The former Bangladesh skipper has revealed that an average of 40 across formats would have made him happier.
When we speak about the first real superstar or poster boy of Bangladesh cricket, the name Mohammad Ashraful comes up unanimously.
The former Bangladesh skipper has revealed that an average of 40 across formats would have made him happier. In an interview on The Daily Cricket Show powered by HardPixelTV, he discussed his beginning, his highlights in international cricket, suspension, post-ban life and beyond.
"My stats do not match the standard of my quality and calibre at all. But when I look back, I feel I would be happier if my average was over 40," Ashraful said, explaining how he has not done justice to his talent and ability as a player.
A top-order batsman with a penchant for flashy strokeplay, Mohammad Ashraful rose to prominence when he scored a brilliant hundred on Test debut against a formidable Sri Lankan attack. En route to his knock of 114, he broke Mushtaq Mohammad's record and became the youngest ever batsman to score a Test hundred. He played ace Lankan spinner Muttiah Muralitharan really well. Ashraful revealed how he scored so freely against him: "Javed Miandad came to Bangladesh as a batting consultant before the commencement of Asian Test Championship. He advised us to learn to play against the spin. Generally, coaches teach us to play more with the spin and forbid us to play against it. But Miandad told us that if we could play through the cover and point region against someone like Muralitharan, we would be able to score a lot of runs. Muralitharan used to operate with two slips, a silly point and a short leg. There were four close-in fielders and therefore the cover and point region would be wide open. So I followed his advice and I ended up scoring a hundred."
Now 35, Ashraful made his debut in the early 2000s and at that time modern facilities were hardly available. But Ashraful believes that the board provided them with the best possible facilities back then. "The facilities that we had were good enough at that time. Definitely, at present there are more and more opportunities to upgrade the skills and fitness. But I believe we were provided with what could be the best at that time," Ashraful mentioned.
On 18 June 2005, Bangladesh defeated Australia at the Sophia Gardens in Cardiff which is still regarded as one of the greatest upsets in the history of cricket. Ashraful played a pivotal role in the victory and believes that the innings of 100 off 101 changed his life completely: "I have been an ardent follower of cricket and the following cricket since the 1999 World Cup. I think that helped me, in that match, to assess the situation. Australia were a terrific side at that time and they could not believe us to win when the asking rate climbed up to over seven. During the partnership with Sumon (Habibul Bashar), I was asking him how we could win the match. He just told me to play my natural game. Besides my hundred, that six from Aftab (Ahmed) off Jason Gillespie was absolutely vital. The 2005 Natwest Series, especially the three hours at the Sophia Gardens completely changed my life."
But Ashraful didn't pick that innings when he was asked about his favourite innings. "I was part of some of the most memorable victories and I played a few good knocks for the team. But from a batting point of view, I feel my greatest innings in Bangladesh colours is that knock of 87 off 83 against South Africa in the 2007 World Cup," Ashraful stated.
Mohammad Ashraful admitted to spot-fixing during the 2013 Bangladesh Premier League. The Bangladesh Cricket Board reacted immediately by suspending him from all forms of the game temporarily until the ICC's Anti-Corruption and Security Unit submits its report on investigations into fixing. The time was extremely tough for him. But he had the resolve to come back into cricket. "I went to Saudi Arabia to perform Hajj and that helped me to regain my self-belief. I believe that I am a god-gifted cricketer. Since I love the game more than anything else, I motivated myself so that I could make a comeback in the game during my tough times."
Ashraful knows that it's difficult to make a comeback into the national side. But he targets the longest format:
"I know it is difficult for me to make a comeback in the national team. But I believe if I can repeat the performances from the 2018 Dhaka Premier League, the selectors might consider me as a contender. I have been focusing especially on longer version cricket and I want to do well there to make a comeback in the test side."
Cricket fans in Bangladesh have a love-hate relationship with Mohammad Ashraful. People who once were in love with him now love to hate him. But Ashraful believes that he deserves a chance, a chance to rectify all the mistakes he made.