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CS Flashback: The nip-backer of Mashrafe
In the winter of 2004, Mashrafe Bin Mortaza nailed one of the most dangerous batsmen in world cricket with sheer pace and skill.... A Bangladeshi could never think of a pace bowler bowling with enough pace and productivity. We had one Hasibul Hasan, who was tall and well built but ended up as yet another medium-fast bowler with lack of discipline in line and length. Since November 10, 2000, the need of a genuine pace bowler was heavily felt. All of a sudden, in the winter of 2001, amid the buzz of National Elections, Begum Khaleda Zia and Sheikh Hasina; a young boy from Narail ran in as fast as he could. Bowled as fast as he could and dared to stare and smile at the batsmen. For him, bowling with an attacking intent was fun. He enjoyed hunting the batters. Mashrafe Bin Mortaza aka Mash had arrived in the Bangladesh cricket fraternity with a great hope and since his debut in white clothes at the Bangabandhu National Stadium, Mash has been carrying the hopes of a victory-starved nation who seeks inspiration from their cricketing heroes. And, for the majority, Mash is the name of an inspiration. A role model to emulate. Mash is one those cricketers of Bangladesh, who has seen the ups and downs of this team since the start of their journey. From digesting heavy defeats to get showered with accolades, Mash has experienced it all. Despite suffering various career-threatening injuries, Mash still prefers to become a twister and blow away each and everything which comes on his way. That’s the amount of mental strength and stamina Mash possesses. Almost fourteen years ago, the pace of Mash still had not faded and with a smart coach like Dav Whatmore around, Mash was mastering the skills to challenge heavyweights in world cricket. The appointment of Whatmore as the coach of Tigers was a masterstroke by the then officials of Bangladesh Cricket Board. During the World Cup 2003, Tigers returned home with a sad face and dropped shoulders. They needed someone around to instill the self-belief and make them play as a team. Whatmore was the ideal guy and his effective presence proved vital in shaping up the career of Mashrafe. In the winter of 2004, Sourav Ganguly ’s brilliant Indian side toured Bangladesh. That Indian side was really frightening. Especially their batting line-up included masters of the game who could put chills down the spine of any bowling line-up in the world. Since the World Cup 2003, Ganguly’s men only went from strength to strength – They drew the Test series in Australia, won a Test and ODI series in Pakistan for the first time and beat South Africa at home. If any team could challenge the might of Australia then, it was Ganguly’s men. A battle between Bangladesh and India in those days was regarded as a one-sided affair. None expected a Test side of four years old to pose a threat to India. The Test series was heavily one-sided, but it was not without some individual brilliance from the home team players. The same was expected I the three-match one-day internationals. But the Tigers did show the stomach to fight. The first ODI was played at Chittagong were Bangladesh were without their talisman Mashrafe. Still the bowlers tested the mighty Indian batting line-up and restricted them to 245 for 8 in 50 overs. Skipper Habibul Bashar, Aftab Ahmed and wicketkeeper Khaled Masud cashed in with useful runs, but failed to end up as the winners. Ganguly’s men survived a Bangladeshi scare and won the match by just eleven runs. The fight back at Chittagong gave the Tigers a lot of confidence and in the second ODI at Dhaka, their morale was boosted by the inclusion of Mash. Mash castles Sehwag Bangladesh batted and at 88 for 5 things were going towards a foregone conclusion. But Aftab and the tail showed character to stabilise the tattered innings. Aftab notched up 67 valuable runs while Mash flexed his muscles to score 31 valuable runs. Bangladesh posted 229 for 9 in 50 overs. Under the lights, captain Bashar threw the new white ball to Mash with the expectations of an early breakthrough. If anyone can bag the wicket of dangerous Virender Sehwag then it would be none other than Mashrafe. His first two balls were well-pitched in line and length outside the off, which took Sehwag by surprise. Mash swung the ball away from one of the destroyers of world cricket. It energized the slip cordon and the fans present at the stadium and watching in front of television. The third delivery was one hell of a delivery! Mash ran in fast, hurled the ball down a bit quicker on back of a length and after landing on the turf, it nipped back in such a manner as if a gust of wind blew to demolish the stumps leaving Sehwag stunned! Sehwag never expected the ball to nip back in that much to create doubts in his mind of whether to play it back or forward. He was beaten by the pace and skill of a young tearaway pacer from Bangladesh. The Tigers drew first blood through Mashrafe and it gave the unit the much needed psychological boost of taming Ganguly’s men. Bangladesh won the match by eighteen runs and levelled the series. Mashrafe was adjudged the man of the match for his 31 runs and two important wickets. Three years later, Mashrafe would disturb Sehwag’s timber again with another nip-backer at Port of Spain in that eventful match of World Cup 2007.