Mortaza: Bangladesh is no pushover

As the seasoned all-rounder started talking about the game and why the recent Test victory against Sri Lanka was special, he ensured that there was not a single dull moment.

“I sincerely feel that the win against Sri Lanka has come at the right time,” says all-rounder Mashrafe Mortaza.   -  AP

It is not easy to get in touch with Mashrafe Bin Mortaza. The Bangladesh limited-overs captain, who is back in business after an injury-lay off, is not too outspoken. So, at the first attempt, the request was turned down, because the skipper was ‘not too interested’ in giving an interview.

But then, as the seasoned all-rounder started talking about the game and why the recent Test victory against Sri Lanka was special, he ensured that there was not a single dull moment. On Tuesday afternoon, as Sportstar caught up with him in Colombo, Mortaza was getting ready for a training session, ahead of the team’s tour game on Wednesday. But even then, speaking to an Indian publication for the first time, the vastly-experienced skipper spoke at length on issues, that has mostly been avoided so far.

The excerpts...

How do you see Bangladesh’s victory in the historic 100th Test? Watching the boys register a comfortable win must have been an emotional experience…

It is definitely a big achievement for Bangladesh cricket. We lost the last four matches, so the pressure was on the boys. The way they overcame the odds and sealed a historic win is commendable. This victory has once again proven that the Bangladesh cricket team is no pushover. It is quite unfortunate that we failed to utilise some of the opportunities previously.

Are you referring to the series against New Zealand and India? Do you actually think that Bangladesh could have fared well against those superior opponents?

Of course; I still believe that we could have done a lot better against New Zealand and India. In Hyderabad, the team could have actually put India under pressure, but the young guns failed to keep the momentum going. As the match progressed, it looked like as if we were quite nervous. You may criticise the team for that, but you must also understand that we have a young side. Most of the players are yet to adapt to the conditions. So, you cannot be comparing these players with the others. My only request is, don’t judge us right away. Give these guys a bit more time; they won’t disappoint.

You don’t seem to be happy with the result. Do you think the team missed your presence in those Tests?

No, I am not complaining. The way the boys performed is actually praiseworthy. But it’s just that you need to understand that you can’t always be pressing for a win. There are times when you have to settle for a draw. The problem is, with the game shifting its focus to the shorter format, the whole idea is to win. But in Test cricket, you can’t always have a victory. So, in those cases, a team and its captain must understand that the ideal situation is to try and manage a draw.

In Hyderabad, we could have at least aimed for a draw. I wouldn’t say that the game was all lost for us. So what if India had some superstars; we could have at least tried. We were always in the game, but somehow lost the plot. These are the small things that our players need to understand. But then, for that we need to play more Test matches.

On the eve of the 100th Test, Bangladesh’s first Test captain Naimur Rahman Durjoy had told Sportstar that Bangladesh fails to make it count in the Test arena, because the focus is more on one-dayers and T20…

That is definitely an area of concern. Look, no team can improve if it doesn’t play a minimum amount of Test cricket. I think we still lag behind as far as playing Test matches are concerned. Unfortunately, our focus has always been on one-dayers or T20 cricket, and to be honest, that actually stopped us from developing a Test-mindset. In shorter formats of the game, your thinking process is different, but for Test cricket, you need to be more objective. That is something we need to address. Hopefully, this victory against a far superior Sri Lanka will actually make the ICC realise that Bangladesh needs more Test matches. Let us admit it, without playing Test cricket regularly, you cannot expect to reach the sky. That is practically not possible.

The former cricketers are quite apprehensive about domestic cricket too...

Look, it is true that we need to improve even at the grassroots level. As a cricketer, I always feel that if your domestic circuit is not good, you cannot produce good cricketers. The fact that we have so many good young cricketers coming up, itself proves that the domestic scene has certainly improved by leaps and bounds.

You really think that way? But then, there are still no five-day games in domestic circuit. How is it possible to expect good results when your domestic cricket doesn’t endorse longer version cricket?

In most of the countries, the domestic season is all about four-day games, and in Bangladesh too, we have a similar pattern. I don’t know what people call it, but at the moment, we have a National League and the Bangladesh Cricket League — which are quite competitive. The Bangladesh Cricket Board (BCB) has ensured that there are at least 10-12 four-day matches at a go, so that the players get a hang of things. So, that way we cannot complain much. To be honest, there is no point in blaming anyone, it’s just that we all need to be focused, and not get carried away. Our cricketers must understand that on the field the only job is to play with pride. And they must enjoy every moment.

“I always feel that if your domestic circuit is not good, you cannot produce good cricketers. The fact that we have so many good young cricketers coming up, itself proves that the domestic scene has certainly improved by leaps and bounds.”

But then, how do you justify the Board’s decision to prepare flat wickets at the domestic level? As a seasoned cricketer, do you think it is actually possible to expect good results in overseas conditions?

Well, I wouldn’t deny that the pitches do bother us at times. At home, the wickets are a bit flat and different from the ones in New Zealand or Sri Lanka. So, every time we travel overseas, it gets more challenging to get used to the pitches. And, I guess, that was one of the reasons why we failed to perform in New Zealand and India. But this victory against Sri Lanka is certainly a big thing for us. It will change the perception about us, and our players would also realise that it’s not impossible to beat a team overseas. Many in the fraternity feel that we are tigers at home, who can be easily tamed in foreign conditions. Hopefully, this mindset will change now. That’s why I sincerely feel that the win against Sri Lanka has come at the right time.

So, what is the way forward?

The BCB has started providing us with wickets that will help a cricketer get a feel of four-day cricket. That is something we needed badly. Hopefully, our players will be able to reap the benefits.

After a rather long injury lay-off, you are back in business. Do you think your presence will boost team’s morale?

Getting back the rhythm is an important factor, and I am working hard on that. As we talk, I am gearing up for a rigorous training session. The positive side is that the team is all motivated, and I would not be surprised if we pull off a few more wins. But then, let’s not think too much and focus on one game at a time. That is all we can do at the moment.

  Dugout videos