Last night, after Bangladesh won the second T20I against Sri Lanka, something unusual happened. Shakib Al Hasan went to the press conference after the post-match presentation ceremony. And while Shakib is always a welcome speaker, as when in the mood he provides great insight like he did yesterday, there was still the yearning to hear from Mashrafe Bin Mortaza, the captain who was walking away from the format with head held high.
Mashrafe, after the ceremonies, walked over to Australian commentator to do a television interview for the official broadcaster. But when the interview ended Mashrafe acquiesced to the request of some press men from Bangladesh for a few words, even though he was tired after a long day's work and must have been spent emotionally at officially walking away from the format, with only ODIs remaining in his Bangladesh career.
“I believe that my career has come this far for the supporters,” said Mashrafe, who patiently agreed to take selfies with the few Bangladeshi supporters who flocked to him when the television interviews were over. “It was their prayers, their love that never let me go too far from the game. No matter how severe the injury, these thoughts were always on my mind.
“I am not completely gone yet; I will play ODIs,” he added with a smile. “This is of course a matter of pride for me. I feel good that Bangladesh have won. I will always remember this last match as long as I live; that in my last match Bangladesh won, and I was the captain.”
As it has always been with Mashrafe, he spoke from the heart and admitted to a feeling of emptiness during yesterday's match. “I was feeling a little restless. It was okay when I went out to toss, but there was a bit of discomfort when I went out to bat; maybe because it was my last match.
“Some of them cried,” Mashrafe said when asked how the emotions among the team were in the lead-up to yesterday's match. “What happened was instead of expressing my emotions I had to console them. I had to make them understand. Everyone has their emotions. But no one will feel worse than I do or my family does. I am saying this to everyone, shedding tears for me is a big thing for me.”
There was the obvious question of whether there were some ill feelings behind the scenes that led him to the decision to retire, and that was the only time that Mashrafe was a little stern. “I said that day too, let us please not bring these issues up and try to create controversies. We are all Bangladeshis, and we all want the country's cricket team to do well, let us all pray for that.”
In yesterday's match, Shakib Al Hasan, who according to Bangladesh Cricket Board (BCB) president Nazmul Hassan is the likeliest candidate to take over from Mashrafe, was running a lot of the show. Shakib was at times seen talking with the bowler and changing the field -- it looked like a changing of the guard.
“When Shakib is active, the job becomes much easier,” Mashrafe said. “You will have seen this before too. It was the same in the World Cup match against India. Because Shakib was active, when I was fielding at fine leg, I did not have to run up to the bowler and discuss with him and change the field. As I said, at times I could not control myself, so Shakib being active made things easier.”
With that and a few more words, the people's champion walked away for the last time in the shortest format.