Shamim A. Zahedy, Dhaka
“The ship is anchor’d safe and sound, its voyage closed and done / From fearful trip the victor ship comes in with object won”
What was the secret of captain Mashrafe Bin Mortaza’s charisma that pulled people of all ages and all classes in a nation of some 160 million people huddling in 148,460 sq km of area called Bangladesh?
Mashrafe Bin Mortaza, a born leader on the field and off the field, has made Bangladesh proud on so many occasions with his utmost dedication to the game of cricket, with his never-ending endeavours to cheer his fellow countrymen and with his sheer acumen to guide his team to victory, lifting the spirit of the nation often mired in poverty, political strife and poor infrastructure.
The 36-year-old cricket icon from Narail is not always judged by the statistics of the game rather he is judged and measured by the heart or passion: he is adored; he is respected; he is acclaimed; he is praised; and he is loved.
He is adored for his zeal for the game: even multiple injuries could not hold him off from the field. Throughout his career the simple yet resolute leader had faced injuries after injuries only to come back on the green track, making him almost a mythical character with fans talking about Mash as he ran towards the bowling crease.
He is respected for his comments on shattering a common myth that cricketers are heroes. “Let me shatter some illusions today. We are entertainers. We are not heroes. The heroes are our freedom fighters. We don’t sacrifice anything for the cause of the nation. The freedom fighters did. Don’t misunderstand me, cricket is not everything. What we try to do is to bring happiness to our nation,” the captain said in a 2015 interview with a newspaper.
He is acclaimed for his care for fellow cricketers, offering them all-out support during their good time and bad time. When a fellow cricketer went with bad form he would talk to him, would give me a lot of time to help him recover. Even he is learnt to have lent financial support to a fellow player for his treatment. His signature chest bumping with rookies in the team always works as a tonic of morale boosting gesture for newcomers.
He is praised for his admiration for other professionals. In his April 2017 Facebook post, the Bangladesh cricket’s general Mashrafe said, during a visit to Khagrachhari Cantonment, that he got to realise what an enormous sacrifice a soldier makes for the motherland.
“Standing up for the national anthem in any comfortable zone or cheering loudly when Bangladesh beat any other team in a cricket match is an expression of our patriotism. But do remember, nothing is compared to your sacrifice for the motherland, nothing!” said Mashrafe referring to the profession of soldiers, who are by profession pledge-bound to literally sacrifice their lives.
The charismatic young man concluded his stunning post by describing himself as ‘a person, who just plays cricket!’
He is loved for his love for acquaintances in the neighbourhood. One of his childhood friends once recalled how Mashrafe, then already a cricketing icon, while vacationing in his home town Narail, helped an old woman to carry her bags from the bus stop to her house.
As the bus helper put her bags, five of them, on the road, Mashrafe, who saw all of it from a short distance, took her bags to her house nearby.
Bangladesh cricket has changed a lot under the skipper, Mashrafe, so does the Bangladeshi nation, providing the people with self-belief, self-esteem and self-respect.
In 2015, Mashrafe’s Tigers won series against India, South Africa and Pakistan following the 2015 World Cup success when they reached the knock-out stages for the first time.
In the 2017 ICC Champions Trophy, Mashrafe’s men managed to reach semifinals, Bangladesh’s the highest achievement in any international event. These victories definitely made a down-to-earth Mashrafe the best captain Bangladesh has ever produced; but most importantly, the victories have given Bangladeshi people, especially who were born in 70’s and who grew up following world cricket sans Bangladesh in mid-80’s, a sense of self-confidence, helping the relatively young nation think big.
The ability to think big is only possible when a milestone is touched. The mankind gained self-confidence when Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay reached the summit of Mount Everest, the world’s highest peak, in 1953.
A sport achievement or a mountaineering accomplishment that instills self-belief in human beings is no less significant than the medical achievement of Alexander Fleming, who discovered penicillin in 1928 and saved numerous lives across the globe.
Under Mashrafe Bin Mortaza every victory, every winning strike, the flying of the national flag and playing of the national anthem in any international competition, brought joyous tears rolling down the eyes of Bangladeshis.
The darling of the masses, Mashrafe, led Bangladesh to 49 wins in 87 one-day matches, a feat that has made him Bangladesh’s most successful one-day captain. He is to lead Tigers today for the last time when Bangladesh play against Zimbabwe in Sylhet, as he declared retirement from one-day captainship yesterday.
A big brother for fellow players, Mashrafe, or Koushik as he is nicknamed, turned around the side with a magic for which he will be called captain off the pitch as well.
He will remain forever in the heart of cricket lovers in Bangladesh, and it will be sheer ingratitude, if Bangladesh cricket in any way forgets his immense contribution to the game.
First printed :
6 March, 2020 00:00 00 AM / LAST MODIFIED: 2 April, 2020 12:57:30 PM