Shobhon Shahabuddin

Opti-mystique Ash

February 27, 2011
Mohammad Ashraful

Mohammad Ashraful

It was Muralidharan’s backyard, Colombo, September 2001 and Ashraful, just past 17 and making his Test debut, fares no better than his clueless team-mates who fail to crawl beyond 90 in the first innings after a typical terrorising spell of five for 13 by the greatest off-spinner of them all. Sri Lanka yawn, belch and make merry for the next couple of days to amass 555 runs. Come Bangladesh’s second innings and the middle order is understandably in utter disorder because everyone wants to bat way lower than he did in the first innings!

So our Ash, the new babe of the team, is the sacrificial promotee in the batting order at number five (he batted at number seven in the first innings). But he’s happy, if anything, to be out there and doing what he does best, which is to rely fully on his instincts to ensure that he bops-till-he-drops.

In the end, notwithstanding the fact that Bangladesh lost by an innings and a bit, and apart from the pat on the back and congratulatory words received from Murali himself, the greenhorn warrior stood tall as the youngest Bangladeshi batsman to score a hundred on debut. Ash had arrived, and would stay, if only to launch the millions of us fans in the inexplicable, decade-long mixture of pure delight that would provide a pleasing sensation stretching to the very roots of our hair, with the dream-crushing letdowns that would repeatedly make us want to uproot that same hair in frustration.

The demon that put a spell on his batting is yet to let go, as was evident against the Irish, when Ash once again deployed one of his now-characteristic ‘nothing’ shots precisely when we needed him to take charge of the Tigers’ innings and stretch it to somewhere respectable.

But amidst all the disappointments and frustrations what amazingly continues to thrive — despite himself! — is his unbridled, never-say-die spirit; as the records book would suggest, rarely has there been an against-all-odds win for the Tigers when Ash didn’t have a hand in it. Thankfully, our skipper Shakib is not evasive to this bit of knowledge and in an inspired, gut-felt gamble, especially when the Irish looked set on course to victory, Shakib brought on the hitherto underrated leg-spinners of Ashraful.

Ed Joyce, England’s ODI opener not too long ago and now the backbone of Ireland’s batting, was soon enticed to spoon a simple return catch to the bowler and the other Irish batting pillar, A R White found his furniture rattled with a googly that Abdul Quader might have been proud of. Mind you, these were wicket number three and four and inside of the first 20 overs of the Irish innings! And the rest, as they say, is history.

I’ve heard a few Tiger fans, who I thought lacked the ability to read beyond hard statistics, say that Ash’s prolonged celebration after he got the first of his two wickets was ‘undignified, as if Bangladesh had already won the match’. I’m compelled to tell them that that precisely was Ash’s purpose; irrespective of who’s saying what, creating a charged up, do-or-die mindset for his team-mates, lifting their spirits, making them believe they’re going to win the match, was what Ash wanted to do.

From that moment on, the collective body language of the Tigers was transformed; nobody misfielded, gave away an extra run or dropped a catch thenceforth and kept tightening the noose on the Irish neck till it went limp. This brought back memories of what Shane Warne did to his team-mates in the 1999 World Cup match against the Proteas when his extended roars lifted the Aussies just enough to come back from the dead and take the-cup-that-counts home.

Ashraful may score only once in say, five matches but his sheer presence, the natural spirit that he effects on the field or in the dressing room does something to the whole team that no coach could ever match. And let’s not forget that whenever Ash delivers with the bat, Tigers win.

Australia and South Africa are the toughest sides to beat and so far we’ve won only one ODI against each. We owe both the victories to the fearless display of aggression by one of our batsmen. No points for guessing who he is.

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Shobhon Shahabuddin is a cricket enthusiast.

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15 Responses to “ Opti-mystique Ash ”

  1. Hasib on March 9, 2011 at 7:42 pm

    I believe glory or not we cannot consider Ashraful as our top five batsmen. However when I look at our current prospects of number six and seven in Naem, Shubho and gong, I cannot see how hey can utilise a batting power play. They cannot rotate the strike and are not powerful hitters. That is why I feel Ash should be our natural number 7 because he can use the batting power play with his shots. A quick 30 from 15 balls can be a great contribution. Having said that please note that we are considering him only because he is available in the team. Had I been a selector, I would not have selected him in top 20.

  2. Shumit on March 5, 2011 at 3:03 pm

    Dear Shobhon, a great write-up on ‘Ash’ as we have named him; and i also share the same emotions with you. The only thing is as a nation i believe we love to live in the past glory and not dedicate ourselves enough for the future lights. ‘Ash’ or for that matter, us the Bangladeshis need to equip ourselves to believe in doing more to take this country or cricket to its next height (unlike a massacre with West Indies). We will take lessons and inspiration from our past in ‘52-’69-’71-’75-’90 but never indulge in just reminiscencing of the glory.

    Loved your writings though.
    Shumit

  3. Mashooq Salehin on March 2, 2011 at 2:45 am

    Any comment from the author?

  4. Ehsan Latif on March 1, 2011 at 9:43 pm

    When Ashraful is in the team, Bangladesh does bad in batting.Why?
    Because others think that Ashraful is there- so he will take care of everything. The team suffers from false over confidence. Look at the match between India- Bangladesh. Ashraful was not there- Bangladesh did well with batting. On the other hand, Bangladesh could just make 205 against relatively weak Ireland.

  5. Shahed on March 1, 2011 at 6:12 pm

    “Ashraful may score only once in say, five matches but his sheer presence, the natural spirit that he effects on the field or in the dressing room does something to the whole team that no coach could ever match”

    What a logic! Then why don’t we put Sheikh Hasina, Khaleda Zia in the team. They may also score one 30 out of 15 attempts but natural spirit that they effect on the field or in the dressing room does something to the whole team that no coach could ever match!!!!!

    Or we can put comedian Tele Samad or any clown in the team, they also can lighten up the pressure from the team and may score a chance century in 150 ODIs.

  6. Bangladeshi by Heart on March 1, 2011 at 3:18 pm

    If we say that Ashraful had won us ‘x’ number of matches, we should have to look at the other side of the coin as well. How many matches did Bangladesh lose for Asharaful’s inability to deliver as the premier batsman of Bnagladesh team? With an average below 20 after playing 150 odd matches – You don’t have to be a ‘rocket scientist’ to realise that Asharaful is unfit for international cricket. The Tigers should give a chance to batsman like ‘Shahriar Nafees’ instead of wasting their time and energy after ‘non-performers’ like ASHARAFUL.

  7. Mohsin Reza on March 1, 2011 at 1:28 pm

    I don’t understand why people are trying to create such a myth that when Ashraful does well, Bangladesh win. It clearly contradicts the statistics. Shakib AL Hasan almost single-handedly whitewashed Newzealand in the home series. What about the win against England in England? Is there any contribution of Ashraful to that match? Ashraful was picked up against Canada to make the team benefit from his batting not bowling. If Shohrawardi Shuvo was picked in place of Ashraful, I think, Shuvo could do better in bowling than Ashraful. Shuvo is an all-rounder; at least he can contribute more runs.

    ASHRAFUL should be kicked out of the team as soon as possible.

  8. Mashooq Salehin on March 1, 2011 at 1:51 am

    I would suggest the author to note that, Bangladesh has won many matches without Ashraful being in the team. I do agree and believe, he is talented. But he lacks consistency, and he should realise it, as well as his consistent supporter and mentors should realise his off-form condition. Cricket should not be discussed based on some mystique and vague belief.

  9. Capo on March 1, 2011 at 12:21 am

    first of all i congratulate the writer for a good piece of writing. but i would like to differ with him. here’s why.

    mind you, in the last game, mushfiq was there for more than 40 balls before he tried to play the sweep and failed, yet our ‘genius’ went there and tried the exact same shot. what was he doing in the dressing room? watching the game or planning the celebration when he’ll bowl? this just shows as a player he might be good, but his head is absolutely hollow. you know what he said when he was asked about the shot. he was executing the shot well in the league and in the nets, thats why he tried it. can you imagine a cricketer not reading the situation, playing shots on his whim in international cricket? as for his presence is concern, he was included in the last match in place of mahmudullah, so regardless of his batting he would’ve bowled anyway, for good or for worse. and comparing shane warne’s famous ‘come on’ with his stupid dance is just as laughable as the dance.

    i think shuvo should have been included in the team in next matches. left arm spinners are our strength and we should play according to that.

    have a good day…

  10. Hasan on February 28, 2011 at 2:37 pm

    Acknowledging the contribution of Ash in all the great winnings of the Tigers, I would like to ask the team selector to think twice before including Ash in WC team for next matches. Ash seems neither contributing to the batting side nor in the fielding, albeit he had good spell in last match against Ireland. All we need now, is consistent performers whom we can rely on. We don’t need any unpredictable super-hero who’s bat smiles once in every 10 matches on an average. Ash’s inclusion had an impact on the team work and Shakib always appears uncomfortable when Ash is in the team. To make it short, my verdict is anyone should be allowed to come to the team only when he proves himself to be consistent.

  11. Deltaman on February 28, 2011 at 2:29 pm

    A good performance once every five matches or so will not be good enough for the Tigers. Players selected are assumed to be at the peak of their performance and abilities. Ash more often than not has been a let down. If the Tiger’s talisman is to be unleashed again at least place him in for batting at around 3,4 or 5, positions he has been more or less successful at in the past. Best of luck to the Tigers for the remaining group matches.

  12. Arif on February 28, 2011 at 1:11 pm

    I differ on the comments “Ashraful may score only once in say, five matches but his sheer presence, the natural spirit that he effects on the field or in the dressing room does something to the whole team that no coach could ever match”

    Look at his batting average. It is below per compared to his talent. I don’t think that we have the luxury to wait for more than 5 matches for Ashraful to perform.

  13. Cricketfan on February 28, 2011 at 12:15 am

    I don’t understand why some people are throwing so much support behind Ashra-FOOL! Just see his statistics- after playing 159 matches, his average is still surprisingly below 24! Even worse than the tailenders.

    Does any body still think he deserves to play at number 4 or 5? In the match against Ireland, he got plenty of time to settle down (17 overs), but the way he got out particularly at that moment demonstrated his foolishness. In the team, he is a batsman, not a bowler. Position is not a matter for a good batsman, his main task is to make runs and contribute to the team’s overall performance.

    His controversial selection in the team is hindering the prospect of some other good players. People who support Ashraful must know that his batting performance in the domestic league was also a contribution of some local umpires! They are, in many cases, too shy to give Ashra-FOOL out in domestic matches!!

    There are two enemies to BD cricket- journalists and Ashra-FOOL! Most of the sports journalists are creating a hype and over-expectation that are killing the prospect of Bangladesh playing better cricket.

  14. Another tigar fan on February 27, 2011 at 10:38 pm

    Maybe he needs to do a bit of research and also take tips from watching video footages of his past performances. Practicing those shots again and again. Most importantly, he needs to remember field positions while batting. For this reason he can try playing cards with friends. Sometimes playing cards make one confident and smarter.

  15. Ibrahim on February 27, 2011 at 8:09 pm

    Actuly Ash is our hero in our great wins. I love ash. We all are hopefull that he would perform great in the coming matches. Good luck Ash, good luck Tigers.

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