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Ashraful stays strangely silent

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Mihir Bose | 14:57 UK time, Monday, 1 June 2009

The most intriguing thing at Sunday night's dinner at the Guildhall in London to mark the start of the World Twenty20 was the fact that the Bangladesh captain Mohammad Ashraful did not say a word.

None of the other captains leading teams in the World Cup were tongue-tied. But Ashraful was and what is more at first it looked like a terrible snub to one of the minnows of world cricket.

The captains of all the 12 teams were summoned in groups on the stage to be asked questions by former England captain Nasser Hussain and television presenter Gabby Logan.

Ashraful could not have been in better company in a trio with Australia captain Ricky Ponting and South Africa captain Graeme Smith.

After Ponting and Smith had given their thoughts to Gabby, we waited for Ashraful to be quizzed. Instead she just thanked him for coming and he trooped off the stage.

Mohammad Ashraful

The first thought was that while Australia and South Africa must fancy their chances of lifting the trophy, the Bangladesh captain, whose team cannot be expected to progress very far, was only there to stand and wait on the recognised powers of the game.

But later when I spoke to Gabby I discovered that there was no such snub. It was Ashraful, himself, who told Gabby he did not want to be asked any questions.

He gave no explanation why. I can only assume that in such a glittering company he felt he did not want to speak. That is a pity.

When you lead a team that few consider having a chance that is when you should stand up and assert who you are, not bombastically but in the witty way the Netherlands captain Jeroen Smits did.

Talking about his team, who play England in the opener on Friday, he said the Dutch would not look to defeat the hosts as they might not be invited back again to the headquarters of the game.

Of course Ashraful could not be expected to be as fluent as Paul Collingwood, who in my book gets the prize for the best story of the night.

Asked about his IPL experiences he described how he spoke to his Delhi team-mate Virender Sehwag. He expected grand tactical thoughts from Sehwag about how to play Twenty20. Collingwood was to be very surprised. The secret of Twenty20 cricket, according to Sehwag, was very simple: "Watch ball, hit ball."

Very similar to what old Father Fritz, back in my school days in St Xavier's in Bombay, told Sunil Gavaskar: "A good length ball you block, anything else you bang."

Gavaskar and Sehwag could not be more different in their approach to batting but it is comforting to know that the principles of sub-continental cricket have not changed in nearly half a century.

I suspect if you get more of this sub-continental weather and batting wickets to match then the Sehwag philosophy could become the batting norm of the World Cup.

And what a boost this will be and mark, one hopes, the launch of a glorious cricket season, all the more urgent given how non-existent the cricket summer has been so far.


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  • 1. At 4:16pm on 01 Jun 2009, motherGuus wrote:

    Interesting blog Mihir. Ashraful may just be a shy character off the field or may not have a good grasp of English yet. Looking forward to the t20 World Cup, I think India are rightly favourites. A blend of youth and experience.

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  • 2. At 5:41pm on 01 Jun 2009, ryeagles wrote:

    Ashraful's English is not the best but he does not seem to be the most motivatingg captain, i've supportd bangladesh for all my life and he does have creative flair with the bat which we all await to see but i believe energetic characters such as muhamed rahim and shakibul hassan act as the motivators. I doubt very much that this was a snub and Ashraful perhaps wants to avoid being the centre of attention, anyways let him talk with is flair with the bat

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  • 3. At 8:21pm on 01 Jun 2009, bcklfcpugsy wrote:

    I think Ashraful not speaking is a way of gaining abit of attention for bangladesh but not doing it in the way that others choose. i.e. saying we can beat so and so and we can suprise so and so. I think it's a clever tactic off the pitch and if he's as clever on the field bangladesh might just suprise a few teams. Maybe this is what he intended??

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  • 4. At 9:13pm on 01 Jun 2009, Mani Thangadurai wrote:

    The lad has been under a lot of pressure back home with regard to his performance and his captaincy, with people saying that he isn't fit for the job anymore. In such a situation I'm not sure he would have been in the mood to answer questions of any sort. I actually pity the guy, although it must be said that he is at least partly responsible for his own situation.

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  • 5. At 9:33pm on 01 Jun 2009, boils wrote:

    bcklfcpugsy, I can't agree. He made himself look like a tool but he is too smart for that. I assume either he is shy, shy of his ability in English ot simply obnoxious. Take your pick but I assume it linked to the first 2.

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  • 6. At 9:34pm on 01 Jun 2009, AndyPlowright wrote:

    Mani! Goodness, it's been ages since I saw your name about!

    Ashraful has been under the spotlight. Pressure?!? A guy who isn't even 25 yet takes over the captaincy and over the course of his time in charge has nearly half his team vanish doe to the lure of the ICL. I like that he remained silent. Many critics complain when England players give the usual PR friendly waffle after a defeat. Personally I find it equally as dull listening to the pre-match blah and respecting opponents and all the rest. Ashraful's silence will hopefully be an indicator of doing the speaking on the pitch, and today's game against Australia suggests there could be some fireworks.

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  • 7. At 9:49pm on 01 Jun 2009, Macheda Stole My Hair Gel - English Champions - 07/08/09 wrote:

    I think he's just resigned to being in another tournament where his team have no chance of winning. That must be an unbelievable downer.

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  • 8. At 10:27pm on 01 Jun 2009, pwpiranha wrote:

    Mihir - I don't think you took into account the state of Ashraful's English. Probably just as hit-or-miss as his batting!

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  • 9. At 00:27am on 02 Jun 2009, coffeeandnan wrote:

    "the launch of a glorious cricket season, all the more urgent given how non-existent the cricket summer has been so far."

    I find that comment utterly infuriating. The cricket season started TWO MONTHS ago. The team I follow, Lancashire, have played three four-day games, nine 50-over games and four 20-20 games. As a real cricket fan it has been two happy months of success: Just two defeats, neither of which had any consequences, through to the semi-final of the 50-over competition, top of the 20-20 group and second in the first division of the county championship. It's been great.

    It is a disgrace that the so-called sports editor chooses to ignore county cricket, although it is no surprise.

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  • 10. At 08:30am on 02 Jun 2009, bdbangla wrote:

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the House Rules.

  • 11. At 09:01am on 02 Jun 2009, Mani Thangadurai wrote:

    Ah Andy me old China, I've been around! And great to see you again as well!

    Good point about the ICL, although with Habibul Bashar having given it up it could lead to other players going back into the fold. What seems obvious to me though is that the Bangladeshi team is suffering from some pretty poor treatment from the board, particularly with several key members at some point being accused of being unsympathetic towards the players whenever they have a bad run. That was a major factor in the large scale defections to the ICL. I also think it's fair to say that the players are also losing the enjoyment of playing for the national team. Some of the senior players have also been badly treated, guys like Habibul Bashar, Mohammad Rafique and Khaled Mashud still play to a good standard and are more than capable of playing at International level. It's interesting that when Dav Whatmore was the coach and the team was playing so well at the World Cup there was a lot of positive energy around the team!

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  • 12. At 10:13am on 02 Jun 2009, SJ_CFC wrote:

    I agree India could be strong favourites but my money will still be on England.

    I say England, because they will be more used to the conditions here while a lot of Indian youngsters would be getting the first taste of the English conditions, putting them in a disadvantageous position.

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  • 13. At 10:57am on 02 Jun 2009, PritzC wrote:

    I don't want to count my chickens but its good that the weather is nice and just in time for T20! It would be great for India to retain the trophy this year as they are my team but I got a feeling that it may be South Africa. They played some excellent cricket against Pakistan.

    However my mind may change after I watch India v Pakistan at the Oval on Wednesday!

    How about a India v South Africa final!

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  • 14. At 11:00am on 02 Jun 2009, Malt Loaf wrote:

    Like some previous posters have said, maybe his English isn't great. But even so, would he have contributed anything mindblowing or thought-provoking? Or would it have been the usual "We have come here to win, we will give it our best shot, blah blah blah etc etc etc"? These dinners are usually media waffle anyway, so I can't imagine he had anything interesting to say!!!

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  • 15. At 12:13pm on 02 Jun 2009, Fitzroy Marsupial wrote:

    I'm sure it was the language thing rather than a. rudeness or b. some type of tactical masterstroke. Lack of fluent English has indeed been a bit of a problem for some of the Asian captains. Even though India are my team I always thought it unfair that Inzamam was expected to perform interviews in English - even when playing against another Asian country - where, understandably, he was hesitant and looked pretty unhappy about taking the mic. When speaking in Urdu he would be lucid and intelligent - far more insightful to allow a captain to speak in his native tongue and then hear a translation.

    On the T20, I'm prepared for all your laughter, but I am tipping the Windies. Yes, honestly. They have been in England for a while now and I think that will work for them big time, as will Edwards' potency at the start and end of the innings. They can call upon as many lunatic batsmen as most of the other teams. The last time they were here, again they had a terrible test series but took home the Champions trophy.

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  • 16. At 2:19pm on 02 Jun 2009, AndyPlowright wrote:


    I think the BCCI decision to grant amnesty to those players who played for the ICL is going to spell the end of the ICL. The BCCI deserve credit for shrewd tactics. They've shown the ICL players how much IPL money there is on offer, grown their own brand, and then they extend the carrot of both IPL and international cricket to those ICL players. Now that amnesty has been given, then I hope that means a return to international circles for the like of Shane Bond. The ICL-IPL scrap has not been pretty and the IPL monopoly is most unfair but at least the situation will come to an end and truly great players will be back playing international cricket again.

    On the Bangladeshi team themselves, I think the positive energy is there again. Results have gotten better at ODI level over the last year and the rise of Shakib Al Hasan has been marvellous to watch. The flaws in their cricket are still obvious but I like the way they're going about things.

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  • 17. At 2:56pm on 02 Jun 2009, anil_hanagud wrote:

    I guess Ashraful is too shy to be speaking at a forum like that, and also, lack of fluency in the English language might be one of the reasons for him to not speak. Mihir, I think you should have spoken to Ashraful himself to find out why instead of Gabby.

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  • 18. At 3:07pm on 02 Jun 2009, Mani Thangadurai wrote:

    That might be true Andy, but the fact is that several of the ICL players will have long since missed the boat with regard to national selection. Consider this - most of the Indian ICL players were either on the fringes of the National team or never really being given a chance, so who's to say that their situation will suddenly get better? They might even find it difficult to play first-class cricket straightaway! And mind you, most of the foreign ex-internationals have retired from international cricket and do not fancy a return to their national set-up or even first-class cricket. Pakistan will probably benefit most from all of this since they've been only too happy to welcome their players immediately into the fold.

    On another subject, I've never been a fan of the IPL, as you point out it is a dreadful monopoly, but also to me it's very much an elitist club which will appeal to the cream of the crop and little more. There doesn't seem to be any room at the top for more people to play, only the current or recently retired 'stars' get dibs, and the number of local Indian players who actually benefit is not as high as people will think. While the ICL wasn't perfect, it stayed true to its promise by focusing on the actual cricket and providing a lot more opportunities for talented locals and 'forgotten' players to show their skills, and for me a lot more of the locals could relate to it. The IPL for me is merely a huge melting pot of money, glitz, glamour and entertainment which really only appeals to the higher classes in comparison to the more down-to-earth ICL, and however cutting edge it claims to be it will always be known as the response to its 'illegitimate' sibling.

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  • 19. At 3:39pm on 02 Jun 2009, ChocolateBoxKid wrote:

    Did Mr Bose go to this event in relation to his position as BBC Sports Editor? If so, was it worth it, if the only piece of "news" that was gleened was that the Bangladesh captain is a tad shy?

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  • 20. At 5:53pm on 02 Jun 2009, DrCajetanCoelho wrote:

    Nice blog Mihir da.

    Not much should be read in the Rule of Silence faithfully observed by BD skipper Ashrafulbhai. He must be leaving his bat to do the talking.

    Best wishes to all our cricketers.

    Dr. Cajetan Coelho

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  • 21. At 08:51am on 03 Jun 2009, BANFAN wrote:

    I'm happy that Ashraful decided to remain silent. A few posters like to think that he is shy because his English isn't good enough, are IMO predominantly influenced by colonial legacy.

    This guy is in intl cricket since age 15/16 and have spent quiet long time to shrug of his shyness and understand that english doesn't matter much.

    As a Captain and a tallented cricketer he is definitely doing things tactically important for the team in the tournament to maximize their stake. He isn't dumb, as some people like to think.

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  • 22. At 10:16am on 03 Jun 2009, Joe G wrote:

    I can't see England getting anything out of this to be honest. Out of all the 'major' nations we seem the one who has adapted the least to Twenty20 and we seem to lack the flair to exploit the nuances of the game. Our two best suited players, Pieterson and Flintoff are seemingly always injured or out of form so their undoubted quality fails to have any consistent impact. With those two fit and playing well maybe, but I can't see it so I don't hold out huge hopes.

    I'm surprised if Bangladesh aren't more upbeat about this, Twenty20 is the most even format and gives the best opportunity for an upset. It's borderline impossible for an average side to come through in Test cricket and it's not easy in one day, there are too many opportunities for the opposing team to bowl you out or expose your bowling weakness. But in Twenty20 if the luck is with you you can suddenly find yourself in a commanding position. Winning the tournament may be beyond Bangladesh but putting on a good show, raising their profile seems very possible.

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  • 23. At 01:04am on 04 Jun 2009, Banglacric_freek wrote:

    Mr Mihir bose probably has very short memory. He has forgotten the minnows did ousted India in the last ICC world cup and did beat South Africa. The minnows are trying to build for the future. Sport don't have an official language and a sportsman/woman should not be judged by the fluency in English or another language. Ashraful speaks at least two languages and most of us don't even try anything but English. If Ashraful did say something Mr Bose would probably be quick to comment on that too. I hope it would be a good show on Saturday and rain don't spoil it.

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  • 24. At 5:22pm on 04 Jun 2009, Surrey folks - We lost again wrote:

    A pity that Ashraful didn't want to speak. I can see Bangladesh do very well but I think he's doubting that. Anyway, good as always Mihir. I think you are far the best sports writer.

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  • 25. At 11:07pm on 04 Jun 2009, Banglacric_freek wrote:

    I agree with your analysis. I am not doubting his prediction but feel sorry that Mihir Da feels "pitty" for Ashraful not taking any questions and people jumped on the conclusion that he can't speak 'good English'. It is hard to break into the elite group in any sports and now a days it even harder. It took about 10 years for Sri Lanka to win a test match with the worst possible umpiring decisions to hand them the victory. Those kind of helping hands & fingers lead to neutral umpiring and it has done good for the game of cricket. Mihir Bose I knew in my childhood was commentating in Calcutta Footbal I don't know when & how he became an expert in the game of cricket. But I have full respect for him and I like to see him continue promoting sports in South Asia through BBC.

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  • 26. At 08:11am on 05 Jun 2009, bully_baiter wrote:

    The recent IPL in South Africa demonstrated how the losers last time around can become the finalists this time. Twenty20 is a format that allows many instant transformations during a game especially when a bowler errs slightly, a batsman is pressured into over-risky shots, or fielders move prematurely and lose shape. Much will depend on the quality of the pitches and the weather but it should be an interesting competition with plenty of excitement and atmosphere.

    Watching the India v. Pakistan warm up at the Oval was encouraging - big crowd, great atmosphere, and some good performances even if Pakistan were less competitive than they should be in real competition. Twenty20 is nothing if not entertaining and with Test crowds dwindling this competition will bring much needed revenue to the cricket purses and set the summer up nicely for the Ashes.

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  • 27. At 8:59pm on 08 Jun 2009, Mani Thangadurai wrote:

    All the talk of 'doing the talking on the pitch' has now been proven to be hyperbole with Bangladesh going out. Their defeat against India was a creditable effort with at least a will to compete, but the Ireland match was an absolute shocker.

    Ashraful to be replaced as captain, and Jamie Siddons to be given the boot as well!

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  • 28. At 11:44pm on 21 Jun 2009, Jamie wrote:


    Judging by your comments on F1 and football, I had always presumed they weren't your 'first sports', but had always presumed that you might have a bit more intelligent conversation when it came to cricket. However, having just watched the last in the series of 'Empire of Cricket', I realise that you have nothing but a biased and skewed view on anything. I personally do not think you should be employed using license fee money, - you're biased opinion has no place on the BBC.

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  • 29. At 09:36am on 10 Aug 2009, The-Pottter wrote:

    I personally don't believe it is too much of an issue. As others have pointed out, perhaps he isn't confident speaking in that environment and wanted to let any talking be done whilst he is out on the park. I really don't think there's much to it at all, personally. Sheffield Vacancies

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