Mohammad Ashraful has been named Bangladesh's new Test and ODI captain. He replaces Habibul Bashar who stood down as one-day captain following the series against India, but had indicated his wish to remain in charge of the Test side. However, the board decided on a clean break, ending Bashar's three-year stint. At 22, Ashraful becomes the second youngest current international captain behind Prosper Utseya.
Ashraful has been appointed initially till the end of the Twenty20 World Cup in South Africa during September and his first assignment will be a three-Test and three-match ODI series against Sri Lanka later this month. Mashrafe Mortaza, Bangladesh's leading pace bowler, has been named as his deputy.
"With his [Ashraful's] captaincy, Bangladesh cricket enters a new era," said a BCB spokesman. "The board is confident Ashraful will lead by example and take the country's cricket to a new height. He is a talented batsman and has all the abilities to be a very good leader."
AshrafuI, who found out of his elevation first through a text message from Reazuddin Al Mamun, the board joint secretary, paid tribute to Bashar and former coach Dav Whatmore. "I must say Sumon bhai (Bashar) was the most successful captain of the country," he told The Daily Star. "His ability to lead the team both on and off the field with calmness along with coach Dav Whatmore has set a standard for the team, so I have to continue it. It's a big challenge but I am ready for it.
"I know if I failed to deliver as a batsman then the captaincy wouldn't mean anything. So I have to lead the team from the front. The most important thing is that the demand in our cricket has increased day by day," he added.
And Ashraful, who has played 35 Tests and 101 ODIs, added that he may take a leaf out of the captaincy manuals of idols Steve Waugh and Stephen Fleming. "I like their captaincy because of their aggressiveness. I think there are a lot of things I have to learn as a skipper and I believe I will get support from my teammates and the former cricketers. I proved myself as a captain slightly in the domestic circuit but I am aware that it is a different task for me at the international level."
Ashraful's coach on the tour of Sri Lanka will be Shaun Williams, the Australian who has been in charge of the successful Under-19 side, following Whatmore's departure after the India series. The board plan to name Whatmore's long-term successor following the series in Sri Lanka.
Despite Test and ODI averages of 24 and 21 respectively Ashraful is one of Bangladesh's key players. He hit the headlines in 2001 by becoming the youngest Test century-maker and was Bangladesh's leading run-scorer during the World Cup in West Indies. Against South Africa he hit an 83-ball 87, which was central to the team's memorable Super Eight victory.
However, his finest moment came at Cardiff, in 2005, when he hit 100 to guide Bangladesh towards a famous victory over Australia in the Natwest Series. But each time his game has appeared ready to move to the next level his inconsistency, and impetuosity, has reared its head. Now he has the added responsibility of having to lead by example.