Mashrafe Mortaza wasn’t “prepared for such a hasty arrangement” to give him a farewell game and push him into retirement from international cricket, especially because, as he said, he was willing to quit after Bangladesh’s exit from the 50-over World Cup last year anyway.
Mortaza, the former Bangladesh captain, said that while there was talk of him retiring after a disappointing performance at the World Cup, discussions were shelved after a point, but a couple of months later, the BCB reportedly tried to arrange an ODI against Zimbabwe to allow him to bow out. At the time, the schedule had Zimbabwe coming to Bangladesh to only play a T20I tri-series in September, also involving Afghanistan. It was reported that the BCB waited for Mortaza’s word on whether he wanted to retire or not before arranging the ODI, the only format he was active in. At the time, Mortaza wanted to play on, especially the BPL, so the plan was shelved. When he resigned from captaincy in March this year, it was during a pre-scheduled ODI series.
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“To be honest, I was ready to go into retirement after the last match of the World Cup,” Mortaza, who still hasn’t announced his retirement from the game, told ESPNcricinfo. “But somehow there was talk about [creating] a better atmosphere. So I wasn’t prepared for such a hasty arrangement [for a farewell match]. I spoke to (BCB president Nazmul Hassan) bhai afterwards. I told him that I want to play the BPL, and then leave the captaincy after the Zimbabwe series.”
The 36-year-old allrounder’s poor returns during the World Cup had led to renewed calls for his retirement – they had begun earlier, after he became a member of parliament in Bangladesh. In the immediate aftermath of Bangladesh’s last match at the World Cup, the BCB sacked coach Steve Rhodes. Mortaza was prepared to travel to Sri Lanka for the ODI series in July, but missed out because of an injury.
“It was embarrassing for me because they were talking about the BDT 2 crore that it would cost the BCB, for that ODI against Zimbabwe, while first-class cricketers are not getting enough money, and our Test cricket isn’t improving”
Back to the retirement-that-wasn’t, and Mortaza also felt that spending a lot of money and energy on arranging just one match for a farewell wasn’t the best plan.
“It was such a busy schedule that a match was being planned to remove me, and it would cost them BDT 2 crore [$235,500 approx.], Mortaza said. “It worried me. I also wondered what would have happened had I gone to Sri Lanka just after the World Cup. There was no discussion at that time. But, all of a sudden, Zimbabwe are coming to play T20s, and these things started to show up in the media.
“It was embarrassing for me because they were talking about the BDT 2 crore that it would cost the BCB, for that ODI against Zimbabwe, while first-class cricketers are not getting enough money, and our Test cricket isn’t improving. You have all written about it, and the players have also spoken about it. So rather than investing two crore on a player like me, it would have been easier to involve that amount in first-class cricket.”
Bangladesh’s lopsided schedule following the World Cup, which had only three ODIs for the rest of the year, complicated matters. “I thought that I could have retired from a normal series,” he said. “See, prior to the Sri Lanka tour, nobody spoke to me about it. So to talk about it in such haste all of a sudden was worrying.”
Ahead of the third ODI against Zimbabwe in March this year, Mortaza announced his decision to step down from the captaincy, ending an illustrious career as captain, and part of the motivation was to give his successor – Tamim Iqbal, as it turned out – time to prepare for the 2023 World Cup.
“We have around three years before the next World Cup,” Mortaza said. “BCB would get a better platform as the World Cup is being held in the subcontinent. BCB would get enough time to prepare a new captain. I am sure Tamim will do well.”