One of the most contentious issues in Bangladesh cricket over the last few months is a planned Test comeback of fast bowler Mashrafee bin Murtaza. The cricket fraternity seems to be divided into two camps on whether Mashrafee should be given a chance for a comeback in the forthcoming West Indies tour or selectors should wait until he takes his inclusion beyond question. Mashrafee spoke at length over his Test comeback plan and other career issues in a recent interview with New Age’s Azad Majumder. Here are the excerpts:
Q: World Cup 2019 is not too far away. Do you think is it high time for Bangladesh to start a plan for this tournament?
Mashrafee: We will, but at the same time we have some big tours like West Indies, maybe Australia, few more overseas tours, so we have to think about those tours as well, otherwise it will be to be very difficult. Also 2019 World Cup is coming very soon, maybe one and half year left, so yes, we have to have a plan, obviously the coaching staff will do but the thing is that we have to keep on mind that before that we have to play some very important tournament as well, especially overseas, and World Cup is going to be (held) in England. So overseas tournament we have to look after, so I think those upcoming series are very important for us, then obviously as you said that we have to have a plan so that we can go there and we can make sure we can fight hard, not like what we had done in Champions Trophy. We had played in the semis there, but we were not up to the mark.
Q: You are the captain of the one-day side, so obviously you have some personal plan or have a team in mind?
Mashrafee: Look, what is going to happen in future, but nobody knows. So many things can happen to any player. But at the moment, yes, I am captaining the ODI side, this moment I can focus only West Indies tour, maybe before West Indies we have to play against Afghanistan. Maybe we can focus on those two so that we can go there and play our best cricket and win those matches. And then obviously World Cup as I said we have to have a plan but before playing those matches it’s very difficult to make a plan for World Cup because you have to finalise all those players who can be really effective in England World Cup. So, we have to find those players as well. So, it’s not easy to pick players right now before you playing these overseas tournaments.
Q: Personally speaking, how long do you want to continue playing?
Mashrafee: It’s very difficult to say, I never set my goal like that. Like T20 I feel I left, for ODI it will happen the same thing. Once I feel I don’t want to play then I will leave. I don’t have any plan or I did not make up my mind.
Q: You have always said you want to come back to Test. What is your plan regarding Test?
Mashrafee: Regarding Test, I have to play little more four-day matches like national league or other tournaments which are happening in Bangladesh. Before that commenting is very difficult. I think I have to prove a little more to the selectors that I can play in this format. Then if they think, yes, I can serve the national team a little bit more than what I am doing they can consider. But now I think I have to play at least a year of first-class so that I can prove.
Q: With your current physical fitness do you think it’s possible?
Mashrafee: Everything is possible. You need a little bit of courage as I said, you need to have a little bit of patience, which I have but again I (would) say if I play, I need to go through first-class because World Cup is a very important tournament and for us as a team as well as a player. Let’s see. That is my main focus right now to play World Cup, in between if I get a chance, selectors thought I can go, obviously, I can. But at the moment you can tell me that World Cup is very important for us.
Q: You have seven surgeries on your knees. Not too many players can continue playing with this. How do you manage?
Mashrafee: Simple thing, I love to play cricket, I love this game, that’s the main story behind. And to be honest that every time I get injured I never thought I can come back. Every time I get injured I thought okay, that’s a break for me, maybe six to eight months, I have to get fit and come back. That courage was inside of my mind. I was in a frame of mind that when I get I would never give up because I love this game.
Q: Sometimes your story encourages others. Like the other day, one footballer was saying if Mashrafee can do it with seven surgeries why I can’t I. Do you think other players also have to something to learn from your injury management?
Mashrafee: There are so many things you can learn from others, if someone wants to learn from me that‘s great for me, great for him as well. I feel whatever the right thing that I have done if they want to know – I can explain to them, I can share with them. But again, it always varies man to man, what you want to learn and what you don’t want to learn. If someone feels that, yes this part of me, I mean whatever I have done last 14, 15 or 16 years if they want to learn something that I have done they can come and talk to me.
Q: You become the captain in 2015. Over the last few years, you changed the face of the team. What did you do differently?
Mashrafee: We did something very simple, I mean we tried to stick together – we try to help each other on the field, out of the field. We make sure we want to play with freedom, no one was blaming other; that’s the simple thing we did, you know simple thing makes you very difficult, in difficulty you can play as a team. Actually, we did those simple stuff, obviously coaching staff was there, BCB was helping us lot, I think it’s a combined effort. Not just you can’t just put one finger that this guy has been helping a lot that’s why the team has come here. It’s a combined effort I guess.
Q: With the success of Bangladesh team your popularity also has gone sky high. How do you manage?
Mashrafee: Nothing, I do what I did. I used to live the way I grew up in my childhood. Even when I play I was still the same, try to do the same thing what I have, what is my naturality. I don’t do anything as special, I just live as a simple man and I make sure always that what kind of family I am coming from, what I was, what my family is, I just try to keep it very simple.
Q: Many young players lose their focus because of this kind of popularity. What is your advice for them?
Mashrafee: I can’t put finger who is that particular player, actually I don’t know which player, and I think it depends on man to man. In the early time, when a player comes and play for the country it’s not that he has a very beautiful life, he also has pressure, and so many pressure is coming. I think overall it’s very difficult to stay the same person what he was, but I think what they can do they can keep simple. The way they used to live their life they can still keep doing it, so the pressure will come off.
Q: Now with more and more T20s players more money is coming, do you think it sometimes takes the focus away?
Mashrafee: Can be. Again it depends on man to man. If you want to play for the country then it doesn’t matter. Obviously, everyone wants to play for the country but you know playing all formats, like Test cricket, one-day and T20 it’s come to a different issue. I am sure everyone wants to play for the county but T20, you know, so many tournaments are going on all over the world, so, you can pick sometime exactly which one you want to play. I think everyone wants to play in IPL after IPL there is BPL as well…, maybe if you play in IPL you don’t need to play anything, because it’s huge money you can earn from IPL. If you don’t get chance to play in IPL then you can choose two, that’s the way they can get fit and still, they can give the same amount of effort what they are doing in the national team right now. So it’s all about management to his body and to his performance.
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