With the increase in defeatist chatter that is being intercepted these days there is one man left standing in the crossfire. Ashraful must be sorely ruing his missed chances but tomorrow is another day.
As a whole team sank, watched anxiously by this young man with trademark furtive looks, one could only feel pity for Ashraful. Looking on haplessly, as his skipper and vice skipper were summararily dismissed in consecutive balls, he must have been rattling to say the least. Yes, he probably shouldn?t have run. But all in all there must be some glimmer of hope, evidence or supreme belief that we have in our midst a man who will be ready for greater heights down the road.
Ashraful is the man. Although he has been receiving his fair share of criticisms, tainted with rumours ranging from his inadequate physique to his personal affairs, he remains Bangladesh?s best shot at cloning a Bradman.
If no one has seen Bradman they should have a look. We may not have much live footage to discern the exceptional quickness of his reactions, his speed between the wickets and spidery fitness that helped him to take the longest innings with breathless ease. But the fact of the matter is that exceptional strength can be disguised with stealth within a deceptively fragile looking body. Again Ashraful is the man with such a body.
Most revealingly, Bradman was small-boned and trim, his power of stroke deriving from strong wrists and an uncanny sense of timing. Ashraful is quite similar and possesses a spirit that can harness immense strength from within his fragile body. To spell it out again, it is: perfect balance, coordination and certainty of execution that is much admired as the principal ingredients of any unworldly batsmanship. Seeing Ashraful?s capabilities at stroke play especially his timely on drives there is room for much refinement. And so the goal of Ashraful at this point must be to strive towards such a higher art form through rigorous practice.
Statistics mean a lot to us fans. A batsman is exceptional if he averages 50 runs in international competitions. Crucially, 6 out of 11 Australians average over 50 and Bradman, during his entire career, averaged 99.94 runs a Test! It was a superhuman effort but says a lot about unbounded human possibilities .So the work has been cut out for Ashraful but he is no stranger to overwhelming tasks and foreign climates. He also has a healthy ability to score reasonable innings in any part of the world. That is an asset.1
We know that things began with a bang for this boy when at 16 years and 364 days; on the eve of his 17th birthday he surpassed Mushtaq Mohammed of Pakistan (who was the previous player to hit a hundred at the age of 17 years and 82 days). When play began with Bangladesh needing 465 runs to make Sri Lanka bat again, it was Asharaful in the hot seat. Mohammed Ashraful?s 114 showed a stellar concentration for a player of his age. Significantly for our next match he dominated Muralitharan and all the other bowlers. How did he do it?1, 2
One of the ingredients on that occasion was none other than Aminul Islam. And what a bhaya he was. Some credit should go to the former captain for some intuitive leadership. And what better way to bat your way to a century than have Aminul at your side? Probably those furtive eyes are still looking for a mentor in a side that still desperately calls for just some plain leadership. A Leadership to steer these youngsters through rough patches, but above all, a leadership to transfer valuable received wisdom that happens in other teams. It also fosters a sense of continuation as we see happening from Pollock to Ntini, from Srinath to the Balajis, from the Hadlees to the Cairns and from Benaud to Warne.
Leadership is not only about what goes on in the field but a moral and inspirational captaincy to guide younger team members. In this matter is Bashar suitable to fit this role? When he faces Muralitharan again will Bashar provide the same example as his predecessor and stabilize the team? Bashar, as a senior a player is in a position to pass down some sensible cricket ?Knowledge?. And for those still to come this knowledge should be absorbed as early as possible.
Furthermore, is it coincidence or just a passing fact that Ashraful was one of the keys to our win in Zimbabwe? No. He came through with a performance that enabled Bangladesh to win an ODI. For this we should have examined, scrutinized and dissected. Under what mental state did he have done that? Have we had a heart to heart with Ashraful about where in the batting order he really would like to be? For isn?t it in the middle order that Ashraful has historically been comfortable in. The fact remains that it was in number 5 when he notched his 100. Further ammunition to this line of thought is amply provided by a cursory glance at his averages for each position. It is a revealing graph but also betrays the fact that as a team there are also numerous BD batsmen that shy away from the opener slot as if it was the plague.1
A redeemer is needed to lead us out of a dark forest. If Ashraful wants to play such a role he needs to work on it, as his numbers are not very encouraging. Those very numbers have been damaged by his tenacity to fall for some easy mistakes. Every simple dismissal, ludicrous shot and sweeps at average bowlers turns back the clock. Having said all that, every successful innings by this lad is eagerly hailed by fans as a sign of a turnaround.
- Stat Filter Ashraful
- Zimbabwe v Bangladesh 2004, 3rd ODI
- Sri Lanka v Bangladesh, Asian Test Championship 2001-02
- Player Profile: Aminul Islam
The author is a moderator of banglacricket forum and goes by the nick "oracle" - editors