Mashrafe Mortaza enjoys a Bradmanesque profile in Bangladesh cricket. If his exploits on the cricket field is anything to go by, the strapping 32-year-old captain has enough in his repertoire. Mortaza inspires belief in his colleagues and certitude in his compatriots about the team’s potential.

Reaching the final of the Asia Cup is just an extension of this faith which was endorsed by tears of joy that the Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina could not contain after seeing Mortaza and Mahmudullah shepherd Bangladesh to this stage with a win over Pakistan a couple of days ago.

Mortaza attributes credit for this remarkable rise to coach Chandika Hathurusingha, who has given the team a new direction under his captaincy. “Cricket is more of a mental game. We were not up to the mark till a few years back. But the moment we started freeing our minds from the fear of failure, the turnaround happened,” said Mortaza.

'Coach has helped a lot'

“Our coach has helped a lot since the time he took over in 2014. Reaching the quarterfinals in the 2015 ICC World Cup was the start and since then the team has been doing well in the tournaments. We are given a lot of freedom in practice and are not pushed into stiff regimens. That gives the players the belief and the space to try their best,” Mortaza said signing copies of his biography, which is the first to be written on a Bangladesh cricketer. This is another proof of his larger-than-life stature.

The mechanics of success also hinges on the motivation Mortaza imparts as a leader. “As for me, I enjoy a great relationship with my teammates and that is working in our favour. Getting the faith of your colleagues secures the best of performances and Bangladesh’s success is based on this excellent dressing room atmosphere we share,” Mortaza says, analysing the reasons for the recent success.

'Will consider retirement next year'

Bangladesh will have lot to gain if it wins the Asia Cup, as it will secure its identity as a power in T20I, feels Mortaza. “If we win the Asia Cup, it will be a watershed moment and definitely establish us as a team to beat in the T20 format. We have attained our status in the ODIs but we have to prove ourselves in T20. The wins against World champion Sri Lanka and former champion Pakistan in this tournament have already proved the hard work we have done,” Mortaza says.

There is already a sense of attainment in Mortaza, who spoke of retirement sometime later this year. “I do not want to continue for long. I will play this year and will think about retirement thereafter, depending on how fit I am. I generally do not plan anything too much in advance and follow my instincts. But that will not happen suddenly. I will consult my teammates who are more important to me in cricket than my family, before taking any decision,” he said.