Mohammad Ashraful came onto the scene without much hype. Unlike other batsman
such as Nafis Iqbal who were the talk of the town even before any international
matches, it is Ashraful who is undoubtedly our star batsman. This is not to
say that he is there yet, but he is at present the closest of any Bangladeshi
batsman. He is our Little Maestro, our Master Blaster. While nowhere near the
calibre of Sachin Tendulkar, Ashraful has had far fewer resources to aid him.
Ashraful burst onto the scene in late 2001 as another spin bowler on the test
squad in Sri Lanka. Batting way down in the order at number 6 or 7, the dimunitive
17 year old (some say he was only 16) may have surprised many by making a helpful
26 runs in the first innings. In fact, if some of our openers managed that many
we would be quite proud. However, Bangladesh was to find itself in the record
books, and oddly enough it was going to be a record to be proud of. Ashraful
became the youngest test centurion with a superb 114. During his innings he
repeatedly smashed Sri Lanka's world class Murali to the ropes.
The aftermath of this feat was not so bright. Despite showing flashes of brilliance,
Ashraful, like so many before him and so many after, left fans scratching their
heads. Was this some kind of cruel cricket joke? Was Bangladesh only to achieve
moments of happiness a few times a decade? Ashraful's stats were on the better
side for Bangladesh yet still nowhere near the top in terms of international
standard. Finally, under the wisdom of Dav Whatmore, Ashraful was dropped from
the squad during the home series one year ago against England.
Making his return this past February, Ashraful began to show the first glimpses
of his enormous potential. Its rather like a business man who finally starts
to get returns on a seemingly great investment. A mature innings of 98, while
dissappointing for the century that wasn't, still showed that Ashraful was a
batsman's batsman. Following up with big performances in every test series he
has played in since shows that he is reaching his potential at last. Perhaps
a year from now, the world will realize this young talent for what he is. It
all depends on Ashraful himself.
Here are some stats for those who think Ashraful, far from being a world class
batsman (I admit he's not there yet) isn't even Bangladesh's best batsman.
Most people consider Habibul Bashar to be our best Test batsman citing his
3 centuries and solid average of 35.84 runs. While I fully agree, Ashraful has
more potential and at only 20, has more years. Furthermore, while his Test batting
average is only in the low 20s, since being dropped, he is averaging around
33 runs per innings. He also has 3 50s in 8 innings. Whereas, he had 3 fifties
in his previous nearly 40 innings or so. With Bashar, and Rajin Saleh in the
middle order, Ashraful really has a chance to shine in Tests. And of course
he is one of the few Batsmen who can score a decent pace in the one day game.
Mohammad Ashraful is the only Bangladesh batsmen who is currently in form in
both ODIs and Tests. This is nothing other than a good omen. Our sincere hope
is that Nafis Iqbal follows in Ashraful's footsteps albeit a little bit faster.