The first T20I against Sri Lanka yesterday was overshadowed by Bangladesh skipper Mashrafe Bin Mortaza's announcement at the toss that the two-match series will be his last as player and captain in the shortest format of the game. The announcement was made without much fanfare with the inspirational limited-over captain simply saying at the toss that this will be his last two T20Is. He will however continue to lead Bangladesh in the ODI format.
The national anthems followed, and there was an emotional moment when the big screens showed Mashrafe's face singing along with Bangladesh's national anthem for the last time as a T20 cricketer. As captain, he is the most successful in the format not just in quantity of wins but also in quality. Bangladesh have only beaten Test playing nations other than Zimbabwe five times in the format, and three of those wins came under Mashrafe's leadership.
His win/loss record in T20Is, nine won and 16 lost, is well clear of Bangladesh's overall record of 20 won and 43 lost. His bowling in the format, however, did not match the high standards he has set in ODI cricket. He has conceded runs at eight runs an over and taken 39 wickets from 52 matches.
His value, however, was in the inspiration he provided as a leader, which was on view in last year's Asia Cup T20 where Bangladesh contested the final, undoubtedly their best performance in the format.
His retirement from the format seems to be a last controversial punctuation on the tour of Sri Lanka which has seen some ripples behind the scene. There have been murmurs -- unsubstantiated in any public utterance other than BCB president Nazmul Hassan saying that if he had not come to Sri Lanka for Bangladesh's 100th Test some more changes may have taken place -- that there was a plan within the management to take a new route in terms of personnel in the T20I format.
Bangladesh team manager Khaled Mahmud, the day after Bangladesh lost the third ODI, said that T20s were the only avenue for experimentation as the teams in the two other formats were pretty settled. Mashrafe also seemed to hint at that in his message on Facebook.
The question, however, remains about the necessity to make the announcement in the manner that it was made -- out of the blue minutes before play started, which is uncharacteristic in that it made the match all about the decision to retire. Whether it was to get the decision out of the way and focus on the cricket, will be known over the next few days.