Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Hidden gems - Mhd. 'the Pocket Rocket' Ashraful

in a cricket calendar choc-a-bloc with matches from around the world being beamed down to every cricket channel - sometimes, even non-cricket channels like sab tv, which is where we caught ourselves breathlessly taking in the magic of ashraful today - it's virtually impossible to watch everything that's worthwhile. and that's why you need people endowed with special skills that enable them to know exactly when something out of the ordinary is taking place and catch it. people like, who else, but yours truly. today was one such day.

fresh-eyed and hungry we awoke ourselves from a fitful slumber readier than an eager beaver to accompany india doing battle in the boxing day test against australia. but when ponting won the toss and elected to bat, our face fell. (or should that be our 'faces' fell? oh well, never mind.) and then, the first session began to pan out in a manner depressingly familiar to every seamer recently tested against the aussies. in next to no time the openers, hayden and jacques, had raced off to a solid start and things were looking far from good for india. in other words, business as usual for yet another pretender looking to challenge the hegemony of the mighty aussies.

luckily for people like us evolved enough not to pander to our partisan sides, we had no qualms turning our attention away from the unfolding carnage at the mcg and to the dazzling fireworks' display at eden park, auckland from the captain of the bangladeshi green hornets, mhd. 'the pocket rocket' ashraful.

if you yearn to see the kind of strokes that only the great arvinda d'silva in his heyday could play with unrivaled panache and some regularity, all you need to do is tune in to the pyrotechnics of ashraful. yes, we know. high praise, indeed, for someone so young and so raw. and that's why, that said, here comes the downer. ashraful is certainly no arvinda d'silva. and bangladesh not a patch on sri lanka. but, they're both getting there. or, at least, have shown that they have what it takes to swim with the sharks. for now though, neither of them has demonstrated the ability to go the distance.

what we're seeing of bangladesh in recent times is similar to what we used to see from the players of the island formerly known as serendib when they were the minnows of international cricket. time and again, the lankans of the 70s and 80s fed the world with many little morsels of delicious brilliance that rarely, if ever, added up to a balanced, fully-satisfying meal. instead what we got were many sporadic performances of ephemeral brilliance that flattered to deceive. it took the emerald islanders close to 25 years to perform as equals.

fortunately, and on the basis of some stunning bangladeshi performances in 2007, we're quite certain that it won't take the 'green hornets' that long. in fact, much less.

we think it will take around 10 years for bangladesh to graduate into the big league and become one of the top 5 teams in world cricket. but for them to come close to achieving that, they'll need kids like ashraful, tamim iqbal, aftab and mashrafe to go on and play the nurturing role that the likes of arjuna ranatunga, arvinda d'silva, jayasuria and vaas did for sri lanka in the 90s.

cameos studded with deft placements, cheeky singles, outrageous paddles and pulls, sparkling cuts and which add up to little more than 70-run blitzes of the kind we saw ashraful rattle the black caps with today will not do the trick. all they'll do is leave us hankering for more. much, much more. and their fans hoping that a time will come when the sting of the green hornets will leave their victims with more than just a mild allergy.

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