Dubai: Remember Mohammad Ashraful, the supremely talented former Bangladesh captain whose career was cut short by a lengthy ban for match-fixing in Bangladesh Premier League? As cricket’s image as a sport took another serious blow with the news of top all-rounder Shakib Al Hasan’s ban by the world governing ICC, Ashraful sounded quite surprised as to why Shakib failed to report the corrupt approaches as many as three times.
Speaking to Gulf News in an exclusive chat from Bangladesh, Ashraful said: “Though our cases are different, I am surprised that the lessons have not been learnt. It’s really surprising that a player of Shakib’s stature and experience did not adhere to the practice of reporting the incident to the authorities.”
Ashraful, who was hailed as a prodigious batting talent from Bangladesh in the first half of the millennium (he became the youngest Test centurion in 2001), was banned for eight years for his involvement in match-fixing and spot-fixing cases in 2013 edition of the BPL. He was also given a fine of 10 lakh Bangladeshi taka by the BPL’s anti-corruption tribunal in 2014. However, three years of the ban were suspended, and Bangladesh Cricket Board’s disciplinary panel lifted the ban on him last year — making him eligible for selection to the national squad once again.
Now already 35, Ashraful is pragmatic to realise that his past may be behind him, but is giving it his best for a comeback since the national team is currently running short of experience. “Yes, I have lost five valuable years of my career when I was at my peak. However, I am primarily a batsman and have at least another few years of cricket left in me. Only yesterday, I have scored a century for Barisal in our National League as an opener,” he said.
Reverting to his erstwhile teammate Shakib, Ashraful feels the all-rounder should not have any such problems as him in terms of rehabilitation. “Shakib’s ban is effectively for one year — he just needs to be mentally strong and treat it like an injury layoff. He is invaluable to Bangladesh cricket and hence his comeback should not be a problem,” he said.
Brushing aside any conspiracy theory behind the ICC suspension, Ashraful wondered: “He (Shakib) is such a senior player and has been a regular at the franchise leagues all over the world. He knows what such things could lead to, so he should have been more alert.
“I have known him for long and have not come across too many sharp cricketing brains like him. It’s not easy to hold on to your status as a top all-rounder from Bangladesh in all three formats of the game for seven to eight years — so we cannot afford to lose him.”
Meanwhile, Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina felt Shakib “made a mistake” by not reporting the corrupt approaches made to him. “It’s clear that Shakib has made a mistake and he’s realised that,” Hasina was quoted as saying by bdnews24.com. “There’s nothing much the government can do about the ICC’s decision but Bangladesh Cricket Board (BCB) will stand by him.”
Bangladesh’s cricket board has also offered support to the suspended cricketer. “We hope he will come back as a better and wiser cricketer and serve Bangladesh for many more years when his sanction will be over. During the suspension, the BCB will continue to support his efforts at returning to cricket,” BCB President Nazmul Hassan said.