preparation suits them. I am working on my fitness at the moment as well as batting and bowling gradually.
TDS: Realistically what are Bangladesh's chances in the upcoming World Cup?
MR: No one can guarantee who will win the World Cup or who is going to reach the semifinal. But I personally believe that we are capable of getting into the top four and not only me, the whole team also believes that. We have been discussing this along with Mashrafe (Bin Mortaza) and it is a positive sign that everyone has that belief. It depends on the execution on the field so preparation is very important and I think how we start the tournament will be crucial.
TDS: Your favourite World Cup memory as a player?
MR: It was the game against England in the last World Cup. You can't imagine what we did after winning the game in Adelaide. All the players and the coaching staff went totally mad. We were all screaming and at some point everyone felt like a mad person. It was the best moment of my life. Whenever I see the video of that game and Rubel takes the last wicket and Nasser Hussain says "Bangladeshi Tigers have knocked the England lions out of the World Cup", It feels good.
TDS: Your favourites World Cup moment as a fan?
MR: Wasim Akram's spell against England in the 1992 World Cup final, when he dismissed Allan Lamb and Chris Lewis in consecutive deliveries. It was the first moment that attracted me towards cricket.