Sri Lanka v Bangladesh, 1st Test, Galle, 3rd Day March 10, 2013

Ashraful shelves risk for discipline

Mohammad Ashraful's straight-faced humour often slips by unnoticed. When asked whether shelving the late cut gave him more discipline in his record-breaking innings, he pointed out the exact delivery when he brought out that shot. There were some laughs, but that was because Ashraful continued in the same tone, with just the hint of a smile.

"There's a shot that always gets me out," Ashraful said. "I don't want to play it, but I tried it off the 167th ball I faced. It just happened. I was lucky the ball didn't touch the bat."

He was correct. Ashraful is one of few players who can recall his innings in great detail, in relation to a specific shot, or a particular bowler who sledged him. He had indeed tried to late cut his 167th delivery.

Ashraful had lost the Bangladesh captaincy after playing such a shot in the loss to Ireland during the 2009 World Twenty20 Cup, drawing the anger of millions back home. Had it taken the edge here in Galle, Ashraful would have fallen for 97, and the reaction would have been predictable.

His love-hate relationship with the public has gnawed at Ashraful, who was once the only bearer of hope in the line-up. He elucidated what people had thought of him at the start of this series.

"Before the Test match, I thought people would say, 'Look he already made a hundred in the practice match, there's no way he will make one more in the Test,'" Ashraful said. "So all [of] those things played in my head after I had reached the century.

"I think I celebrated that much more because this was my second consecutive hundred. The negative reactions towards every shot I play, however I get out, has been a problem for me [in the past]. If I fail, even when others perform, the question is usually posed in regards to my place in the team."

Ashraful was thoughtful while narrating how he had felt after spending a decade without fulfilling his potential. His selection for this series wasn't straightforward either. "I am just thankful they [BCB] selected me. They could have left me out again. Now I am just 11 runs away from becoming the first Bangladeshi to score a double-century.

"I used to give performances here and there in the first eleven years of my career. But now I feel I have to perform regularly to stay in the team. I have scored two hundreds in a row, so I will try to continue doing this [going forward]."

Athar Ali Khan, a former Bangladesh player and a commentator in this match, said it was the batsman's "destiny" to have played such an innings. "He was simply magnificent. His approach and determination was worth watching," Athar Ali said. "This was in his destiny: to not be selected among the 25-man preliminary side, and then Shahriar Nafees having a freak injury, and now these two centuries."

Soon after the century was completed before tea, former Bangladesh captain Habibul Bashar said the biggest difference between Ashraful's previous five hundreds and the one in Galle was his self-control. "He didn't invent any shots, that's why this was a better innings than the previous ones," Bashar said.

Bashar might have been hinting at the late-cut, and he spoke with a sense of relief. "I have seen all his previous hundreds, but none of them were near as good as this one. If he had played like this throughout his career, he would have had more than the six centuries."

Mohammad Isam is ESPNcricinfo's Bangladesh correspondent

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