Mohammad Ashfraful (L) and Mushfiqur Rahim added a record 267 runs for the fifth wicket – highest for Bangladesh for any wicket in Test cricket © AFP
By Nishad Pai Vaidya
On November 10, 2000, a small cricket-crazy nation announced its arrival in the classical format. All the years of toil and sweat in the smaller leagues, the hard work in the One-Day International (ODI) appearances had finally been rewarded with Test status. They didn’t disappoint early on as they amassed 400 in their first innings and gave India a few scares until the superior side gained stranglehold of the game. There was promise in that outing, but as the years progressed that withered away with the cricket fans hoping for them to raise the bar. Perhaps that time for Bangladesh has finally come 12 years down the line.
Bangladesh’s spirited performance in the ongoing Test against Sri Lanka presents hope for the future. They have made strides in the limited-overs formats, but their development in Test cricket was almost stalling. In all these years, they have only three victories to show — one against Zimbabwe and two against a weakened West Indies side. However, in Sri Lanka they have shown the fight and grit to play a Test match.
When Sri Lanka put up 570 on the board, some may have felt it was their game. But, the enigmatic Mohammad Ashraful was waiting to make a statement. Here is a man whose talent has been unquestionable, but the consistency has been elusive. In many ways, his career is a microcosm of Bangladesh cricket — a hit and a miss ride with thrills and disappointments. The copious ability was often tormented by an impatient temperament.
On his day, Ashraful can mesmerise crowds with an astonishing array of strokes. In the process, he would also fritter away his wicket. That tendency has seen him in and out of the side in recent times. But his latest hundred promises to change that. During the innings of 190, he showed immaculate patience and a never seen before temperance. There was an attempt to stay in the middle and the maturity to convert it into a big score. That he failed to become the first Bangladeshi batsman was heartbreaking, but take nothing away from his effort.
Captain Mushfiqur Rahim fulfilled the task Ashraful set on. By recording the first-ever double hundred in Test match cricket for Bangladesh, he has etched his name in history and would be remembered by his countrymen. That was followed by another hundred by Nasir Hossain, who has been very impressive in his early days. What this performance has shown is that Bangladesh aren’t a one-man army people made them out to be. It isn’t only about Shakib-Al-Hasan alone, as there are others to shoulder the burden.
In the last few years, Bangladesh have been blessed with some fantastic players. Apart from the above named, Tamim Iqbal and Mashrafe Mortaza are others who are genuine match-winners. This is a bunch of flashy cricketers, whose flamboyance often gets the better of them. It is due to that reason that they have tasted some success in the limited-overs formats and not the classical game. Like Ashraful, the Bangladeshi batsmen have been guilty of playing too many strokes instead of showing the intent to stay in the middle.
Through all that, Shakib is one man who has consistently shown the attitude to back the talent and rally the team around. Mushfiqur too has shared a similar approach, but the all-rounder has been the talisman. By posting 600 on the board and taking a lead, Bangladesh have given themselves a huge shot in the arm. They have set an example for themselves and shown that with disciplined application, results can come their way.
The Bangladeshi fan would hope that this isn’t a one off performance and that they carry this promise forward. Ashraful’s knock may be a landmark in his nation’s short cricketing history as that may help exorcise a few demons. The victories wouldn’t be easy to come, but this spirit and persistence with a tempered approach will set the ball rolling for them.
(Nishad Pai Vaidya is a Correspondent with CricketCountry and an analyst, anchor and voice-over artist for the site’s YouTube Channel. He shot to fame by spotting a wrong replay during IPL4 which resulted in Sachin Tendulkar’s dismissal. His insights on the game have come in for high praise from cerebral former cricketers. He has also participated on live TV talk-shows on cricket. Nishad can be followed on Twitter at http://twitter.com/nishad_44)