Having been introduced in 2001, Mashrafe had subsequently met Roberts on a number of tours to the West Indies, but there had been a long gap since they last spoke. Mashrafe said that the advice was reminiscent of what Roberts, who still calls him by his nickname, had told him the first time they met.
“We have spoken intermittently in the past,” Mashrafe told ESPNcricinfo. “We went through a gap. We used to talk at times. But he recently took my number from Courtney Walsh to get in touch with me. He told me that everything is fine. Everyone has a phase. He told me to concentrate. It is the same thing that he told me all those years ago. His message was simple. I was definitely surprised. He is getting old, but he is still following cricket. He still calls me by my nickname ‘Koushik’.”
On an invitation from the Bangladesh Cricket Board in 2001, Roberts had undertaken a week long bowling camp at the Bangabandhu National Stadium in Dhaka. Mashrafe, the current ODI captain, was only a 17-year old in that camp which was also attended by a number of future Test bowlers. Roberts’ contribution to the development of fast bowling in the country is widely acknowledged.
“Those who follow cricket deeply, only they know who Andy Roberts is, and his amazing record,” Mashrafe said. “We as cricketers know him well. He is such a great cricketer. He didn’t just stop teaching me that one time. He always follows up. It is obviously a big achievement that such a great player like him follows me.”
Mashrafe added that back in 2001 they were in such awe of Roberts that for much of the time, they just stared at him. Years later when cricket clips became available on Youtube, Mashrafe said that he used to look at the videos of Roberts bowling in his heyday.
“He told me that everything is fine. Everyone has a phase. He told me to concentrate. It is the same thing that he told me in 2001”
Mashrafe relays Roberts’ advice
“It was just amazing when he came to Bangladesh in 2001,” he said. “I was there with future Test pace bowlers like Talha Jubair, Anwar Hossain Monir, Mahbubul Alam Robin, Shafaq Al Jabir, Syed Rasel, Tarek Aziz and Alamgir Kabir. We just used to stare at him at first, knowing who he was. We never saw him play but later we caught up on Youtube. We saw what a great fast bowler he was. Those who were in his class, it was amazing for all of us.”
In the first match since speaking to Roberts, ironically against West Indies, Mashrafe bowled an excellent spell without anything to show for in the wickets column. It did, however, keep the run-rate in check. Then on the back of Shakib Al Hasan’s unbeaten 124, Bangladesh ended up chasing 322 with 51 balls to spare.
Mashrafe said that the win has really changed the mood within the team. “It was an important win, not just to survive in the tournament but just seeing how that week leading up to the game went for us. We got one point from a game [washout against Sri Lanka] that we thought we could win, having already lost two back-to-back games.
“Nobody would say it but this did affect everyone in the dressing room. Losing the close game to New Zealand wasn’t also a good message for the team. Beating West Indies has reignited the team. Everyone is now confident.”