The tale of Mashrafe Bin Mortaza's brilliant captaincy in the first ODI against Afghanistan
Taskin Ahmed’s last ball was a full toss on middle at which Dawlat Zardan attacked, but holed out to long off. For the first time in the history of One-Day international cricket, the innings of both teams ended in the last ball and with that dismissal, the crowd at Mirpur breathed a sigh of relief. They were kept quiet for a brief period by some inspiring batting display by the Afghanistan batsmen, but all of a sudden, the atmosphere at the stadium changed – it became noisy and the festive mood returned.
It was an absolute nerve-jangler at Mirpur. The Tigers survived an Afghanistan scare. At one stage, it seemed, the Afghans would take the match away from Bangladesh, but the Tigers bounced back well to snatch a thrilling victory by a narrow margin.
But one man didn’t lose his patience and kept on trying as he believed, a comeback was still possible. That man was the captain of Bangladesh Mashrafe Bin Mortaza.
As a captain, Mash was at his tactical best last night.
Firstly, he didn’t step back and switch to a defensive mode, but attacked when the Shah and Shahidi partnership was well poised. He brought the third man up and placed a wide slip or maneuvered the gully, kept mid off inside the circle and instead of a deep midwicket, engaged a short midwicket and leg slip and advised the likes of Rubel and Taskin to bang it short.
Mash maneuvered his field and stuck to it. He didn’t panic and his perseverance fetched results when an ambitious Rahmat Shah came down the wicket against Shakib Al Hasan in the 41st over. In fact, he was made to do such as Mash set the field in such a manner, it lured Rahmat to attempt an ambitious stroke. Shakib’s flight flummoxed Rahmat and Bangladesh got the most important breakthrough.
Taking up the mantle in bowling
Secondly, Mashrafe’s courage to take the responsibility on his own shoulders when his two strike bowlers were found wanting. He brought himself into the attack when Mohammad Nabi and Najibullah Zardan were all set to unleash another dangerous partnership. He looked tired, but not short of spirits.
A back of a length off-cutter from Mashrafe shortened Zardan’s stay at the crease and enlightened Bangladesh’s chances.
One must not forget Mash’s response to Mohammad Shahzad’s humungous six in the seventh over. Shahzad clobbered a huge six in the fifth ball, but it didn’t deter Mash from dishing out a slow-in-cutter to end up the ghost of Shahzad. It was Bangladesh’s first breakthrough and an important one to dent Afghanistan’s aggressive intent.
This is what captaincy is all about. Even when the chips are down, an aggressive captain doesn’t hide but steps up to inspire his teammates.
Thirdly, Mash’s faith in Taskin Ahmed and Rubel Hossain was praiseworthy. Taskin and Rubel were mediocre with the ball in the major part of the match. While Rubel struggled to manage his short-pitched stuff, Taskin’s struggle with his rectified action was evident. But Mash, didn’t lose faith and persisted with them.
Mash’s immense faith in his players pays off
Taskin delivered a slower delivery in the 48th over – a slowish legspinner which came from the back of the hand and Nabi failed to timed it perfectly and holed out to the fielder at long off. That wicket was the major turning point of the match as because, if Nabi was not dismissed, the story might have been different.
Nabi is a dangerous player and surely, a captain would not take the risk of engaging those bowlers who had been pale in his previous overs. But, Mash invested faith in Taskin to outsmart Nabi and it paid rich dividends.
That wicket ignited Taskin and he ended up taking four wickets. Meanwhile, to introduce Rubel in the 49th over was another risky decision. But Rubel didn’t let Mash down and ended up taking Afghanistan’s eighth wicket to take Bangladesh closer to a stunning victory.
Lastly, Mash rotated his bowling options intelligently. Especially, his utilisation of Shakib was brilliant. Shakib’s impeccable line and length were tough to counter and it not only helped in building pressure but fetching important wickets as well. With Rubel and Taskin leaking runs thick and fast, Mash realized the value of using Shakib in the right moments rather than bowling out his overs.
When Mash struck first in the first ten overs, he introduced Shakib immediately to utilise the momentum. Shakib grabbed a wicket. Then, when it was needed to disturb the rhythm of Afghanistan, Shakib was brought on to bowl to trigger a breakthrough in the 41st over and when it was needed to make Afghanistan’s task difficult in the slog overs, Mashrafe engaged Shakib in the 47th over where he leaked just one run and kept Bangladesh’ chances alive.
One thing can be expected, Bangladesh will get better and better after this match. Yes, there were gray areas in the batting and fielding, but I am sure Mash and Chandika Hathurusingha will rectify those as early as possible.