Spotlight on Mashrafe

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Cameras were trying to capture every possible frame of Bangladesh ODI captain Mashrafe Bin Mortaza from the beginning of yesterday’s training session as the iconic cricketer returned to the national fold for the first time since the World Cup in July last year.

Mashrafe reached Sylhet on Friday afternoon, along with opener Tamim Iqbal, and attended the first training session at the Sylhet International Stadium ahead of the three-match ODI series against Zimbabwe, which is scheduled to begin on Sunday.

The 36-year-old had to sit out the tour to Sri Lanka after the World Cup last year at the eleventh hour and the Member of Parliament has since been detached from the national fold.

There was a sense of a homecoming for Bangladesh’s most successful captain during the training session and the lively character was seen in his element as he pranked teammates and even had an amusing argument with Tamim over field placements.

After warming up with a few half-hearted deliveries, Mashrafe cranked up the intensity and bowled a brilliant yorker to Nazmul Hossain Shanto, who was caught off-guard and somehow managed to move his feet away and survive.

Following a long session with the ball, Mashrafe took to the table in the corner of the batting nets for a discussion with head coach Russell Domingo.

Mashrafe has come into the series after Bangladesh Cricket Board President Nazmul Hassan had strongly hinted that the series against Zimbabwe would be the cricketer’s last as captain. The BCB boss also cast Mashrafe’s international future into ‘uncertainty’, saying the veteran would have to be subject to the selection process and earn future spots in the team through performances.

According to Hassan, the board is looking to name a new captain in a month’s time, which suggests the side will see a new leader taking charge for the one-off ODI against Pakistan in April.

Questions about Mashrafe’s place in the team were raised when Bangladesh finished eighth in the 10-team World Cup and the 36-year-old picked just a solitary wicket in eight games.

However, Mashrafe said that he wanted to continue playing and did not give any hints over when he would retire from international cricket. He added that if the selectors did not consider his performances up to the mark, they could always find alternatives.

Mashrafe overlooked everything, from the BCB’s attempt to arrange a grand send-off by arranging an ODI series at home, to the public sentiment on social media that time had come for him to retire.

Nobody can predict what is in store for Mashrafe, but the three-match ODI series against Zimbabwe will surely see the spotlight on Bangladesh’s captain fantastic — perhaps one last time.

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