Thursday, Oct 02, 2014

Mohammad Ashraful: Prodigy turned prodigal

Of Ashraful's six Test centuries, the last one was 190 versus Sri Lanka, at Galle, in March 2013.He batted for nearly 500 minutes and faced 417 balls. It seemed he had developed patience and figured the art of batting for long periods. (File)  Of Ashraful's six Test centuries, the last one was 190 versus Sri Lanka, at Galle, in March 2013.He batted for nearly 500 minutes and faced 417 balls. It seemed he had developed patience and figured the art of batting for long periods. (File)
Written by Nihal Koshie | Dhaka | Posted: March 30, 2014 2:47 am | Updated: March 30, 2014 5:32 pm

Nihal Koshie tracks down Mohammad Ashraful running a Chinese eatery, as the poster-boy of Bangladesh cricket picks up the pieces of a career that went rogue as he slipped down the slopes of match-fixing

Rankin Street in Old Dhaka is not the easiest to locate for an outsider and even more daunting if you don’t speak the local language. It is one among a series of inter-connected alleys, one not too dissimilar from its parallel next. If you can’t read Bengali, the signboards are pretty much useless. You can get lost and giddy in this maze of poorly-lit alleyways.

The address looks fairly simple: Schezwan Garden, 1/1, Rankin Street, Wari. Should be easy to spot, given the  snail’s pace at which you move through evening traffic from Mirpur to Dhaka to reach the periphery of the Bangabandhu Stadium. Or so you believe. The address is lost in pronunciation.

A man on the street, another at the tea stall and the entire pack of rickshawalas can’t pick up my accent. I fail to understand theirs and none of the directions they try to give me as their patience begins to wear thin.

I call the owner of the Chinese restaurant. The appointment’s for 6:30 pm, it’s already 7, and there is an overwhelming sense of being lost. “Don’t go by the address. Just tell a Bangladesh person you want to go to the Ashraful restaurant,” the voice on the line says.

The man on the scooter, scowling a few minutes ago, breaks into a smile. “Ashraful restaurant? Why didn’t you tell me earlier? I will take you there,” he offers congenially, pointing to his two-wheeler.

Schezwan Garden seems a popular joint. Business is just picking up on a Monday evening. The flat television on the first floor is beaming images of the toss before the World T20 match between Sri Lanka and The Netherlands. Mohammad Ashraful is on a couch in one dimly lit corner with one eye on the game while talking on the phone.

Since being asked by the Bangladesh Cricket Board ‘to stay away from any form of cricket’ after admitting to alleged ‘match-fixing and spot-fixing’ in the second edition of the Bangladesh Premier League, Ashraful is at this restaurant every other evening. He trains four times a week in Gulshan, is part of a morning radio show and appears on a panel of experts for television on the eve of Bangladesh games.

“I keep myself busy these continued…

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