Ashraful under pressure to perform - Siddons
Jamie Siddons, the Bangladesh coach, has said batsman Mohammad Ashraful was fortunate to retain a place in the national team but felt there was no adequate replacement for him yet. Siddons also viewed the first Test as an opportunity lost for Bangladesh and believed the result could have been different had the top order batted better.
Ashraful averages 22.92 from 51 Tests, and his 101 against Sri Lanka in December 2008 is his only 50-plus score in more than two years. "There is definitely a lot of pressure on Mohammad Ashraful," Siddons told Cricinfo. "He knows that he has been very inconsistent and we have talked about it. In that regard, he is very lucky to be still in the team but unless you find someone else, someone better, to replace him, he will play. After all, it wasn't long time back that he hit a hundred against Sri Lanka. I hope he scores in the second Test and inspires the whole team."
Akram Khan, the national selector, had earlier said that they were forced to play Ashraful in the past because of the lack of seniors but Siddons wasn't convinced about that reasoning. "I have never been a fan of playing players just because of experience. You need to perform," Siddons said. "Else, you might as well play young players. As for Ashraful, there is no one anyway, as yet, as good as him and hence he continues to play. But the pressure is growing."
Looking back at the first Test, Siddons said Bangladesh would have done better, perhaps even won the Test, had the top order put in a better performance. "I definitely see it as an opportunity lost. We finished short of 100 runs in the end. We bowled well in the first innings and that gave us a great chance. But we didn't bat well in the first 30 overs in both the innings. The top order needs to step up. If we can bat the first 30 overs well, I am sure this team is capable of putting good totals."
Shahriar Nafees, playing his first Test in nearly two years due to his ICL dalliance, looked shaky at No. 3 in both innings and looked uncertain outside his off stump but Siddons said that Nafees would be given another chance in the second Test in Dhaka. "He should get a chance. This is his comeback game and there was bound to be some nerves. We played him because he is a good player of spin and we felt India would play two spinners in that Test. If he had got through the initial period against pace he can go on to play a big innings. He is working hard and I must say that he did get a good ball in the first innings."
Considering Nafees' form, some felt there might be a revision in the batting order but Siddons also ruled out any promotion in the order for Shakib Al Hasan, Mushfiqur Rahim or Mahmudullah. "Shakib is still learning to bat at his position at the international level and I don't think he should be pushed up now. Mahmudullah did bat well but he has just started playing at this level. He also found out all about pressure at this level in the second innings (Zaheer Khan bombarded him with a bouncer-attack and Mahmudullah fell trying to counterattack). Mushfiqur has to keep wickets as well. It won't be prudent to push people up, what would solve the problem is the batsmen batting higher up start scoring some runs."
Sriram Veera is a staff writer at Cricinfo