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     Volume 6 Issue 24 | June 22, 2007 |

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Ashraful Comes Full Circle

Nader Rahman

Bangladesh cricket entered a new era as Mohammad Ashraful was made captain of both the test and ODI teams for their tour to Sri Lanka and with it they officially moved on from their most successful captain and coach combination of Habibul Bashar and Dav Whatmore. It must be said these are uncertain times as the calm of Bashar is replaced with the inventive audacity of Ashraful but while he may only be 23, as the saying goes he is an old head on young shoulders. Captaincy is not new to him as he recently took charge of Sonargaon in the premier league and led them with a fair deal of success. On top of that he has set his benchmark quite high by saying that he would like to emulate Steve Waugh and Stephen Fleming, “I like their captaincy because of their aggressiveness. I think there are a lot of things I have to learn as a skipper and I believe I will get support from my team mates and the former cricketers. I proved myself as a captain slightly in the domestic circuit but I am aware that it is a different task for me at the international level” he said.

On his first foray into international cricket he will not be guided by the ever-reliable Dav Whatmore, who ended his four year stint with Bangladesh after the tour by India, but by the highly successful under-19 team coach, yet another Australian by the name of Shaun Williams. While Shaun Williams is the short term replacement for tour to Sri Lanka, Whatmore's long term replacement will be decided after the tour, with many a high profile name in mind. Along with Ashraful as captain the board also appointed a new vice-captain and that went unsurprisingly to the ever reliable soon to be all rounder Mashrafee Mortaza.

With the team under new management the odd man out is Habibul Bashar, as the deposed captain he now has to hold down his place in the team as a specialist batsman and with his poor run of form a failure on this tour could essentially end his career. The odds are against him as a young team has been picked yet again and there are a few people waiting in the wings to grab any opportunity that comes their way. Along with Bashar, Khaled Mashud is also under a bit of pressure as Mushfiqur Rahim has been picked for the test team after permanently taking his mentor's position in the shorter version of the game. The addition of Rahim to test squad is an interesting decision because it not only keeps the pressure on Mashud but even Bashar will be looking over his shoulder because any failure would open the door for Rahim, who has already played test cricket as a specialist batsmen. As is the case in work cricket anyone over 30 is now considered old and replacing them with a youngster seems to be the way of the future.

The squad for the test series also has some new additions to the fold, the first most interesting choice is that of Mehrab Hossain Jnr instead of Tushar Imran. While Imran was selected for India's recent tour to Bangladesh, he did not feature in the tests as Shakib Al Hassan made an impressive debut. The major inclusion was that of the consistently impressive Abdur Razzak, as he was deservedly given his chance in the test team to partner the ageing warhorse Mohammad Rafique. While he is included in the squad Enamul Haque Jnr misses out after a less than impressive showing against India. After reaching 9th in the ODI world rankings this is his reward for consistent performances over the past year. The team also includes Mohammad Sharif whose domestic performances have been so impressive over the last two seasons that he could not have been left out.

All in all the team to Sri Lanka is well balanced with only three players over 30 with the youngsters out numbering them four to one. With a new young captain this team could be on its way up, as long as the exuberance of youth is tempered with common sense and good judgement. This first assignment for Ashraful will not be an easy one and in a way he has come full circle. Six years ago he made a hundred on debut against Sri Lanka, in Sri Lanka at the tender age of 17. After a start stop career full of ups and downs he returns to the country that gave him his audacious start. Only this time he returns with over a hundred ODI's and 35 tests behind him, along with the small title of captain.


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