Mohammad Ashraful - The flawed star who gave several good moments for Bangladesh cricket

Mohammad Ashraful became the youngest individual in the history of cricket to hit a Test century at the age of 17 but 20 years on, his story and career is remembered sometimes for the wrong reason.

Mohammad Ashraful hit a century at the age of 17 in a Test against Sri Lanka. (Image credit: ICC Twitter)
By Siddharth vishwanathan | Sep 8, 2021 | 4 Min Read follow icon Follow Us

At the age of 17 years and 63 days, this Bangladesh youngster had scored a Test century against Sri Lanka in 2001. It was an attack that comprised of Chaminda Vaas, Muttiah Muralitharan, Kumar Sangakkara, Mahela Jayawardene, Sanath Jayasuriya, and Marvan Atapattu. A full-strength Sri Lanka side was giving out a hard lesson to a Bangladesh team who had not completed one year in Test cricket. After bowling Bangladesh out for 90, Sri Lanka notched up 555/5 declared.

Trailing by 465 runs, the result was a foregone conclusion. But, a youngster suddenly decided that pride was at stake and he chose the moment to create history. Mohammad Ashraful tackled Vaas and Muralitharan brilliantly. His 16 fours all around the Sinhalese Sports Club was a treat to purists. Mohammad Ashraful had put Bangladesh cricket on the map with a stellar 114, making him the youngest player to achieve the feat.

The hype surrounding Ashraful was immense and had reached fever-pitch in Bangladesh. Having honed his skills in the outskirts of Dhaka, Ashraful had emerged as a once-in-a-generation talent for Bangladesh.

The glory days of Mohammad Ashraful

In the aftermath of that historic ton against Sri Lanka, there was a lot more expected from Bangladesh’s boy wonder. His inconsistency in 2002 and 2003 was glaring. All the hype of 2001 was now starting to fade away. Bangladesh had become the perennial whipping boys of world cricket, losing consistently in ODIs and Tests.

Just when it looked like Ashraful would fade away, 2004 proved to be a golden year for him. Ashraful began with 98 against Zimbabwe in Harare that got his reputation back as an exciting talent. He hit an 81 against a stronger West Indies in Gros Islet, joining a select few who could play well outside of Bangladesh. But, he reserved his best against India at home. During the 2004 Test in Chhatogram, Ashraful showed why he was considered the best.

India had notched up 540 thanks to centuries from Gautam Gambhir and Rahul Dravid. In response, the highest score, barring Ashraful in the Bangladesh side was 31. Ashraful was in a different league altogether. He took the attack to the Indian bowling unit that included Irfan Pathan, Zaheer Khan, Anil Kumble, and Harbhajan Singh. His 158 consisted of 24 fours and three sixes and ensured Bangladesh showed some fight. Although Bangladesh lost by an innings, it was enough to convince Bangladesh that Ashraful needed to be persisted with

Glory days in ODIs for Ashraful

The year 2005 proved to be an epoch-making event for Ashraful. It also changed the destiny of Bangladesh’s cricket fortunes. In the tri-series against Australia and England in England, Bangladesh’s chances were already a foregone conclusion. But, they decided to create some form of history. Ashraful was the star in that. Australia had to defend 250 but Ashraful stood tall and smashed a 100. He was not intimidated by the likes of Glenn McGrath, Jason Gillespie, and Michael Kasprowicz.

As Aftab Ahmed hit a six off Gillespie, Bangladesh had achieved one of their biggest wins in the history of their cricket. Having beaten Australia, who at that time were the three-time World Cup champions and had dominated every other team was a big achievement. The week, from 18 June to 25 June, would be remembered as Ashraful’s week. He followed his hundred with a dazzling 94 in Trent Bridge against England. His fifty against Australia culminated in what was a glorious week for Bangladesh. Although they did not qualify for the final, they left England with their heads held high.

Ashraful had found his mojo, scoring Test centuries in 2006, 2007, and 2008. In the 2007 World Cup, Ashraful hit 87 which ensured Bangladesh had another massive upset over South Africa. The 2007 World Cup was the best for Bangladesh as they knocked India out thanks to an emerging young brigade. His Test and ODI form was still not consistent, with big scores here and there keeping the flame burning.

The downfall of Ashraful

The inconsistencies were now becoming too hard to ignore. Shakib Al Hasan, Mushfiqur Rahim, Tamim Iqbal were all emerging and forming a core of the Bangladesh batting. Ashraful was now showing a graph with too few peaks and a lot of troughs. He was dropped for some time but he was recalled in 2013. Once again, Sri Lanka proved to be a happy hunting ground as he smashed 190 in Galle.

For the time being, the comeback promised light at the end of the dark tunnel for Ashraful. But, it proved to be the ultimate false dawn. There were some damaging revelations made in 2013. Ashraful was implicated in the match-fixing trial in the Bangladesh Premier League. The ICC’s Anti-Corruption Unit hauled Ashraful up and he admitted to being guilty.

Ashraful was banned for five years and recently, made a comeback to First-Class cricket. The support that he got from fans indicated his popularity and his contribution to Bangladesh cricket. But, whether one will view as a legend is a debatable situation. Perhaps, a flawed star might be the right way to sum up Ashraful’s career in a nutshell.

Related Post