Bangladesh cricket August 13, 2016

'Want to play for 10 more years, like Misbah' - Ashraful

Eligible to play domestic cricket in Bangladesh for the first time since June 2013, Mohammad Ashraful discusses his return and the challenges that lie ahead

Mohammad Ashraful spent the last three years playing unaffiliated cricket in the USA and UK Peter Della Penna / © Peter Della Penna/ESPNcricinfo Ltd

It is hard to find a cricket facility in Bangladesh that doesn't have a connection with the BCB. However, since Mohammad Ashraful wasn't allowed to use any of the board's facilities due to his ban, he had to go farther to keep playing cricket in the last three years.

Having just become eligible to play domestic cricket for the first time since June 2013, Ashraful has two major challenges ahead, both of which have never been achieved in Bangladesh before. He has to forge a career again at the age of 32, and will have to do it after serving a ban of three years.

A few months following the indefinite ban enforced by BCB over his role in the BPL 2013 corruption case, Ashraful circumnavigated around facilities and tournaments that were outside BCB's jurisdiction. He played in USA in 2014 and 2015, and this year he played some matches in the UK.

Occasionally, he was found playing with his lawyer friends at small grounds in Dhaka. He ventured to Kulaura and Barlekha, small towns in Sylhet, which are more than 250km east of Dhaka. He played in Satkhira where Mustafizur Rahman, having just made his T20 debut against Pakistan in April 2015, dismissed him.

Playing in small venues was a 'different experience' for the former Bangladesh captain, who spent most of his youth playing in Australia, England, South Africa and New Zealand. He went back to Bangladesh's backwaters to prove to everyone, in his own words, that he is "still alive".

"I played plenty of khyap [on hire] matches," Ashraful told ESPNcricinfo. "I must thank those in Sylhet for regularly calling me to play these matches. I played T20 tournaments in places like Kulaura and Barlekha. I played in Satkhira where Mustafizur [Rahman] having just made his T20 debut got me out second ball. That was some experience.

"When I was starting off in 2001, I heard stories from [Khaled Mahmud] Sujon bhai and [Aminul Islam] Bulbul bhai about khyap tournaments in Mymensingh and Chittagong, but I never got a chance to play in these tournaments. After 2001, it was always international cricket. So this time I deliberately played in these matches. I wanted everyone to see that I am still alive."

Ashraful knows that playing after 30 and after losing a chunk of his career will be tough but he is taking inspiration from the indefatigable Misbah-ul-Haq.

"I want to do well in domestic cricket first, and prove myself. In Bangladesh, cricketers have a hard time after they cross 30 so it will be a challenge. And I will be back after a long gap which has never happened before for a cricketer here. But I am taking up both challenges. I want to play for ten more years, just like Misbah is doing at the age of 42," he said.

Ashraful, though, will have to return with his match-fixing background during the 2013 BPL, for which he was banned for five years, brought down from an eight-year ban. There were mixed reactions from his team-mates, and some praised him for his admission of guilt. Mushfiqur Rahim had said his involvement was a "loss of pride" for the Bangladesh cricket team.

"I recently saw Tamim's interview where he said they are waiting for me to return. I don't think I will generally have many problems. I confessed what I had done and I have never hurt a cricketer. There might be a comment or two when I go out to bat, as people will try to get me out," Ashraful said.

Ashraful's immediate goal is to play in the upcoming Bangladesh Cricket League first-class tournament, scheduled to begin on September 20. Though he may not be included in the competition, he is more relieved to be eligible to play competitively.

"I am relieved that I can play under the BCB and use their facilities," Ashraful said. "The last three years were quite tough. But I tried everything that I was allowed during this period. I trained for two years under coach [Sarwar] Imran sir, and later went back to Ankur Cricketers [his cricketing alma mater].

"I also trained at the small ground near Banasree where I live. Before leaving for the UK, I requested [BCB cricket operations chairman] Akram bhai and [chief selector Minhajul Abedin] Nannu bhai to consider me in the BCL if possible. I know that it might be tough on their part since only the best first-class players are selected in this competition."

Ashraful will also have to consider that he is returning to a competitive culture in Bangladesh cricket. Even if he makes it into the domestic teams, performance would be key. And he would also have to gain the trust of team-mates and those around Bangladesh cricket.

Mohammad Isam is ESPNcricinfo's Bangladesh correspondent. @isam84

Comments have now been closed for this article

  •   Tahmid Chowdhury on August 18, 2016, 0:57 GMT

    Where's the positivity guys? No one's saying he'll make an automatic comeback, he's gonna have to prove his salt! Keep the motivation guys!

  • SayedTonmoy on August 16, 2016, 14:26 GMT

    Ashrful has scored 23 50+ scores in the 169 odi innings he have played, whereas Shakib has scored 36 50+ scores in 149 innings and Tamim has scored 38 50+ scores. This proves they are more consistent than Ashraful and they are the real match winners. Whenever these 2 batsmen score runs, the chances Of BD victory dramatically increases and every statistics will prove that. Even Mushfiq, Mahmudullah and Nasir are more consistent match-winners than Ashraful. Lastly during the 2004-2007 era Aftab Ahmed and Mashrafe were the true match-winners of Bangladesh Whenever Aftab scored more than 25 and/Or Mashrafe took atleast 2 wickets, Bd won. And these happened more frequently than Ashraful's once in a blue moon "wonder" innings.

  • Muhammad Maheer Zaid on August 16, 2016, 6:24 GMT

    I am getting astounded by the "Ash-phobia" from some of my countrymen. No one is telling he will just make a comeback and get a place in team. He has to earn it by playing good. If he plays good and gets his place back, what's the itchiness of you guys with that? Should stop whining over it, it's quite irriating.

  • Muhammad Maheer Zaid on August 16, 2016, 6:00 GMT

    Aha nope. He is a kind of a player who CANNOT be judged by statics. He played 177 ODI matches and won 55 matches for Bangladesh. In those matches, his batting average is 38. And please don't embarrass yourself asking his scores in those matches. It was well known if Ashraful scored runs, Bangladesh won. Also, reminding you, back then, not victory, scoring a fifty hundred meant a lot to us. In a team, where most of the players failed to perform, Ashraful solely brought the team ahead.

  • cricfan05188079 on August 16, 2016, 0:05 GMT

    He got his chance and he blew it, Bangladesh has enough talent to move on. The only way i see him get back into the test Team is if he has connections.

  •   Tahmid Chowdhury on August 15, 2016, 21:42 GMT

    To all the Ashraful fans and the non-fans, let us just forgive his mistake and give him one last chance. I mean who doesn't deserve a 2nd chance right? Yes he averages less, but let's not forget there was an era where Bangladesh cricket was all about Ashraful's batting. Let us give him credit for that atleast. Yes true BD cricket has done well in recent past, i won't say "jumped heaps" as we still have to prove ourselves in foreign soil. We have a fragile test line-up, so let's not consider ourselves cricketing giants. Of course Ash has to prove his worth, but in my opinion we can expect to see him in test cricket and t20s. (again my expectations, no need to oppose me if you dont agree!) Let's see his performance in domestic cricket & if he does well, then OF COURSE we pick him for tours. For now, let's welcome him back to cricket!

  • wpbus13 on August 15, 2016, 17:17 GMT

    It's amazing, "you never miss the water until the well runs dries." Ashraful made his decision and must now live with it, too many talented players in Bangladesh to now turn back the clock. Mohammad Amir was lucky to have gotten a second chance. I doubt Salman Butt and Mohammad Asif will be that lucky.

  • sapnil2000 on August 15, 2016, 17:12 GMT

    he is one of the best batsman in the world

  • needgreenpitches4bowlingallrounders on August 15, 2016, 16:55 GMT

    Bangladesh's rise has been in parallel to Ashraful's downfall. Ashraful has always been considered best Bangla batsmen before current lot came in. He surely was most inconsistent poster boy. Bangladesh has grown leaps and bounces in LOI cricket. They don't need any poster kids whose average in both T20 and ODI is less than allrounder's. Ashraful has some wonderful innings but too inconsistent. Before he was dropped he was already looking at exit doors from international cricket. May this budding international team have new hero's coming from one of best systems and setups. I see lot of talent in Bangla under-19 which could easily make fans forget about old greats like ashraful who was few matches wonder.

  • SammySoSo on August 15, 2016, 15:53 GMT

    Let him play domestic cricket to support his family. He had lost his shine in international cricket even before the unthinkable happened. There are too many talented players to chose from and Ashraful is not going to be able to match their skills. But the domestic league needs good players and pays reasonably well. Enough for a young man to make a living from the only skill that he has.

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