Bangladesh, the nation which gained independence in 1971 after a liberation war, quickly moved from their violent history to find solace and enjoyment in the game of cricket. Bangladesh Cricket Board became an associate member of ICC in 1977, but it was in 1999 ICC Cricket World up when they emerged into the glare of international cricket. BCB finally achieved full membership from ICC and played their first match against India at Dhaka in 2000. Ten months later, a seventeen-year-old prodigy had announced his arrival for Bangladesh in international cricket with an astonishing century against Sri Lanka.
Arrival of Mohammad Ashraful
Ashraful came from the outskirts of Dhaka to become the poster boy of Bangladesh cricket. His scintillating performances in Bangladesh's domestic circuit finally paid off when he got the international call-up for 2001/02 Asian Test Championship. The Bangladesh Cricket Board held him up as an example to showcase their youth system and Ashraful grabbed that opportunity with both hands as he became the youngest player to score a Test century. His debut was vital for Bangladesh Cricket. The Bangladesh Cricket Board counted his early success as a victory of their cricket system.
They asked him to play at every level so they could utilize his success as an example for the youngsters. This top order batsman caught the attention of the cricketing world with his aggressive batting style and flashy stroke play. His ability to handle genuine pace, especially off the back foot was commendable to watch.
Performance in Patches
The Bangladesh fans and media thought that they finally found a superstar like Sachin Tendulkar and Sanath Jayasuriya in their nation, the early praise did no good for him. The wonder boy of Bangladesh cricket lost his way and form for some time.
Over the years a pattern appeared in Ashraful’s cricketing career, he occasionally sparked with a splendid knock then suffered a long dull phase. After a poor run in the 2003 World Cup, Ashraful dropped from the team for a while. He made a dazzling comeback in 2004 against India with a magnificent knock of 158 in the 2nd test. That innings earned him praises from the then Indian captain Sourav Ganguly.
A few months later in England, cricket fans were once again marveled at the wizardry of this talented batsman. Ashraful dismantled the Aussie bowling single-handedly to pull off the most astonishing victory in Bangladesh's cricket history. Bangladesh's triumph over Australia was described as the biggest upset in ODI history by the bible of cricket “Wisden”.
The pattern continued as he was dropped once again from the team for a while and came back strongly with a century against Sri Lanka in 2006 Test series. The 2007 cricket world cup was the start of a new era for the Bangladesh cricket. They were no more the underdogs in the world cricket. They made it beyond the group stage and finished seventh in the tournament. They defeated the 2003 World Cup finalist India in the group stage to knock them out of the tournament. Ashraful struck an exhilarating 87 off 83 balls against the mighty Proteas. His 87 runs innings against South Africa was the highest score by a Bangladesh player in the World Cups. He was Bangladesh’s highest run-scorer in the tournament scoring 216 runs at an average of 36 in nine matches.
Ashraful's Captaincy Stint
After his remarkable performance in 2007, the nation wanted to see their wonder boy as the captain of their national team. Ashraful was appointed as the captain at the age of 22. He became the second youngest international captain but it didn’t work out well. Bangladesh wasn’t able to win a single test match under his captaincy. They lost 12 and drew one match. In the limited overs cricket they only managed to win 10 out of 49 matches under him and after a first-round exit from the 2009 World T20, the BCB sacked. They hoped that their first global cricketing superstar would back in form with the release of the pressure of the captaincy. During this more period, many talented players like Shakib Al Hasan, Tamim Iqbal, Nasir Hossain, and Mushfiqur Rahim were on the rise. After an extended run of poor form, BCB dropped him again from the team.
Involvement in Match Fixing
When it looked like the first superstar of Bangladesh cricket who represented his nation in two-thirds of their Test matches had lost in the history books, he suddenly appeared in the international arena with a staggering knock of 190 against Sri Lanka in 2013. As the events unfolded two months later, Ashraful told the ASCU’s investigation officers that he had been involved in match-fixing in the 2013 Bangladesh Premier League. He was banned for 'eight years' which was later reduced to five years giving him a slight hope of returning to international cricket.
Ashraful was the first global cricketing superstar from Bangladesh. He was the first batsman their opponent planned for. At some point in the next few months, he will have a chance to redeem himself. We all make mistakes in life, what is important is to learn from that. Mohammad Amir has made a dramatic return to international cricketing winning millions of hearts. We hope that Mohammad Ashraful will also come back strongly to finish his career on a high note.