For more than a decade,he had remained the embodiment of inconsistency,his career littered with sparks of brilliance in between spells of abysmal form. But in March,when Mohammad Ashraful scored a dramatic 190 against Sri Lanka at Galle,he seemed to have discovered the virtues of patience and fortitude. It was by far his longest innings,spanning 417 deliveries and over eight hours at the crease,and helped Bangladesh take the first innings lead after conceding 570 to the hosts. It was hailed as the return of a fallen hero. Bangladesh cricket’s prodigal son had finally matured into a dependable lynchpin.
On Tuesday,just three months later,Ashraful addressed the local media at his house in Dhaka,looking like an errant child owning up to a grave misdemeanour as he apologised on national television to all his fans and a country that thought the world of him.
Earlier that day,the 28-year-old had been suspended from all levels of cricket by the Bangladesh Cricket Board (BCB) for his alleged involvement in match fixing during the last edition of the Bangladesh Premier League (BPL). According to BCB officials,he had confessed to the ACSU about fixing matches while representing Dhaka Gladiators in the T20 tournament.
I apologise to the entire nation,to all my fans and friends. I am guilty about everything. I have disappointed my fans. This was the first time in my career that the ICC anti-corruption unit called on me. I did some bad things and I admitted to doing them. I am trying to help them for the sake of cricket, he told reporters.
In many ways,the baby-faced right-hander was Bangladesh cricket’s first ever superstar. Touted to be a potential great from the first time he picked up a bat,he showed his prodigious talent even as a ball-boy during one of the senior team’s practice sessions in the mid-nineties.
He burst onto the scene,all of 17,scoring a century on debut against a Sri Lankan attack that included Muttiah Muralitharan and Chaminda Vaas in 2000. He still remains the youngest batsman to have scored a Test ton. Affable and easy-going off the field and a treat to watch on it whenever he had his mojo,Ashraful was the darling of Bangladesh cricket fans and enjoyed Tendulkar-like demigod status back home.
And despite his frustrating troughs of form,the enigmatic Ashraful played the lead role in a number of Bangladesh’s memorable moments in international cricket,most strikingly the century he scored off Glenn McGrath and Jason Gillespie while leading Bangladesh to the unlikeliest of ODI wins over a full-strength Australia at Cardiff in 2005. And the 87 off 83 balls to record an upset win over South Africa in the 2007 World Cup at Guyana. At 22,Ashraful was Bangladesh captain .
His overall form with the bat though remained capricious as ever. Bangladesh soon discovered other heroes in Shakib Al Hasan,Mashrafe Mortaza and Tamim Iqbal,and Ashraful was no longer the solitary poster-boy. He now had company when it came to adorning billboards and featuring in television commercials. Young cricketers in the budding Test nation now had other idols.
Ashraful was replaced as captain and soon lost his place in the team. He couldn’t even hold onto his central contract,and his appearances for Bangladesh became intermittent. There were flashes of brilliance every time he earned a recall but consistency remained as elusive as ever.
He might have been a serial offender in terms of not making the most of his talent,but that Ashraful would compromise his integrity for a few bucks is a revelation that has left the whole country in shock. Those close to him still can’t believe it and claim that his inherent affability might have cost him dear as it made him an easy target for even dubious subjects.
Just three months ago,Ashraful’s fans were rejoicing in his second coming as he guided his team to record-breaking feats against Sri Lanka. That is before Bangladesh cricket’s Peter Pan went rogue,abruptly pulling the curtains on a career that had begun with great promise.
The matches in question
The ACSU are investigating Mohammad Ashrafuls alleged role in fixing two Bangladesh Premier League matches. A look at the Dhaka Gladiator skippers performance.
Chittagong,February 2 (Dhaka vs Chittagong Kings): Chasing 143 to win,Dhaka only manage 88 for eight. Ashraful top-scores with 33,taking 48 balls to score his runs,with one four and one six. He is also involved in a mix-up that results in Darren Stevens run out.
Mirpur,February 12 (Dhaka vs Barisal Burners): Dhaka bat first. Ashraful opens the innings and scores 20 off 31 balls,with one four,before he is run out. Ashraful also plays a part in Shakib Al Hasans run out,calling him for a single before sending him back. Dhaka are out for 114,and lose by seven wickets.