Mashrafe Bin Mortaza must play!

Published: May 12, 2009

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It was tolerable for the first three games but after the Kolkata Knight Riders ignored Mashrafe Bin Mortaza for the tenth consecutive time, patience is running thin for millions of cricket fans in the country.

The Knight Riders turned a million heads when they insisted on landing Mashrafe in their books for an astonishing 600,000 dollars back in February. In fact the effort shown by the black-and-gold brigade during the auction to capture Mashrafe made sure that their fan base here was greater than before.

But the honeymoon is over, thanks to the oddball nature of coach John Buchanan.

With only four foreigners allowed, it was natural to load a Twenty20 team with world-class batsmen. Chris Gayle, Brendon McCullum and Brad Hodge were automatic selections while the last spot would naturally go to Ajantha Mendis or Mashrafe since David Hussey was unavailable for much of the campaign.

But Buchanan gave that spot to Moises Henriques, a little known Australian all-rounder. Obviously the talent has not come through for the Australian: just 35 runs and two wickets from the four matches he’s played.

Clearly the Australian coach did not take past success or experience as a prerequisite when it came to picking a foreign bowler. How else would one describe the snub on Ajantha Mendis after just a few opportunities when commentators are waxing lyrics on the less-illustrious spinners on the dry South African pitches?

But the point here is picking a paceman and whether or not Henriques is better than Mashrafe. One would have felt Mashrafe was unlucky if the deadly Charl Langeveldt was picked ahead of him but to go for a greenhorn ahead of experienced international bowlers is simply illogical.

But for the ‘lateral-thinking’ Buchanan, being illogical could probably be a compliment.

Remember the multi-captain theory? The studious looking coach tried to employ what Kolkatans call the ‘get rid of Ganguly’ theory. It’s history now even though McCullum has clearly been out of his depth with the bat. If the multi-captain theory had its merit then why wasn’t the Kiwi dropped and the captaincy rotated?

When Gayle left, Morne van Wyk was picked as the fourth overseas player and although he did well, the Kolkata side has been inundated with wicketkeepers when the need of Twenty20 cricket is hard-hitters and wicket-takers.

The quirky selection decisions have greatly contributed to Kolkata’s eight losses out of ten games and so has the squabbles we hear about every day.

The rather large support staff sent Aakash Chopra and Sanjay Bangar home and if the phantom ‘fake IPL player’ is to be believed, Buchanan’s dispute with Sourav Ganguly is still on. Like most unsuccessful teams, the Kolkata Knight Riders also have the poisonous grouping problem where Mashrafe is neither in the Indian party nor in the foreign faction.

And all this means that only Ishant Sharma has taken the wickets while the second best has been Hodge’s occasional off-break. So what could possibly make a successful coach not pick a likeable international fast bowler who has the track record, form and the hunger to perform?

Mashrafe was not just picked to fulfil BCCI’s promise but because he has been in top form since 2007. Just before the auction, Mashrafe destroyed the Sri Lankan batting line-up in a one-day final. His fielding has always been rated top-class and for a team that drops a million catches, Mashrafe’s athleticism could have been useful.

But as is the case, Mashrafe is yet to make his IPL debut despite Kolkata’s standing in the points table. Wickets don’t fall after Ishant finishes his four overs and Mashrafe just sits in the dugout.

Mashrafe is not on holiday; this is professional cricket and based on conceivable logic, our boy must play.

Mohammad Isam

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