Mashrafe Bin Mortaza looked relaxed while fielding on the boundary as a gentle breeze blew through the Fatullah Cricket Stadium, though his opponents -- on 225 for three in 43rd over -- looked well set to chase down the target of 290. The 34-year old right-arm paceman then took charge in the next over amid roars from some energetic spectators, who were shouting that the 'boss' will do something, and in the fourth ball he turned the tables for Abahani by removing Agrani Bank centurion Shahriar Nafees thanks to a stunning catch at deep midwicket by Sunzamul Islam.
What Mashrafe then did in the last over, when Agrani Bank required 13 to win with four wickets in hand, simply retold the story of a great cricketer; four wickets in four balls, a double hattrick for the first time in the history of domestic List A cricket. Mashrafe continued his fairytale season with bowling figures of 9.5-44-6.
What tricks did he apply to cancel out such a brilliant century from Nafees? It was nothing but bowling at the right spot and maintaining nagging accuracy with line and length -- things that sound simple but only the best can execute on a consistent basis.
Watching Bangladesh's ODI captain bowl magnificently at the twilight of his career brings to mind the question of why his younger fellow pacers cannot even come close to replicating his standards.
Understandably, Mashrafe was not harsh on his younger colleagues; instead he tried to defend them but, crucially, he said: “You have to have the discipline not only during your bowling but also in your mindset, you have to work hard to execute it in the middle. A very simple recipe.”
“I still take inspiration from the advice of [Glenn] McGrath back in 2003 when he told me that you have to wait long for a bad day when the batsmen take the risk to punish you if you continuously bowl at the right spot. But you cannot achieve it without hard work,” he said.
He might have not directly mentioned the problem of the country's young pacers but his comments indicated where their problems lie -- inadequate effort. The young paceman can take inspiration from the country's leading pace bowler's words when he said that he was trying to rediscover his natural strength of the cutter with the old ball. “It's important for me to make a good start with the new ball and so far, it has happened and I am also confident about operating with the new ball. With the old ball my strength is the cutter and I tried it today and got the last four wickets with cutters.” “
He however added: “There is no point blaming the young bowlers as you also have to consider the experience.”
And Bangladesh will face a dearth of that experience during the Nidahas Trophy in Sri Lanka. Mashrafe said that Bangladesh's pacers will face the biggest challenge in the tri-nation T20 tournament against batsmen like Rohit Sharma, Shikhar Dhawan and Kusal Mendis.
“I am not ready to expect too much from the team, especially as we are not good in this format [T20Is] and expectations will only put pressure on the side. I think pacers will face the biggest challenge in this tournament,” opined Mashrafe.
Young bowlers however do not need to look far for solutions if they just follow this gentleman.