Is it time for Mashrafe Mortaza to make way for another fast bowler after World Cup 2019?

One wicket. That is all Bangladesh’s captain Mashrafe Bin Mortaza has managed in the ICC World Cup 2019. In the seven matches he has played so far in the tournament, Mortaza has picked up a solitary wicket, which came in the game against England, and has gone at an economy of 6.42.

With Bangladesh now being knocked out of the semi-final race after their defeat against India, their bowling, and the lack of teeth in it, is being seen as the primary cause of their lack of wins in the tournament. Mortaza should have been leading the way as the front-line bowler, but he has been very poor and only completed his quota of 10 overs once in the tournament.

At 35 years of age, Mortaza looks half the bowler he once was. He has been riddled with several injuries in the past few years and appears pretty unfit on the field. His knees are bothering him, and he has lost quite a bit of pace. This has resulted in Mortaza being ineffective at the start and costing Bangladesh plenty of runs as batsman keep taking him on.

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Mortaza’s performance has been on the decline for a while now. From January 2017 to the end of 2018, Mortaza managed to collect only 39 wickets in 33 ODIs at a paltry average of 37.17. And in 2019, he has thus far taken only eight wickets in 14 ODIs at a horrible percentage of 77.50.

Mortaza has already announced his retirement from T20Is and no longer plays Test cricket after an injury on his right leg. It appears now that the time has come for the Bangladeshi veteran to bid adieu to ODIs as well. Some young and fresh fast bowler needs to be brought in and nurtured for the next World Cup instead of him.

However, Mortaza doesn’t have any immediate plans of retirement from One-Day cricket and wishes to continue playing for a while after the World Cup. But wouldn’t that lessen the chance to bring in a young and impactful fast bowler?

Bangladesh coach Steve Rhodes certainly doesn’t feel so. According to him, Bangladesh doesn’t have a suitable replacement yet for Mortaza.

“We’ve also got to have a bowler good enough, capable enough to replace Mash. Everybody forgets that. We haven’t got too many of the taller, quicker bowlers, which is what we’re trying to get into test matches. As soon as we find them and as soon as they’re starting to do well, I’m sure that we’ll be wanting to get them in the team,” Rhodes was quoted as saying to the press.

This might have been the coach’s way to protect the captain. But the reality is that Mortaza isn’t as effective as a bowler any more. He has undoubtedly been one of the finest captains the country has produced and was an excellent seam bowler in his prime who bowled with all his heart. Even now, Mortaza gives it his all while bowling, but it simply isn’t compelling enough.

Mashrafe Bin Mortaza is now past his sell by date. He needs to ask the tough questions to himself and ensure that the team doesn’t suffer because of his weak bowling efforts and that the future of a young bowler isn’t blocked either.

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