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Monday, September 29, 2008
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Pilot goes, in pain though

Khaled Mashud had a few regrets after he announced his retirement from international cricket yesterday.

The long-serving wicketkeeper, who played 44 Tests and 126 one-day matches, informed Bangladesh Cricket Board (BCB) of his intentions through a letter at the Sher-e-Bangla National Stadium headquarters in Mirpur.

"I have considered this long and hard and only came to a decision after the 24-man (preliminary) squad was announced last week," said the former national captain.

"I decided to retire after I had a talk with my father and mother, and although it is a very sad day for me, I will remain part of this country's cricket," added the man popularly known by his nickname Pilot.

Mashud regretted the communication gap between him and the selectors and said that having such distance is never healthy.

"I am a senior player and I think there should be an understanding with the selection committee. They could have talked with me," said Mashud.

"I was never in their [selectors] plans and when I saw their pick for the New Zealand series, I kind of had the idea that I would not be in their plans in the near future.

"I do have a few regrets and one of them is definitely this lack of communication from the selectors. Ian Healy once told me that the Australian board informed him a month in hand that he would not be around.

"I think if that practice was undertaken by our board, it would be a little painless for senior cricketers like me," said Mashud, the man who rescued Bangladesh from numerous batting debacles during his time.

He captained Bangladesh in 12 Tests and 30 ODIs between 2001 and 2004 and although he regards it an honour to lead the national cricket team, his favourite memory dates back to April 13, 1997.

"Whoever I am is because of that ICC Trophy final (in Kuala Lumpur). There would be no Khaled Mashud or Mohammad Ashraful if we didn't win that match.

"It was the turning point and we united Bangladesh with that win," said the man who took the last-ball leg-bye with Hasibul Hossain.

Mashud however denied reports that he initiated talks with the board of a possible final appearance for the Tigers.

"I read in a few papers that I asked the board for a game. I cannot do that since I am a professional cricketer," clarified Mashud.

"I know that only the best performers play for the country and I would never tell the board to bring me in just for a farewell match. I did not play cricket for so long to beg for a match," said Mashud.

"People in the street ask me when I will be back for Bangladesh and I had no answer for them. In such a difficult time for our cricket, I thought it would have been quite a challenge to play again.

Mashud's trouble started when he was left out of the World Cup squad in 2007 and only played a single Test match since then.

"It was a hard time for me since then and I tried my best to make a comeback. They told me that my batting was failing me, so I concentrated on that.

"Then they told me that I didn't keep regularly in the National Cricket League. Is it a crime to not keep for 3-4 matches in an entire season?" asked Mashud.

For all his regrets, Mashud had been an integral part of the national setup for almost thirteen years and understands that he has a lot to give to the next generation.

"I have toured continuously for so many years and I have a lot of experience to pass on to the youngsters. I have talked with the BCB and I would like to contribute to the development of the youngsters," informed Mashud, who also heads a sports academy in his hometown Rajshahi.

Mashud will be a hard act to follow, especially his glovework which remained exemplary throughout his 12-year career and his doggedness with the bat in moments of crisis.

His retirement would mark the end of another generation of cricketers, after Khaled Mahmud, Habibul Bashar and Mohammad Rafique had left the scene.

Five of his best

Long considered a backs-to-the-wall specialist, Khaled Mashud's first significant contribution for Bangladesh was an innings that consisted two sixes. As the years went on, his contributions became crucial for Bangladesh's survival in those early days of top-order wobbles. Here's a look at some of his best performances.

15* v Kenya in ICC Trophy final, Kuala Lumpur, 1997
Perhaps the most important and much-celebrated six in the history of Bangladesh cricket came in this seven-ball knock. He smashed Martin Suji straight over his head, sparking mass hysteria in the country where people followed the game from Kuala Lumpur through radio commentary.

51 v England in Dhaka, 2003
As it happened in those early years of Test cricket, the Tigers were up against it against an international=class bowling attack at the Big Bowl. With the team reduced to 72 for five. He added 60 with Mushfiqur Rahman and 34 with Mohammad Rafique and made sure Bangladesh went close to 200. The three-hour knock typified his time as captain.

103* v West Indies in Gros Islet, 2004
It was about time for Mashud to reach a maiden Test ton after Mohammad Rafique had struck one in the first innings. Bangladesh took a first-innings lead for the first time but fell into trouble in the second dig, before Mashud took over, guided the tail and took Bangladesh to safety and a well-earned draw.

71* v Australia in Canterbury, 2005
Possibly his best one-day innings, that too against the high pace of Brett Lee, Jason Gillespie and Mike Kasprowicz. Bangladesh had again lost the top-order before he joined hands with newbie Shahriar Nafees. They added 94 before Mashud cut loose and took Bangladesh to 250.

5 dismissals v Kenya in Nairobi, 2006
This remains the best wicketkeeping performance in a one-day match by any Bangladeshi till date. That it took him eleven years before he gave a signature feat was a surprise. He removed Maurice Ouma, Jimmy Kamande, Hitesh Modi, Collins Obuya and Hiren Varaiya that included two stumpings.

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