Bangladesh ODI captain Mashrafe Bin Mortaza must have been disappointed after his side's 3-0 defeat to New Zealand, especially when there were high hopes on this series ahead of the World Cup. However, he was still upbeat about the Tigers' chances at the World Cup when he spoke to The Daily Star's Mazhar Uddin at the team hotel in Dunedin yesterday. Other topics were the performances of Sabbir Rahman, Mohammad Mithun and Mohammad Saifuddin and his political commitments. The excerpts from the interview are below:
The Daily Star (TDS): This was the last series before picking the World Cup squad. Have you found your team here?
Mashrafe Bin Mortaza (MBM): I am the captain (smiles). I am not in the selection panel but if they ask me, I will give them my opinion. My suggestion (to include Sabbir for the New Zealand tour) created a lot of controversy. My logic behind that was that Sabbir plays fast bowlers well. I think there is not much to change. I think the cricket followers of Bangladesh also knew the eight-nine players who would be in the playing eleven so there is not much chance of making a huge change. I hope the (players') performances in the Test series won't affect the ODI team as it's totally a different format.
TDS: Do you think that after Sabbir's performances your opinion should be prioritised?
MBM: It's not like after one success I will tell them to take to my call, but obviously they take my opinion and it would be a lie if I said they didn't take my calls. I can only give my opinion but the final call will be theirs. I am not expecting that there will be huge changes after a bad series and I am sure that there are not many options left to make huge changes. There are one or two positions in the pace bowling and the batting department which the selectors will have to decide upon.
TDS: Were you under pressure for backing Sabbir?
MBM: No. You have to take a decision and whoever you bring in, it's not a certainty that they will score a hundred. But when you think that someone will score 40-odd runs facing 20-25 balls at number seven, that's what you expect. And I always believed that Sabbir has the ability to play such fast bowlers but you can't guarantee that he will score in every game. It is important that your thinking is clear and even if he was unable to score here, I would have backed him for his abilities.
TDS: How much confidence did you gain after the performancesof Mithun, Sabbir and Saifuddin?
MBM: First of all, Saifuddin is very positive.If he can bat like this it will be good but I would want more of his bowling than batting as it will be more crucial to us.He has done well today (Wednesday). Sabbir has good potential and I hope after scoring his maiden hundred he will realise his potential and be more disciplined in his personal life.He has a lot to give to Bangladesh cricket and he should realise after scoring this hundred that he has got the ability to give a lot for the next six-seven years. Mithun obviously is very positive but as Shakib also bats at number five there is a matter of calculation for us so there will be some fine-tuning.
TDS: How do you see Liton Das and Soumya Sarkar's performances?
MBM: Both have potential. Liton proved that by scoring a hundred under pressure and he has the ability to score on any wicket. He just has to set his game plan. Soumya also scored and he did get starts in the twogames and if he was able to score a fifty and a hundred he would gain a lot of confidence. Actually, it's about keeping the right mindset which Sabbir was able to do.So it's their job to work accordingly as there are still 100 days left till the World Cup.
TDS: Where do you want to see the team when you go for the World Cup?
MBM: Nothing went in our favour this series and we were unable to get close to what we wanted. At the same time there is a lot to gain from here and, being a captain, I have to look for positives as there will be flat tracks in England. We need to improve a lot in the bowling department as well and we need to work on our mindset regarding the situation.
TDS: Are there any regrets about not being able to win any game as this was your last series in New Zealand?
MBM: If you look at my career, I don't have regrets about cricket. I have said many times that the biggest thing is that I am still playing. There would have been regrets if I didn't give my hundred percent. Yes, we were close the last time when we played here, so this time we could have done well.But I always remain positive which helps to move forward. If we can do well in Ireland and later, everyone will forget this by the World Cup. But at the moment we are all upset and we need to work. To be honest I really thought we would do well this time and even win the series but that did not happen so we have to look forward.
TDS: What does this World Cup mean for Mashrafe?
MBM: I have said previously that it's a big thing. Bangladesh will go to the World Cup with the best possible team and if everyone remains fit, obviously we will go there aiming for something big. This World Cup is more important to those who love the game in the country and for whom I play the game. The team is always more important than me.
TDS: What will you do after returning?
MBM: I have gone through a lot of pressure since last October whether you talk about my personal life or in regards to cricket. I will take a break of two weeks to go home as I have some issues and I need to see doctors. After that I will start preparing for the World Cup and I will play in the Dhaka Premier League.
TDS: Will you engage in your political commitments again when you return?
MBM: At the moment, no. As I said previously, I won't be engaged in anything before the World Cup. But I will go to my hometown (Narail) and meet with the people but until the World Cup my whole mindset is towards the World Cup.
TDS: How did it feel when you first entered the parliament?
MBM: Actually what I shall say is that as I am still not involved properly and haven't started my work, I will be able to understand more as time progress.