'I felt as if I had forgotten how to bat' - Ashraful
Mohammad Ashraful thought he had forgotten how to hold the bat after a torrid start to the 2012-13 season. But a first-class hundred on the normally flat Bogra wicket, which he considered a lucky break, and now an unbeaten 103 against Khulna Royal Bengals in the BPL have completely turned around his form, and possibly his mindset towards making runs.
He averaged only 13.22 for Dhaka Metropolis in the National Cricket League, aggregating 119 runs in nine innings. There were questions raised after he was included in the Central Zone side for the year's second first-class tournament. Not many would have expected him to make two centuries thereafter as the usual wait for the Ashraful special had dissipated years ago.
"During this season's National Cricket League, I felt as if I had forgotten how to bat," Ashraful said. "Even after the first match of the BCL, I didn't feel like playing anymore in the tournament. But I was persuaded by [Mahmudullah] Riyad and then I was lucky to play in Bogra, where there's a flat wicket and I scored a hundred."
Ashraful believed that had he been under less pressure from the public and the media, he could have played more freely. Maybe the freedom from the limelight has helped him regain confidence in this season's BPL.
"You need luck to make big runs and today luck was on my side. If I score 20 or 25 runs in the next game, everyone will say that I have flopped. In the last two games, I hit the ball straight to fielders. It was my bad luck, so when people talk about it, the pressure goes up.
"There's less pressure in BPL, I can play my shots. I was confident I would do well here. It also helps to bat in the top-order, especially opening the batting in T20s. I think this year more local players are getting opportunity at the top order," he said.
He made a slow start to this year's BPL before hitting 73 against Rangpur Riders in the second game. His next best had been 38 until today, so presented with another big chase, Ashraful hardly changed his method of batting in a Twenty20.
"I don't think you can play T20s with a hundred in front of your mind. You have to play it ball by ball. I had the chance to slow down. I could have just picked the singles towards the last two overs but I was thinking of finishing the chase.
The only moment during the 58-ball innings when he thought a century was a possibility was when he had taken a breather after ten overs. But even after he was dropped off a difficult chance on 94, he hardly believed it was coming.
"After 10 overs, my score was 56. I thought if I played all the overs, I will have a chance. I wanted to be aggressive from the start, because I think this was the best wicket so far in the tournament. When they made 176, we all thought they were 20 runs short. I was told to play straight, and with that in mind, I continued doing so," Ashraful said.
Mohammad Isam is ESPNcricinfo's Bangladesh correspondent