Aftab targets revival with Chittagong
The extent to which a player can go off the radar even in the small world of Bangladesh cricket is personified by Aftab Ahmed, the batsman earmarked for greatness only five years ago but who hasn't played international cricket since March 2010. Such has been his downturn in fortune, Aftab is merely eyeing a regular place in the Chittagong Kings side in this season's BPL.
"I have to target a place in the playing eleven, this is my first objective," Aftab said. "If I can make it then I have a plan, which I want to execute. I was a bit shaky in the last BPL but then I thought of shrugging away the shakiness and playing with freedom. I have to do something different otherwise I have no chance of cementing my place."
Between 2004 and 2008, Aftab was one of the most feared strikers of the ball. A free-flowing strokeplayer on the off side, his ability to clear the infield was always breathtaking, though like Mohammad Ashraful he was also susceptible to poor shots. What contributed to his downfall was his lax attitude towards fitness and doing the extra bit in the nets, surprising for a player so dependent on hitting the ball sweetly, and for one of the country's best fielders inside the circle.
And, surprisingly for a cricketer of this day and age, he is candid when he agrees that it has been his lethargy that has kept him out of the limelight for such a long time. "Laziness has got the better of me," he said. "Even though I try very hard to overcome laziness, even then I have a tough time succeeding. This is the truth, no point lying.
"I feel bad sometimes. When I was an established member of the national team, I saw several players making their debut. The same players are now far ahead of me in the pecking order and I am a bit detached from everyone else. So it is normal for me to feel bad."
Aftab was part of the Dhaka Warriors team that took off from the mainstream and joined the Indian Cricket League in 2008. He returned two years later, but was not even half the player he had left as. Those close to him said that his poor work ethic earlier in his career fitted well with the relaxed attitude with which he played in the ICL, eroding his skills further.
His plans now centre on domestic cricket, and he has hinted that his career is nearing the end, though he is only 27. "I have no plans as far as making it to the national team is concerned. Whether it is one or two years, I want to enjoy myself before going out from the game," he said. "Recently, I scored two fifties in the National Cricket League so I want to bow out properly from the domestic circuit before anything else."
What Aftab will enjoy, however, will be playing for Chittagong, his hometown, and in a format he is made for, despite a poor showing in the first BPL with Dhaka Gladiators, when he made just six runs in three innings.
"I only got one opportunity last time with Dhaka Gladiators and I did not make full use of it. I was shaky and thought about things too much," Aftab said. "This hampered my progress. But this time, I am not putting any thoughts in my head. If I get one game, then so be it. I will only enjoy myself."
Mohammad Isam is ESPNcricinfo's Bangladesh correspondent