A couple of days after Bangladesh had knocked India out of the 2007 World Cup,Mashrafe Mortaza was checking into a Guyana hotel for the second stage of the tournament. His outgoing nature and the fact that he was one of the few Hindi-speaking players in the team made him ideal interview material.
Where do you live in India?, he asked,before any questions could be fired. On hearing the word Mumbai,he rolled his eyes happily,speaking about a brief visit he had made to the city. I loved Mumbai,I had half a mind to stay back there. Ive heard so much about India but we rarely get a chance to play there, he said then,talking about his addiction to Bollywood movies,his desire to meet film stars,and his memories of Mumbais sea-front.
A lot of his dreams came true on Friday,what with a man sitting in Mumbai was hell bent on signing him. And the fact that this man was Shah Rukh Khan completed his fairytale. The bidding,between KKR and Kings XI Punjab,was quite intense,and the Kolkata table was constantly on the phone. But Khan was in no mood to give up buying the one man he and his think-tank had zeroed in on.
The Kolkata coach John Buchanan was candid enough to admit Mortaza got lucky. Frankly,we paid a lot. With two franchises keen to have him,the price kept shooting up, he said about the 25-year-old,who has played 35 Tests and 103 ODIs.
Considering Aussie pacer Stuart Clark went unsold,it was quite clear that there was more to this deal than met the cricketing eye. He is a strike bowler and can hit the ball hard. We needed someone to fill Umar Guls shoes. Besides,Mortaza presents the on-field package to us. He is from Bangladesh,and Kolkata Knight Riders have a close link with Bangladesh, he said.
Before signing Mortaza,Buchanan had a chat with Bangladesh coach Jamie Siddons,his deputy during the long stint with Australia. We felt he was dangerous even when I was with Australia, Buchanan said. But he would hardly have imagined hed have the dangerous pacer in his ranks some day. Then again,Mortaza himself wouldve hardly believed that Shah Rukh would one day be desperate to pick him.