In the lead-up to the 2019 World Cup, we take a look back on World Cups past through the eyes of Bangladesh’s former World Cup stars. Undoubtedly one of the most talented cricketers to have emerged in Bangladesh’s cricket history, Mohammad Ashraful has singlehandedly led Bangladesh to numerous victories. Ashraful, who captained Bangladesh in all three formats of the game -- Tests, ODIs and T20Is -- has also had many impactful performances in the three World Cups -- in the 2003, 2007 and 2011 editions -- he featured in for the Tigers. The 34-year old might have been amongst the senior members playing in this edition of the World Cup had he not been involved in spot fixing controversies that saw him receive an eight-year ban from international cricket in 2014. In an interview with The Daily Star’s Nabid Yeasin, Ashraful shared some of his World Cup memories and more.
The Daily Star (TDS): What is the difference between playing in a World Cup and any other series or tournament?
Mohammad Ashraful (MA): The World Cup is different as it can turn a regular player into a star. Unlike a normal series or any other tournament, a player gets more recognition and also gets an individual identity in the world of cricket by doing well in a World Cup. During a World Cup, everyone wants to know which players are doing well and which are not. That’s why it’s a great opportunity for any player.
TDS: You put in a lot of good performances in the World Cup. How did you feel after such performances, especially after that 87-run knock against South Africa in 2007?
MA: We played very poorly in my first World Cup as we lost against everyone, including teams like Canada and Kenya. I scored a fifty in that tournament against New Zealand and it was the first fifty of my career.
Then again, till now, result wise we consider the 2015 World Cup as our most successful campaign as we reached the quarterfinals that time. However, according to me, the 2007 World Cup was the most successful. This is because although we won three matches in the 2007, 2011 and 2015 World Cups, in 2007 we defeated two big teams in India and South Africa. At the time, South Africa was no. 1 in rankings. Although reaching the quarterfinal in 2015 was a big achievement, if we consider team performances then I think the 2007 World Cup was the best one.
Defeating South Africa was a special feeling since we could not play well in the first two games against New Zealand and Australia after we had reached the second round. So after we scored 249 against South Africa and our bowling and fielding won us the game…it was a great feeling to have done that. There were many who questioned our achievement, saying that we should not have qualified for the second round but after we defeated South Africa, we proved that we qualified because we deserved it.
TDS: Any other memorable experiences in the World Cup?
MA: During our first game in the tournament, I don’t know why but India’s coach at that time, Greg Chappell, came to me before the match when we were shaking hands and told me ‘all the best for this World Cup’. That was like a different kind of motivation for me at the time. And by the grace of the Almighty, I remained unbeaten in the first three games of the first round. I scored an unbeaten seven against India after coming in to bat at number seven. Then in the next game against Sri Lanka I scored an unbeaten 44 after coming in to bat at six. In the following match against Bermuda I remained unbeaten on 29. So I remained unbeaten in the first three games and then again in the Super Eight stage. I was named the player-of-the-match for scoring 87 runs against South Africa. So in total I won the player-of-the match award twice -- against Bermuda and South Africa -- in that World Cup and it felt great.
TDS: What are your views on the current World Cup squad and Bangladesh’s chances this time around?
MA: It is an amazing squad but it would be very good if a few players were totally fit as it would have filled in our lackings. Then again, the ones who were picked were almost automatic choices. Everyone dreams to see Bangladesh play in the semifinal or final after the last World Cup but the format is different as every team will play against each other so there are no weaker teams this time. In the last three World Cups there were two or three weaker teams grouped with Bangladesh. In 2007, Bermuda was a weaker team in our group. In 2011 we got two weaker teams in Ireland and Scotland and in 2015 we had Afghanistan and Scotland. But this time there are no weaker teams. Even Afghanistan’s recent performances make them a team who are on the same level as us. So this World Cup will be a big challenge for us and if we are to emulate our last three World Cup performances then we need to play very well.