Is the ‘Fab 5’ making a comeback?
As the dust settles on the two-day retirement saga of Tamim Iqbal, the question that naturally arises now is what will happen next.
Tamim, as we all know by now, has revoked his retirement and will once again join the team as captain in the Asia Cup. The Southpaw is also set to lead the team in the 2023 ICC World Cup in India.
Everything has seemingly returned to normal after a couple of days of uncertainty. But all’s not the same. There is one more outcome of the entire Tamim debacle which is yet to come into effect.
Mashrafe as mentor in World Cup?
Mashrafe Bin Mortaza, Bangladesh’s most successful captain in history, is now likely to join the Tigers in India during the World Cup, as a mentor.
This was suggested by Tamim during his meeting with prime minister Sheikh Hasina at the Ganabhaban, where Mashrafe and the Bangladesh Cricket Board (BCB) president Nazmul Hassan were also present.
After Tamim said he will unretire, he asked the PM to give Mashrafe, who is a member of the parliament for the ruling party Awami League, one-and-a-half months off to stay with the national team during the World Cup.
The World Cup is set to begin in October and run until mid-November, right before the next general election in Bangladesh.
Mashrafe, who is now a full-time politician, will naturally be busy so close to the election. But the PM accepted Tamim’s proposal and told Mashrafe to be ready, at least that’s what Tamim told the media after the meeting.
Mashrafe is yet to officially accept the offer. But this information makes one look at the caption of his Facebook post in a new light.
Mashrafe posted a selection of photos at Ganabhaban with a Bangla caption which translates to, “We will meet again, this meeting won’t be the last Inshallah.”
Did Mashrafe hint his return to the Bangladesh camp as a mentor with that caption? Maybe yes, maybe no. For now, we can only speculate.
Mashrafe’s presence could motivate the young cricketers in a tournament like the World Cup but it could also cause some problems. First of all, how head coach Chandika Hathrusingha would react to Mashrafe’s addition in the team’s think tank is uncertain.
Also, Mashrafe is technically still an active cricketer as he hasn’t officially retired from international cricket.
Has any team ever included an active cricketer in their contingent as a mentor during a World Cup is something cricket historians and statisticians would have to find out.
But if Mashrafe does join the World Cup team as mentor, which seems more than likely as that’s what the PM wants, it would mean that four of the fabled ‘Fab Five’ of Bangladesh cricket will be in the dressing room for the 2023 ICC World Cup.
Tamim will lead the team, Shakib Al Hasan and Mushfiqur Rahim will there as the experienced stalwarts and Mashrafe will play the role of a mentor.
The only missing name here is Mahmudullah.
The axed stalwart
The veteran all-rounder last played for Bangladesh in the third ODI of the home series against England in March earlier this year.
Since then, Bangladesh have played two ODI series against Ireland and are currently taking on Afghanistan at home. Mahmudullah has been overlooked by the selectors in all three series.
Even a few days back it seemed unlikely that Mahmudullah would make it to the World Cup squad.
But repeated failure of other players at the No.7 slot is making that unlikely situation look more and more likely.
Is Mahmudullah comeback imminent?
Like Mahmudullah, Afif Hossain was also dropped from both Ireland series. But the left-hander got recalled to the side for the ODIs against Afghanistan in Chattogram.
The series was a golden opportunity for Afif to seal his name in the vacant No.7 slot and become a part of the squad for the Asia Cup and stake his claim at a position in the World Cup squad.
In the first two matches of the series, Afif got to the crease in the 24th and 19th over respectively. In both matches he had ample time to play himself in and post a decent score.
But the 23-year-old disappointed in both innings. In the first match he made four before getting trapped leg-before wicket by Rashid Khan. In the second match his stay lasted for just one ball as he got out for a golden duck, losing his wicket to the same bowler.
Afif will most likely get another chance in the third ODI, which will take place on 11 July. The match is a dead rubber for Bangladesh as the hosts have already lost the series. But for Afif, this could be the match that decides whether he plays in the Asia Cup and then the World Cup.
If Afif scores some runs, plays an effective innings, the selectors are likely to name him for the Asia Cup. But what if he doesn’t?
The selectors had already tried Yasir Ali in that position against Ireland at home. He batted in just two matches, scoring 17 off 10 balls and a run-a-ball seven. The selectors then chose to leave him out for the Afghanistan series and picked Afif in his stead.
But if Afif also fails to grab onto his chances, who is next?
Will they try the young and promising Shamim Hossain or will Nurul Hasan get another go. Will Mahedi Hasan get another chance in the ODI team after almost two-and-a-half years or will it be Mosaddek Hossain who has the knack of re-entering the national side right before an ICC event.
Or will they abandon the search for a new player and revert to the experienced Mahmudullah?
Mahmudullah hasn’t exactly set the domestic circuit on fire since getting dropped from the national team, scoring 510 runs in the 50-over competition Dhaka Premier League (DPL) at an average of 36.42 and a strike rate of 87.17.
But the lack of options and Mahmudullah’s vast experience could very well open the national team’s door for the 37-year-old one more time.
If that does end up happening then all five members of the ‘Fab Five’ will be in the Bangladesh dressing room when they take on Afghanistan in their opening match of the World Cup in Dharamsala, India on 7 October.
Interestingly, the last time all five of them were in the Bangladesh dressing room at the same time was on 5 July 2019, in the Tiger’s final match of the 2019 ICC World Cup against Pakistan at Lord’s.
Much had changed in Bangladesh cricket in the four years since then. But after all those changes, if the same five figures once again appear at the same place, it would prove the old saying, “The more things change, the more they stay the same.”