Bangladesh cricket superstar Mashrafe Mortaza has defended his decision to enter politics as the “need of the hour” after angering some fans by contesting upcoming elections.
Mashrafe, who enjoys rockstar status in cricket-mad Bangladesh, divided opinion when he announced he would run in the December 30 polls on an Awami League ticket.
A photograph of the 35-year-old alongside party leader and Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina dominated headlines for days.
But it split fans in the South Asian nation of 165 million, which this year witnessed major rallies against the Awami League, which has jailed opponents and stifled dissent.
“I believe that every conscious, worthy and honest Bangladeshi should enter politics,” Mashrafe said late Sunday in his first public remarks since announcing his candidacy.
“Maybe many can’t find the courage for different reasons and mental limitations. I thought that it was important to break this mental barrier. So, I myself took the initiative to fulfil my desire,” he said in a Facebook post.
Earlier, the Awami League confirmed the one-day international captain would contest a parliamentary seat from his home town Narail in southwest Bangladesh.
A cricketer moving into politics is nothing new in South Asia, where star players command god-like devotion from millions of fans.
It is however rare for a current player to make the change.
Mashrafe is expected to skipper Bangladesh in a three-match ODI series against the West Indies on home soil starting December 9.
The fast bowler said his political ambitions called at a time when he is contemplating his future, with speculation he could retire from international cricket after next year’s World Cup.
“I don’t know what is waiting for me in the next four-and-half years after the World Cup. So I made an assessment of the time. I listened to the need of the hour. Because I believe, work should be done in due time,” he said.
Mashrafe, who has undergone more than half a dozen knee surgeries, has already retired from Twenty20 international cricket and has not played a Test match since 2009.