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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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