Wednesday, 19 March 2008

Ashraful answers with the bat

The timing could not have been better for Bangladesh captain Mohammad Ashraful to return to form with a composed half-century against Ireland on Tuesday.
Ashraful was at the receiving end not just for his poor form and failure to lead the team from the front, but also for his off-the-field behaviour.
The Bangladesh captain did not just issue a public apology for his inexplicable behaviour he also invited his victim to the Bangladesh dressing room after practice on Monday to apologise in person.
Yet, that was not enough. Now the call was for him to respond with the bat and Ashraful readily obliged with an unbeaten 64 off 90 balls, guiding Bangladesh to an eight-wicket victory against the visitors.
It was just not an ordinary half-century for him against an associate member of the ICC, rather a symbol of application, patience and hunger for win. The middle-order batsman did not allow the Irish bowlers to create any kind of pressure on Bangladesh at any stage as he shared a match-winning 130-run stand with Shahriar Nafees.
Ashraful had every reason to feel hurt as some of the criticism directed at him went beyond the line and often he hardly got any respect he deserved for his past contributions from the critics.
His emotion was evident when he reluctantly raised his bat after reaching his fifty and also did not appear at the post-match press conference which was otherwise customary for captains.
I had no problem to face the press. Today I did not come initially because I was not told, Ashraful said later when he joined the press-conference with vice-captain Mashrafee bin Murtaza and coach Jamie Siddons belatedly.
Unlike a wining captain Ashraful looked gloomy and a pale shadow of his usual self. It was his first one-day victory as Bangladesh captain and also his first half-century at home in nearly two years (he last scored a fifty on home soil in February 2006 against Sri Lanka).
I did not feel any pressure on the field. Pressure was there definitely. But I never allowed it to suppress on me.
The bowlers did a good job for us. And then we had a good partnership with me and Shahriar. It released all the pressure, added Ashraful.
The plan was to stay at the crease. We knew that if could occupy the crease then the runs would come. There was nothing to be worried about, said Ashraful, who uncharacteristically took 13 balls to score his first run in the game.
I was just waiting for a loose ball. As long as I did not get it, I was not willing to offer any shot. Maybe it is the only reason for me to take time to get off the mark, he said.

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