Bangladesh A v England XI, Chittagong March 6, 2010

Struggling Ashraful confident of fulfilling promise


After an ODI series that was perhaps closer than the 3-0 scoreline suggests, the general consensus is that Bangladesh cricket is slowly reaching the standard required to compete on equal terms with the bigger nations in world cricket. But "slowly", unfortunately, is the operative word, and in Chittagong on Sunday, one of the slowest developers of them all returns to centre stage.

Mohammad Ashraful epitomises all the promise and frustration of Bangladesh cricket. When he's in form, he bats with a fluency that few in the world can match - never more thrillingly than during his century on debut against Sri Lanka in September 2001, when he was a carefree whippersnapper of 16, which encapsulated the richness of talent that the country seemed set to produce.

Unfortunately, of late, Ashraful's career has hit the buffers. A wretched tour of New Zealand realised 62 runs in six innings, in all three forms of the game, and followed a threadbare series of performances against India and Sri Lanka, in which he managed one half-century in eight innings.

With the blessing of the board, Ashraful sat out the three ODIs in a bid to clear his mind ahead of next week's Test series, but even that policy didn't quite pay the dividends he'd hoped. In four first-class innings for Dhaka Division, he mustered 21 runs including three ducks, to leave his hopes of a recall resting rather heavily on his performance against England in the forthcoming three-day warm-up.

"In the last couple of months I have not been batting well," Ashraful told Cricinfo. "In the nets I am batting well, but in the middle I get out very early, so that's why I feel I needed a bit of a break from international cricket. But tomorrow is a three-day game, and if I bat well there, I can play Test cricket again."

In Ashraful's absence, Bangladesh have made decent progress against England, particularly in the batting where Tamim Iqbal, Imrul Kayes, Shakib Al Hasan and Mushfiqur Rahim have formed a promising core of young and motivated prospects. But there's no question in the minds of either the selectors or the coaching staff that a confident and focussed Ashraful would transform the dynamic of their team, by slotting in at No. 3 or 4, and providing a touch of class to an otherwise functional middle-order.

"I still think that he is one of our best players for Bangladesh," Akram Khan, a member of the selection committee, told Cricinfo. "He's played a lot of good innings for us, and so there's no confusion about how good he is. But the last six or seven months, he has not been in good shape, so we are praying that he can finally come good. If he plays well, he can make the difference for Bangladesh, and we are ready for that."

Unfortunately, Ashraful's single biggest problem is the fact that these expectations have already been looming over him for nigh on a decade, and with every new failure, a new solution is thrust into the mix. He was feeling the burden during England's last tour in 2003, when Dav Whatmore dropped him from the Test series in a bid to shield him from the pressures, and his desperation to avoid a repetition of that scenario was one of the main reasons why he sat out the one-dayers.

"Everyone has been talking with me, and giving me advice, so I just needed to go away and work it out for myself," Ashraful said. "I think I have a problem with my gameplan. My batting is okay, but some days I'm very attacking and some days I'm very defensive. That's why I'm scoring only every four or five games.

"I needed to think more, and come up with one solid gameplan, and now I am thinking ball-by-ball and playing positive cricket," he added. "I just haven't scored enough runs recently, but I believe in myself, and if I feel good, Insh'allah they will select me."

The selectors are, by and large, sympathetic to Ashraful's plight. "It happens," Akram said. "When good players play for a long time, they go through periods when their form is not quite there. I think this was the right time [for Ashraful] to get out from there. I know he is trying very hard, and I hope he can come back soon. The boys played very well without him, but we need some experience and he has played a lot of long innings. If he comes back, it can only be good for the Test team."

For all the problems that Ashraful has endured of late, the chance to slot into a team in which his personal performance is no longer the decisive factor can only be a good thing. "In the past there was big pressure on me, but now we have a lot of match-winners," he said. "Now I am just one of the players who has to perform. When we beat the big teams I sometimes play brilliant cricket, but now we have four or five guys who can do that, so I need to step up again.

"It is good for Bangladesh," he added. "When Jamie [Siddons, the coach] came here two years ago, he said he needed more players like me. Now we have a lot of players performing good cricket. They are very confident, and they are not scared anymore. Last year we won 14 games, and even though ten of those were against Zimbabwe, it still shows that we are improving."

As for Ashraful's personal ambitions, he hopes that the coming year can prove to be a watershed in his career. Having given up the captaincy and reassessed his game away from the spotlight, he still believes he is young enough, and sufficiently motivated, to transform an international record that does no justice whatsoever to his talent.

"Scoring in domestic cricket isn't the same as doing it in Test cricket, so it was just good for me to get away," he said. "I definitely see this as a new start. I'm only 26, so if I'm fit enough I can play ten years or more. For the last nine years, I have been up and down, so now I need to perform regularly. My best time is still to come, I think."

Andrew Miller is UK editor of Cricinfo. Go to to follow him on Twitter through the England tour of Bangladesh.

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Sadique on March 11, 2010, 9:43 GMT

    carbandpunk, I fully agree with the concept of "getting your eye in" that you have mentioned and I am fully aware of it. But you have to accept that different batsmen have different methods of getting their eye in after a long break. May be Shahriar Nafees chose the wrong method at that time, but you cannot judge a batsmen from that innings only. Plus the last ever real game that Shahriar Nafees has played before that innings was a T20. Since you are aware of all the innings that Shahriar Nafees has played then why you are judging him based on that particular innings? I can give loads of example of Ashraful's innings where he has played like a fool without any logical sense. How would you explain that? It was also about comparing Shahriar Nafees with Ashraful. May be Ashraful is more talented but talent without application is nothing. So, I still think Nafees is a far better batsmen that Ashraful.

  • Anishka on March 10, 2010, 18:09 GMT

    Mindhunter, I am very aware of how much cricket Shahriah Nafeez has been playing and this is exactly my point. The fact that he had not played for more than 2 years is the reason that the way he was playing against India was the worst way. If a player hasn't played for that long then he should not come back and start hitting right away, he should play defensive and try to get his eye back in. Its a simple concept and since you claim to know anything about cricket i am suprised you weren't able to catch onto that :) and i agree that Rafique needs to come back too lol... perfect bowler to bowl in tandem with shakib

  • Dummy4 on March 9, 2010, 19:59 GMT

    I agree with Mindhunter84 that keeping players like Shahriar Nafees, Alok Kapali and Mohammad AShraful out of the mainstream would only hurt BD causes in the long run. Masrafe is also facing a hiatus and if he sits out for too long it would affect his career. I wouldn't like to see "burnt out" cases from such class and calibre players that many of their predecessors experienced. Remember Javed Omar Gullah, Hannan Sarker, Rajin Saleh, Selim Shahed and Saiful Islam Khan. Their careers were scuppered early due to "rough and tumble" of selection and keeping them out of |selection for a long time. The above mentioned players should at least be kept in The BD A team and depending on their performance shooed in the main team. |

  • iftekhar on March 9, 2010, 14:50 GMT

    i think, Ashraful need a long break from International cricket, he need to think about Domestic Cricket for get back his Confidance, Consistancy and dedication for Bangladesh team. No doubt, he is a natural talent. but, if someone not able to put his talent tranform in performance, such talent is burden for any team in any level of cricket.

  • Sadique on March 9, 2010, 12:34 GMT

    My Bangladesh team would be, For ODIs: Tamim, Nafees, Kayes, Mushfiqur Rahim, Shakib, Mahmudullah, Forhad Reza, Nayeem, Mashrafee, Razzak, Syed Rassel

    For Tests: Tamim, Nafees, Kayes, Rokibul, Shakib, Rajin Saleh, Mushfiqur Rahim, Mahmudullah, Mashrafee, Shahadat, Shafiul.

    Please, we do not need those batsmen who will score a big one once in a while and then will go into a silence. Ashraful and Aftab are those kinds of players. Ashraful specially suffers from mental problems. He pre-determines lot of his strokes and cannot read the game properly. The thing that makes it worse is that Ashraful cannot or does not learn from his mistakes, as he keeps on doing the same mistake again and again. But they get peoples' sympathy only because of their aggresive batting style. They add no real value to the team. May be they can be considered for the T20s at most.

  • Sadique on March 9, 2010, 12:11 GMT

    carbandpunk, you have mentioned that Shahriar Nafees was hitting every balls in the test match against India. But do you know for how long Nafees has been away from international cricket before this match? He has been away for more than 2 years and obviously his confidence will be on the lower side and his approach in that Test match can thus be justified. But you cannot judge a player from only one of his innings. You have to look at what he has done in the past. There is no question about his talent. Just look at his previous scores and his average. If you are judging him only by that innings against India then I will have to say that either you forgot about his previous performances or you don't follow cricket properly. On the other hand, Ashraful used to be under pressure when we did not have enough talented and consistent performers. Now we have a number of these players and the pressure on him is considerably less. Even under such condition Ashraful has failed consistently.

  • Farhad on March 9, 2010, 0:17 GMT

    I believe ashraful plays careless shots too often. He has been given chances after chances on number 3 position and he just did not use the opportunity properly. As a top order experienced player he could have easily raised his average up by playing defensive in many games. Because no matter how good of a shot you play or numbers of year experience you carry on your shoulder at the end of the day your average batting score matters the most. Yes, he has nothing more to prove about his quality of making shots all over the field but until some other ashraful comes along and does a bit better than him we should keep him around.

  • Ekram on March 8, 2010, 18:36 GMT

    I think the biggest mistake the selectors have made was to force Mohammad Rafique into retirement so prematurely. He has still a lot of cricket left in him, a lot of spin magic to mesmerize the batsman on the other end to submission and not to mention can be the go to bowler to hand the ball to when the match is on the line...I wish he was in the BD team in the 2nd ODI against England and bowled the last 2 way we would have lost the game then. So let's start the chant....Bring Rafique Back!!!....Bring Rafique Back!!!....Bring Rafique Back!!!

  • Anishka on March 8, 2010, 18:26 GMT

    I think that all you people are way too harsh on Ashraful, people do worst when they are under tons of pressure and everyone is like that, for example Tamim Iqbal will score a 100 in an opening game batting first, but when we need him to chase down 280 he gets out for 0. Ashraful has that pressure all the time. Everyone says he is inconsistant but when you compare him to Junaid Siddique and Aftab Ahmad and Shahriah Nafeez, there is a bigger chance of Ashraful playing a big innings... mindhunter84 did you even see Nafeez against India? He tries to hit every ball to the boundary and you cant play like that in a test, I have hardly ever seen Siddique and Aftab get past 20, Ashraful may be inconsistant but out of all the choices for middle-order i think he is the best. The team i hope bangladesh go with is Tamim, Imrul, Roqibul Hasan, Ashraful, Rahim, Shakib, Mahmudullah, Naeem, Razzaq, Mortaza and Shafiul. Rubel Hossain always gets hammered...and for the last time give ashraful a break :)

  • Benjer on March 8, 2010, 17:54 GMT

    This is the time to take right dicision .Asraful is a talented player there is no doubt but he is totally inconsistence player,he perform not regularly mostly after 4/5 games so in this position we can think about shahriar Nafees of rajin saleh as both are more capable than the asraful.

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