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

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • sri on March 11, 2013, 9:24 GMT

    This is definitely a day to celebrate for many BD fans. The opposition bowling unit is still world class. Ashraful i watched him scoring a ton against india in 2005 i thought he would become sachin of BD but he has been very inconsistent since then. He has a god gifted timing and I wish his great form continues through out the series.

  • Jawwad on March 11, 2013, 7:43 GMT

    Does any1 know that Ashraful had said he would score a double hundred in this match ten days before it???....n he got so close to fulfilling it! well if u dont knw check the daily star newspaper if u live in BD

  • Callum on March 11, 2013, 2:06 GMT

    I don't know exactly why, but I always wish Ashraful to do well for Bangladesh. I didn't get the honour to have seen any of his previous 'great' innings, but for him to become the first Bangladeshi to hit a Test 200 would hopefully affirm his talent, and be the catalyst for a much more successful future for Bng.

    Always want the underdog to do well. (Unless it's against England of course).

  • Andrew on March 11, 2013, 0:35 GMT

    He needs to keep on producing as he has been given more opportunities than he really deserved. That said, I wish him well. He & Rahim need to push on as Bangladesh still trail by over a 100 runs. This is (so far), probably Bangladesh's best day in Test cricket.

  • Dummy4 on March 10, 2013, 20:23 GMT

    Hopefully; with this innings we are going to see a new Ashraful in making.

  • Dummy4 on March 10, 2013, 20:15 GMT

    really happy for the man! and great article by Mohammad Isam!

  • Jay on March 10, 2013, 20:12 GMT

    i remember when i rad the news on paper about tamim being on a arguement n abused ash in a dhaka premier league game i reacted so quickly n i complained n protested on tamim's fb page. i just felt how much i love this little man bt when he plays bad i am the 1st to criticize him. Ash is our 1st love nobody can take that spot not even shakib. Ash everyone loves you so much n they know whats your potential is thats why our expectation is so high from you. we love you so much. you are still our hero :)

  • Khondker S on March 10, 2013, 18:23 GMT

    I hope he gets the first double century for his country. He well deserve it. Good luck....

  • Dru on March 10, 2013, 18:14 GMT

    From the time I first saw Ashraful when ever I look at the Banglasdesh scorecard I am looking to see how he did and have been dissappointed time and again. I saw most of his innings today and he looked a different man and in short he looked supreme. I reckon he has finally matured and expect more from this guy.