Even at 36, former Bangladesh skipper Mohammad Ashraful is harbouring dreams of staging a comeback to the national team. He last played a Test match for the country in April 2013.
At a recent edition of 'Light & Lens' programme, hosted by UNB, the 36-year-old right-handed batsman said he would fight against all odds to make a comeback to the longer version of international cricket. "I am looking forward to having a great domestic season once it starts so that I can draw the attention of the national selectors."
After serving a five-year ban for his involvement in match-fixing during Bangladesh Premier League in 2012, Ashraful is yet to find a place in the national side. Though he got a chance to play in the 2020 Bangabandhu T20 Cup, his dismal performance disappointed his team, Minister Group Rajshahi.
However, the Test cricket's youngest debutant centurion is eager to prove his mettle once again in the domestic circuit. “There has been no cricket for almost two months now. The board might start domestic cricket from March. So I have a plan to get myself ready before that. Initially, I’ll start with fitness training and eventually work on my skills,” he said.
Once a poster boy of Bangladesh cricket, Ashraful has some historic knocks under his belt. "I contributed to many big wins for Bangladesh. It feels good to think about those victories. And I still dream of making a comeback to the national team. I know it’s tough, but I’m putting my best foot forward," he said.
Bangladesh suffered 47 consecutive defeats after their historic win against Pakistan in the World Cup 1999. Ashraful was the man to end that drought by hitting a 32-ball 51 against Zimbabwe in 2004. He also played the main role when Bangladesh beat Australia in 2005 in Cardiff, smashing a 100-ball century, which was Bangladesh’s second ton in ODIs.
Ashraful registered six centuries in his 61-match Test career, with the best of 190 against Sri Lanka. But his fame faded away when he was accused of corruption in the Bangladesh Premier League 2012. He later confessed to his crime, and was subsequently handed down a five-year ban from all formats of cricket.
Though the batsman made a comeback in competitive cricket in 2018 with the Dhaka Premier Division Cricket League, he has failed to come close to the national team set-up since. “I intend to play cricket for 3-4 years more. I’m now focussing on domestic cricket. If I do well in the local leagues, the selectors might consider me for the national team."
Ashraful believes Bangladesh thrived immensely in ODIs. According to him, the Tigers can achieve the same fate in Tests if they get to play matches more frequently.
“We are a strong team when it comes to ODIs. We only have played three matches during the Covid-19 pandemic and won all. We are now number two in the ICC World Cup Super League points table. We can do the same in Test cricket if we can take 20 wickets of the opponent. I think we can do it if we get to play Tests more frequently,” Ashraful said.
Ashraful also flayed Franklyn Rose, a former Caribbean pacer, for his comment on "a weaker Bangladesh team". "The Tigers beat West Indies at home and abroad on a few occasions, including World Cup 2019 and a tri-national series before that, so the claim doesn't stand."
“We beat West Indies comprehensively in the last ODI series. I think it was a good show by the team, and I believe West Indies would lose the series even if they had their big guns in the squad. We beat them previously when they came with their best set-up,” he said.
These three wins against West Indies helped the Tigers to generate 30 points in the World Cup Super League. "I believe these points will help Bangladesh to secure a palace in the top seven teams of the league, who will get a direct entry to World Cup 2023," Ashraful said.
On his post-retirement plan, the former skipper said: “I started playing cricket at a very early age, and I have been with cricket almost all my life. So, I have a plan to stay with cricket once my playing days are over.”