• Monday, Nov 18, 2019
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Spectator Ashraful recalls his memorable Cardiff innings

  • Published at 01:29 am May 29th, 2019
Mohammad Ashraful watches the warm-up match between Bangladesh and India in Cardiff Tuesday Dhaka Tribune/Ali Shahriyar Amin

If anyone remembers that famous win against Australia, one name must pop up into your mind and that is Mohammad Ashraful

Bangladesh were batting nicely with Liton Kumar Das and Mushfiqur Rahim at the crease between overs 20 to 30 as the Tigers were chasing 360 against India in their warm-up game at Sophia Gardens.

There was a decent crowd all-around at the venue as they were enjoying the encounter between the two neighboring nations. 

To feel the atmosphere in the gallery, I went to several parts of the venue and watched the respective supporters waving both the Bangladesh and India flags.

At the Cathedral Road end of the gallery, the west part of the stadium, one man certainly caught my attention as he looked a familiar face. 

When I went closer, I was confirmed that it was Mohammad Ashraful, the former captain of Bangladesh.

Once the poster boy of the nation, he became a fallen star after being punished for spot-fixing in the BPL T20 2013 season while playing for Dhaka Gladiators. 

He completed his ban term in August, 2018.  

This venue, Sophia Gardens, has gone down in cricketing folklore of Bangladesh as two of their most famous wins, against Australia in 2005 and against New Zealand at the Champions Trophy in 2017 were recorded here.

If anyone remembers that famous win against Australia, one name must pop up into your mind and that is Ashraful.

Ashraful’s stunning century, 100 of 101 deliveries, helped Bangladesh to stun the mighty Aussies 14 years ago.

Ashraful was duly adjudged man-of-the-match for his magnificent hundred in that match.

When I approached him to say a few words and recall some memories of that incredible innings, the 35-year old became nostalgic and got lost in the past for a few moments.

“I always remember that innings. That innings is and will always be special for me. I have come to this ground after 14 years. Many things have changed at this ground in the last 14 years. The dressing room was probably in a different place back then and I can remember Aftab (Ahmed) smashed the six against [Jason] Gillespie in that direction (pointing to his left). Definitely, a lot of memories at this ground for me and I feel happy to be back here as a spectator,” said Ashraful.

While revisiting the memories of his innings, Ashraful informed that the whole knock was special to him, but when asked about any particular moment, he picked two of his shots as favorites; a scoop shot against Michael Hussey which went for a boundary and a four against Michael Clarke that he played over extra cover.

Bangladesh cricket has developed a lot in the recent and distant past, compared to 2005, and Ashraful believes the Tigers will perform well in the World Cup 2019 in England and Wales.

“We have a very good, experienced side now. We have a good chance to qualify for the top four in this World Cup, but obviously it will be difficult. We are in the right track as our cricket has developed a lot, and produced results in the last five years. This World Cup is crucial for us to give a statement to the world that we have really developed well over the years,” said Ashraful.

From Ashraful’s playing era, only Mashrafe bin Mortaza is still playing in the national team, and going strong. 

Ashraful praised Mashrafe for his dedication and believes he is currently one of the best captains around.

“He is a great player. Very few people had the belief in him after he was dropped from the 2011 World Cup. But you see, he has captained the national team in 2015, and now in 2019. We all know he is a fighter,” stated Ashraful. 

“As a pacer he is still performing well even after suffering seven surgeries in his both legs. I believe he is one of the best captains in this World Cup among all the teams,” he added.

Ashraful is playing minor county league for Blackheath Cricket Club in England at the moment. 

He has a contract for the full season, 18 weeks, to play there. 

The 35-year informed that he still harbors dream of returning to the national team. 

But he admitted that to fulfill that dream, he needs to perform extremely well.    

“I am still fit and playing in domestic cricket. I still have a dream to return to the national team. It’s very difficult, I know, but not impossible. I just need to perform very well. If Mashrafe can play so long, then as a batsman I can play in the top-level as well. But I have to perform very well to be considered, and I am trying,” Ashraful concluded.