What are the characteristics of an epic hero?

He loses many battles, he goes through excruciating pain, he tumbles, he faces humiliation; yet he keeps on with his voyage and ultimately wins the war. But most importantly, he creates the saga that is retold innumerable times to inspire the forthcoming generations. His legacy becomes a source of eternal inspiration.

Why is Robert Bruce, the Scottish King so revered?

He fought and fought and his tenacity, grit, hunger for success drove him to win. He fell down but he rose again and again and as per the popular myth, at last at his seventh attempt, he attained his goal and thus he became the symbol of perseverance.

Who are our epic heroes (aka the Robert Bruces of the modern era)?

In the modern era, there is no chivalrous war, people do not fight with swords and no minstrel composes the lyrical hymn that lauds the chivalry of heroes. But there are still some battlefields, albeit not the traditional ones, which still possess the aura of antiquity. In playing grounds, where one fights for a country’s pride under its flag, people get the opportunity to show their mettle and thus, heroes are born.

Among these people, one that holds all the characteristics of a true hero is Mashrafe Bin Mortaza, the charismatic captain of Bangladesh, the hero of a modern epic. His tale is tantamount to the epic heroes.

Mashrafe has been representing Bangladesh for almost two decades and is still considered one of the finest pace bowlers in the land. But his story is one that contains agony, pain, tenacity, doggedness, and sheer will power.

Mashrafe has gone under the surgeon’s knife more often than a war hero who bruises himself during battle. The man needs more than half an hour after being woken up every time to straighten his legs as extra fluid inundates his knees.

After a painful and arduous process, he has to prepare himself with all sorts of protective equipment like knee caps to protect his organs from further injuries and not only that, he must be content with frugal meals to maintain his fitness.

On top of everything, doctors suggested that one more serious injury may lead him to become perpetually handicapped. Yet he is always 100% committed to his team, which has helped Bangladesh cricket team immensely.

And how!  He has transformed a team from a perennial loser to a force to be reckoned with. Tigers, who were at the mercy of the big boys in the international cricket arena, have now become a formidable group thanks largely to his inspirational captaincy.

When Mashrafe was endowed with the leadership of the side, it was in its nadir point with a wave of losses. Bangladesh remained winless in during the ODIs during the first 10 months of 2014 and even had to face the ignominy of being beaten by Afghanistan and even worse, being beaten by Hong Kong in a Twenty20 game at home.

Mashrafe had the difficult task of navigating this clueless side and what he went onto achieve was beyond the expectations of even the most enthusiastic lover of Bangladesh cricket.

He first demolished a Zimbabwe side and then guided the team to the Quarter-Finals of the World Cup for the first time in the country’s history (that too in the difficult Trans-Tasmanian conditions in New Zealand and Australia).

The itinerary of the team for the remainder of the year included the likes of Pakistan, India and South Africa. Most pundits at the time thought the fledgling team would be at the mercy of these giants but again, the captain inspired young team into becoming a David which toppled all the Goliaths.

The consecutive wins against those three teams scribed the most glorious chapter in the country’s cricketing history and Mashrafe helped inject a level of belief which has sustained even now. He has retired from the Twenty20 format but still, his presence in the ODI games is creating magic as his side reached the semifinals of the prestigious Champions Trophy recently.

But how is Mashrafe as a person? He is a caring human being but above all a family man and a true friend.

Talking about his Twenty20 retirement, he said to a famous journalist that his decision was instantaneous just like everything else he has done in his life. It may sound eccentric and bit whimsical but that is Mashrafe, a man who is commanded by his heart and considers the freedom of will as a paramount human feature, and that is why he is such an influential force.

Prior to the Champions Trophy, he had to come back home to stay with his ailing wife. He fulfilled his responsibilities as a husband. After her recovery, he went back to the UK to guide his teammates.

For him, his two children, Humaira and Sahil; his parents, Golam Mortaza and Hamid Mortaza along with his wife, Sumona are the most cherished treasures but anyone who ever got the opportunity to get close to him will find out what a great comrade he is. He also takes every opportunity to go back to his roots, that is, his home town in Narail.

Yet his life, like any epic hero, has seen many tragedies. His career has been plagued with injuries, which may have come about from his overuse during games as he was the only quality pace bowler the team had for some time. Despite having the capacity to become one of the world’s best bowlers, he could not prolong his Test career due to his fitness issues. He played his last Test match back in 2009 at West Indies. While bowling, he tumbled during the follow through while bowling and since that injury, he could never again retain the fitness required for the longer cricketing format. But his teammates, as they say, transformed the mourning into energy and created history by winning their first ever overseas series victory. Till date that has been the only one for Tigers in the Test arena.

Mashrafe’s greatest defeat came in 2011. Bangladesh was co-hosting the World Cup for the first time and the captain, like all his countrymen, was ecstatic regarding the occasion. He was preparing himself to be fit for the tournament. Physicians gave the verdict that he might not be fit for the first couple of games but he would recover in time to play the remainder. Nevertheless, the selectors paid no heed to this information and he was dropped from the squad.

While the whole nation was excited about the forthcoming World Cup, Mashrafe was in tears in the academy grounds in Mirpur after being overlooked by the selectors. He has been a tough nut to crack throughout all his difficulties but on that day, he could not hold on. As a man broken, tears fell from his eyes and many of his followers just could not endure such a tragic scene.

This set the stage for what was to come during the next World Cup four years later. At the age of 32, he rose from ashes and guided his side, not only to their greatest success in the World Cups in most foreign conditions but also laid the foundation for greater future successes.

That is how an epic is born. Mashrafe, himself, claims that the real heroes are the ones who fought in the liberation war to emancipate the country, the real heroes are the workers and farmers who have been working day and night to feed us and to build the nation. It is true that those people, whom we term as ‘laymen’ are the real heroes but even those heroes need inspiration somewhere. And that’s why as a nation we are proud to have a true fighter in Mashrafe Bin Mortaza.


Syed Faiz Ahmed, is a National level bridge player who works for an english national daily as sub-editor. Translate and interpret from Bangla, English, French, German and vice versa.