Bangladesh leave Mashrafe out from preliminary squad for West Indies ODIs
Bangladesh's selectors picked a 24-man preliminary squad for the ODI series against West Indies later this month, and the one player they didn't pick has become the main talking point: Mashrafe Mortaza, the country's highest wicket-taker in ODIs and longest-serving captain.
This is the first time Mortaza has been dropped from the ODI squad since making his debut in November 2001, though he has missed a lot of cricket over the years because of injuries.
One high-profile name that did make it, into both the preliminary Test and ODI squads announced on Monday, was Shakib Al Hasan, back in the national reckoning after his one-year ban for not reporting a corrupt approach. Shakib was Bangladesh's Test and T20I captain before his ban, but now returns as an ordinary member of the side.
Those selected will, from next week, take part in a training camp and play two practice matches on January 14 and 16, before the squad is trimmed closer to the ODI series that begins on January 20. This is going to be Bangladesh's first international series since the Covid-19 pandemic stopped cricket in the country in mid-March. There have been two domestic tournaments but a number of home series and away tours have been postponed. Last month, West Indies agreed to this shortened tour.
The decision on 37-year-old Mortaza has come at a significant time as the Bangladesh team builds towards the 2023 ODI World Cup. Chief selector Minhajul Abedin said the decision on Mortaza was a collective one, taken by the selectors and the team management.
"We respect him, he has done a lot for the country," Abedin said. "I have spoken to him in detail, so there's not going to be any misunderstanding. It was a tough decision but we have to consider the reality, and keep looking forward. We took a combined decision after long discussions with team management, and considering everything [decided to] to put off Mashrafe. We discussed everything. We didn't leave anything out. Everyone participated in the discussion including the fitness trainer and bowling coach. For the player who replaces him, it will be a fresh start. We have to expose our young players."
Abedin also said that the decision on whether to retire or play on lay with Mortaza. "Whether he continues playing or not, is entirely up to him. We cannot really say anything about what his performance is going to be."
Speculation over Mortaza retiring has been a long-running affair, with the topic first cropping up during the 2019 World Cup. But Mortaza has been adamant about continuing to make himself available in ODIs, even though he resigned from captaincy last February following Bangladesh's 3-0 ODI series win against Zimbabwe, their last international series before the pandemic-forced lockdown.