That young boy hailing from Narail was drafted into the Bangladesh A team on Roberts's recommendation. After playing just one match, the young lad was given a Test cap against the touring Zimbabweans, without having played any first class cricket.
The name of that boy is Mashrafe Mortaza. In the first Test, while he was given the new ball to bowl, there were some unhappy faces in our medical college's students common room. The image of the tall, lanky Hasibul Hossain still loomed large in the minds of the Bangladeshi fans and they were not ready to accept any replacement for him. But as soon as Mashrafe ran in and delivered the ball at pace, that unhappiness slowly started fading away, the doubts started to evaporate and there was an air of pleasant surprise all around. "Wow!" was the reaction of some of my friends. "Is the boy from Bangladesh?" some asked as I strongly felt a speed merchant has arrived for us.
But the hopes of a Bangladeshi fan are quite often followed by despair. We just couldn't relish Mortaza's bowling over the next few years the way we hoped. Injuries affected his career badly and he started missing more games than playing.
Mortaza's action was rickety, which affected his fitness badly, inviting a number of injuries on a continuous basis. Moreover, he was never handled shrewdly by his captains who unnecessarily bowled their premier bowler in long spells without realizing that his body needed enough rest to overcome the stress of a spearhead. His back and lower extremities took the brunt of that workload, depriving the team and the fans of what could have been a legendary career.
But one special quality that separates Mortaza from others is his strong will to get up every time he is knocked down by injuries. No matter how many times injuries threatened to jeopardize his career, Mortaza has always managed to come back. To Bangladeshi fans, Mortaza is a symbol of courage, and his popularity, during his prime, even diminished the aura of Shakib Al Hasan and Tamim Iqbal.
Mortaza has the amazing ability to catch the pulse of his fans, which is perhaps why he has always felt the strong urge to work hard for a comeback. Overcoming the latest injury that has now kept him out for more than a while, Mortaza has started playing active cricket again. In the ongoing Dhaka Premier League, he was seen bowling close to his best. There were those rib-crashing bouncers, movement off the seam and sharp pace. In the thrilling match against Abahani Limited, Mortaza - representing Mohammedan Sporting Club - picked up four crucial wickets and those who watched him in action during that match could see that he is not finished yet.
If he manages to win his place back in the national squad, which the whole of Bangladesh will pray for, it will boost our bowling attack in the upcoming series against New Zealand. But only time will tell if his body can hold itself together for the stress of international cricket - once again.
First Published: September 26, 2013, 1:59 PM IST