BPL a staging post for Ayub
Marshall Ayub will go into this season's Bangladesh Premier League with added reputation after he made a mammoth 289 in his last innings. He has seen plenty of ebb and flow the last seven years but for him to take the next step, which could see him promoted to international cricket as early as March, the next four weeks will bring precisely the pressure he needs to handle. The glitzy, televised stage provided by the BPL for every uncapped and discarded international cricketer from Bangladesh is one of its positives.
The 2012-13 season has been easily Ayub's most productive since making his first-class debut in 2005-06. He has averaged 67.11 in the National Cricket League for Dhaka Metropolis and 113.50 for Central Zone in the Bangladesh Cricket League. In total, he has scored 1,058 runs in these two first-class competitions, including two double-centuries, respectively the highest individual scores in those tournaments, and he has done all this by January.
Although it may seem notching up big scores has taken him time and he is a player more suited to the longer version, he has batted at a fair strike rate. He might still want to improve on the pace of his batting, as well as add a few more angles to his strokes, which are at the moment quite pragmatic and typical of a middle-order batsman from the subcontinent.
Ayub, however, will be wary of changing too much of his batting method for a tournament like the BPL, which is essentially nothing more than three hours of work every evening. He will be asked to bat in a certain way, one that is followed by every other cricketer trying to make it big on the Twenty20 circuit but, for Ayub, it will be imperative to continue batting the way he has done for the last four months, and the last few seasons, to win a place in the Bangladesh squad for the Sri Lanka tour in March.
Last season's experience in the BPL should also serve as a warning for Ayub not to expect too much from Twenty20 cricket. He made 12 runs in three games and even though he took 4 for 20 against Chittagong Kings, he wasn't given another game thereafter.
The case of Enamul Haque jnr is also cautionary for players like Ayub, who are quite close to national selection or hoping to make a name for themselves in the Twenty20 market. Left-arm spinner Enamul hasn't come close to the Bangladesh squad despite taking more than 100 wickets in all competitions for the last two years. He was a star performer in the first season of BPL as well, but didn't get further than the Bangladesh A team.
Ayub, however, has seen what bad times are like and has survived to tell the tale. Marked out as one of the talented youngsters in the age-group structure, he was impressive in first-class cricket and in the run-up to the Under-19 World Cup in 2008, before a debilitating knee injury ended his hopes and put his career back some way. He also suffered the ignominy of getting hit for six consecutive sixes in an over three years ago, but Ayub has fought through and the 2012-13 season has seen him scoring more runs than at any point in his career.
In the grander scheme of things, the BPL is a hindrance for domestic cricketers, especially the younger ones. It takes up too much time in the already short cricket season, and moreover and more importantly, it takes up a lot of attention. Add to that the unpredictable payment schedule and it becomes a tournament of too much trouble.
For many experienced domestic players, however, it is a stage that is very important, especially for those who have given up on Bangladesh selection. Essentially, they won't be household names in the near future, so for players like Jubair Ahmed, Imtiaz Hossain and Nazmul Hossain Milon, it is the biggest stage in their cricket careers. Ayub however has far to go, so should be using the BPL as a stepping stone and not treat it as a medal around the neck.
Mohammad Isam is ESPNcricinfo's Bangladesh correspondent