O’ Captain, My Captain - A tribute to Mashrafe Mortaza
There are some people who don't even know that they are changing lives of so many people in different parts of the world without even meeting them once in their lifetime. Mashrafe Bin Mortaza is such a name for millions of Bangladeshi cricket lovers, including me.
Heartbreaks, tears of joy, tragedy, resilience, drama are the things people can associate with this name. Mashrafe's tale can be easily termed as the most dramatic one among all others in Bangladesh's sporting history.
When he took over the struggling Bangladesh team in September 2014, which was his third stint as captain (the previous two cut short by injuries), he was bold and strong in his statement. He said, 'now is the time to come back, specially before the World Cup.'
And we all know what happened after that. Bangladesh went on a clean sweep against Zimbabwe, reached the world cup quarter finals, defeated Pakistan, India and South Africa in three consecutive home series.
This little period changed the course of Bangladesh cricket. The team which was low in morale and confidence suddenly looked like they could beat any opponent in the world.
Shakib Al Hasan, the biggest name of Bangladesh cricket, said that Mashrafe's presence in the dressing room is enough to keep all the players high on confidence. Shakib also opined that Mashrafe is one of the greatest motivators and Bangladesh cricket will perhaps never have someone like him in the future.
For a person who has seen almost every possible tragedy, drama, resurgence in his life, this ability to motivate his fellow compatriots comes naturally to him. He has missed 110 ODIs after his debut due to injuries, has been inflicted with seven major injuries, has gone through numerous surgeries on his knees - but nothing could deter his indomitable spirit.
He kept coming back after every possible misfortune that happened to him. How can the words of this person be anything but inspiring?
Mashrafe still wears a knee-cap in every game. Indeed, the doctors have warned him that if his ligaments get torn one more time, he may have to spend the rest of his whole life in a wheelchair. The ODI captain uses a syringe to unload his knee of all the pus accumulated there before every game.
When his five-months-old son was hospitalized, Mashrafe still did not hold himself back from going with the squad for the 2015 World Cup. For him, putting smiles on the faces of millions of Bangladeshis is more important, even if it is at the cost of not being able to walk ever again.
But, why? Why would anyone sacrifice their ability to walk to play cricket? Because he is the kind of person for whom the country's interest matters more than anything else.
The people's captain
The cricket loving nation of Bangladesh also reciprocated such selfless service of Mashrafe with their unadulterated love. That is why Mashrafe is perhaps the only cricketer in history for whom a strike was called in his hometown following his exclusion from the World Cup squad in 2011.
After hearing the news of his exclusion that time, Mashrafe cried and made us shed our tears too along with him. Four years later we found ourselves crying once again with Mashrafe, but that was for a sole different reason.
Those were the tears of joy. The man who couldn't even play in the previous world cup, led our team to a World Cup quarter-final berth for the first time in its history.
Call me compulsive, but truth is that Mashrafe's contribution to Bangladesh cricket can never be weighed with the scale of stats and numbers since numbers alone can never explain why the 32 year old cricketer has a special place in the heart of every cricket-loving Bangladeshi.
Mashrafe is still the leading wicket-taker for Bangladesh in ODIs. He has often been in and out of the top ten bowlers in the ICC rankings throughout his injury-stricken career.
Former Pakistani cricketer, Akib Javed, has rightfully said that Mashrafe's contribution in Bangladesh cricket can be esteemed in the same regard as of Imran Khan and Sourav Ganguly for their respective countries.
Former Bangladesh head coach, Dav Whatmore, who used to call him 'pagla' (crazy in a joking way), said Mahsrafe is one of the finest human beings he has ever worked with. That is perhaps why most of the young cricketers in the current side see him as their icon, as their mentor, as someone whom they all look up to.
To me, the name Mashrafe is now synonymous to resilience and resurgence. Mashrafe is the name of that invincible spirit which motivates us to soar higher. This man inspires us to use the maximum of our potentials with complete diligence.
I know that when I say these words, I say them on behalf of millions of Bangladeshi cricket lovers like me. I know for sure that they would voice these same words when it comes to Mashrafe.
Because Mashrafe Bin Mortaza is not just the captain of the Bangladesh cricket team - he is my captain, our captain, the people's captain!