On top in more ways than one: Bangladesh national cricket team
12:00 AM, December 11, 2018 / LAST MODIFIED: 01:34 PM, December 11, 2018

On top in more ways than one

There were dark clouds surrounding Bangladesh cricket in 2014 as the Tigers were going through one of the toughest periods in international cricket.

Bangladesh were careening from one loss to the next in limited-overs cricket under then skipper Mushfiqur Rahim as they lost 13 consecutive ODIs.

Close defeats against Sri Lanka, followed by a blunder against Afghanistan in the Asia Cup, the embarrassing loss to Hong Kong in the World T20 at home and an all-loss tour of the West Indies had the Bangladesh Cricket Board (BCB) looking for someone to rejuvenate the jaded side.

In came Mashrafe Bin Mortaza to take up the challenge of leading the Tigers in his second stint after a brief captaincy spell back in 2009 was ended by injury.

He returned to lead Bangladesh in ODIs in 2010 where the Tigers registered a famous win against England, but once again injury forced him out after leading in seven ODIs.

The rise of Bangladesh cricket in the ODI format started with Mashrafe's second stint as he led Bangladesh to its maiden World Cup quarterfinal in 2015, presided over home series wins over India, Pakistan and South Africa and also reached the semifinal of the ICC Champions Trophy in 2017.

The once injury-prone Mashrafe has not missed a single game due to injury in his second tenure as captain and since November 2014 till the first ODI against West Indies, he has led Bangladesh in 61 of 64 games.

The three matches he missed were due to either suspensions for slow over rate or being rested.

The inspirational cricketer has often turned things around when Bangladesh badly needed a lift. The most recent example would be the ODI series win in West Indies earlier this year which came just after the humiliating defeats in the two-match Test series.

When he leads Bangladesh out for the 69th time in today's second ODI against the West Indies, the 35-year-old will join Habibul Bashar at the top of the list of most ODIs captained by a Bangladeshi.

Mashrafe has already reached the milestone of being the first Bangladesh player to play 200 ODIs. As two of those were played for an Asian XI in 2006, he will become the first player to play 200 matches for Bangladesh in the third ODI in Sylhet, where he will also surpass Bashar in the captaincy list.

He is already the most successful Bangladesh captain, winning 39 from 68 games whereas Bashar managed to win 29 ODIs in 69 matches.

But it is not just Mashrafe's leadership qualities that has made him exceptional; he has also led from the front with his bowling and since taking up the captaincy in 2014 he has taken 90 wickets in 68 games -- the most by any Bangladesh bowler during this period.

He issued a reminder of that in his 200th ODI as the man for the big occasion was adjudged player of the match for his superb bowling figures of three for 30 in 10 overs. 

If he needs further inspiration to perform today -- not that he needs anything other than the challenge of playing for Bangladesh -- today will also mark another landmark. It will be the 100th international match that Bangladesh's Big Five of Mashrafe, Shakib Al Hasan, Tamim Iqbal, Mushfiqur Rahim and Mahmudullah Riyad play together -- the first time that it has happened with a quintet in Bangladesh crikcet.

As the man who has done more than anyone to forge all that talent into a winning outfit, it will be fitting if Mashrafe notches win number 40 today.

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