What's the story?
Who can forget that amazing hundred against World Champions Australia in the 2005 Natwest Trophy at Cardiff? Mohammad Ashraful, still an amazing youngster at that time, crafted his knock to perfection and stole the game away from the Kangaroos, crossing the required target of 250 runs with four balls to spare.
However, a career that would have been, did not turn out that way, as the talented player started creating issues by himself. It reached a pinnacle in 2013 when he was caught fixing matches in the Bangladesh Premier League (BPL), which in turn led to a ban from International Cricket for five years.
It is 2018 now, and Ashraful has successfully completed his term. A lot has changed in World cricket and even Bangladesh cricket in the meantime, but the man himself harbors hopes of making a successful comeback to his national squad.
In case you didn't know
The Bangladesh Cricket Board (BCB) started investigations against Ashraful's fixing allegations on May 31, 2013, and based on subsequent findings, suspended the player indefinitely on June 4th the same year. Ashraful admitted to his mistakes the same day, as further hearing was put off for the time being.
The hearing resumed on January 2014, and by June, the suspension was brought down to eight years, out of which one year had already been served. Ashraful then appealed against the decision and was able to bring down the sentence to five years, one year already served. It was also decided that the domestic ban will be lifted a couple of years earlier.
Ashraful's five-year ban officially ends on August 13, 2018. His three-year ban on domestic cricket ended on the same day a couple of years ago, and since then he has featured in competitive events in Bangladesh.
Ashraful is delighted to be making the return, saying he had been waiting for this day for the last five years.
"I have been waiting for August 13, 2018 for a long time now," Ashraful told the media, before adding: "It has been more than five years since the day I admitted my involvement. Although I have played domestic cricket in the last two seasons, there is now nothing preventing me from being eligible for national selection."
"Playing for Bangladesh again will be my greatest achievement."
Ashraful averages 47.63 in 23 List-A games since the ban was lifted. He has, however, not fared much in first-class contests, scoring at just 21.85 per game and a solitary ton across 13 matches. "The first season after my return wasn't great but I did well in the 2017-18 season. I hope to do even better in the coming seasons," he said, upon asked about what he felt his chances were.
"Now I can be considered for selection through my performance. I have already gone through a month-long training programme and after August 15, I will go into pre-season training leading into the upcoming season's National Cricket League," he concluded.
The Bangla side may need the services of an experienced player like Ashraful, especially considering their recent performances, even those against the likes of minnows like Afghanistan, against whom they suffered an ODI whitewash. Though they were able to orchestrate a series win against the Windies last month, their batting issues were exposed quite a number of times, and the returning player could indeed turn out to become a vital cog, though any news on his selection in upcoming events are still unknown.