Bangladeshi fans protest against omission of Mashrafe Mortaza

Dhaka: Hundreds of fans took to the streets in protest at the omission of injured pace bowler Mashrafe Mortaza from the Bangladesh World Cup squad on Wednesday and called for a strike in his hometown of Narail.

The 27-year-old former captain was left out of the 15-man squad after injuring his knee during a domestic match last month.

“We will enforce a dawn to dusk general strike on Thursday in protest against dropping Mortaza,” Golam Nabi, a protest leader, told a rally of some 1,000 fans in Narail about 300 kms southwest of Dhaka. “Bangladeshis want to see him in the World Cup squad.”

Police said they would not not take any action as long as the strike was peaceful.

Earlier, chief selector Rafiqul Alam told a news conference that Mashrafe was Bangladesh’s best and most experienced bowler.

“But very sad to say he is nowhere near to fitness at this moment,” Alam said. “Medical reports say from next week he will have shadow bowling with two or three steps and from the February first week he will have unrestricted bowling.

“But still there is a question of his cricketing fitness which includes bowling fitness, rhythm, match practice and confidence.

“We took the opinion of our bowling coach Ian (Pont), head coach Jamie (Siddons) and realised it will be tough for him to become fit in such a short period.”

Paceman Nazmul Hossain replaces Mortaza, who has taken 146 wickets in 118 one-day internationals. Experienced batsman Shahriar Nafees also returns after missing last month’s one-day series against Zimbabwe.

Bangladesh, who are in Group B with England, India, Ireland, Netherlands, South Africa and West Indies, will begin their campaign against co-hosts India in the tournament opener in Dhaka on Feb. 19.

Squad: Shakib Al Hasan (captain), Tamim Iqbal, Imrul Kayes, Shahriar Nafees, Zunaed Siddique, Mohammad Ashraful, Roqibul Hassan, Mushfiqur Rahim, Mahmudullah, Naeem Islam, Abdur Razzak, Mohammad Sohrawardi, Shafiul Islam, Nazmul Hossain, Rubel Hossain.

Bureau Report