This took the cricketing arena by storm and in a few hours' time became a household discussion. Mashrafe, also known as Kaushik, has never been a star performer for the team and the seven surgeries never allowed him to be in his sharpest. But it was his outstanding leadership that made him stand out from the rest.
Mashrafe in his 11 years of service to Bangladesh in T20Is picked up 42 wickets in 54 matches and ended his career on Thursday with a win in the second and final game of the series. And so, the Narail Express finished his T20I career as the third highest wicket-taker for the Tigers.
However, more than the stats, his indomitable spirit and fearless attitude shone through the brightest. Some of his best mates in the national dressing room even pull his leg every once in a while labelling him “the only cricketer in world cricket who survives on leadership skill”. And Mashrafe has never been offensive to the compliment that came in sarcastically.
Mashrafe re-emerged as a strong contender for the Bangladesh captaincy in the limited-over formats following his success in the first edition of the BPL T20. In 2014, he took charge as captain of both the ODI and T20I sides, replacing wicketkeeper-batsman Mushfiqur Rahim.
Leading Bangladesh to the final of the 2016 Asia Cup T20 was one of the major highlights of his T20I career. Host Bangladesh defeated Sri Lanka, Pakistan and the UAE in the five-nation tournament and reached the final. However, Bangladesh were unable to put the finishing touch, losing to India by eight wickets.
Many believe Mashrafe still had at least a year or more of service left in him in the shortest format. He might have expected the same but with a situation developing, Mashrafe thought of retiring rather than remaining a regular member of the team. Given Mashrafe's personality, he might have also thought of making way for a performer if he is not there as captain. Thus the master plan of having three different captains in the three formats got established.
It will be his team mates who are likely to miss him the most. On the night of his announcement of retirement, almost all the current national cricketers posted tributes on their official social media accounts, bidding farewell to Mashrafe. The emotion is easy to understand. The 33-year old, hailing from Narail, was like a shade to many in the dressing room. Let it be a senior cricketer who has passed 10 years in the team or the newest in the fold, Mashrafe has been the first contact point.
And the most beautiful part of it is, Mashrafe was always there – for everyone.
Mashrafe was so deeply involved with the team that upon hearing his retirement from T20Is, a few youngsters in the dressing room shed tears.
Good news is that Mashrafe is still there as captain in the ODIs with the immediate assignment of the tri-nation series against host Ireland and New Zealand and the 2017 Champions Trophy in England in June looming on the horizon.
But there are fears as well. Will the greatest Bangladesh captain till date call it a day in ODIs too following the Champions Trophy? Or will he assure fans by confirming his participation in the 2019 World Cup, also in England? Only time will tell. One thing is for sure, millions of cricket-crazy Bangladesh fans will hold their breath in anticipation of his next move.