Everyone is like a butterfly, they start out ugly and awkward and then morph into beautiful graceful butterfly that everyone love

Drew Barrymore

Rajshahi’s elegant boy

Sabbir Rahman hails from Rajshahi, a district which was once part of Pundra region of ancient Bengal. The origin of Rajshahi’s name is not fully known, but according to many scholars, it takes its name from Hindu Rajas (Kings) as Raj and the persianised Shahi; both of which means Royal or Kingdom. In ancient times, the land of Rajshahi was glorified by the Rajas and Maharajas. Definitely, people hailing from that part of Bangladesh still gives one the glimpses of the Rajas in their life and work style.

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Sabbir, the boy with attractive blue eyes and stylish hair cut, caught everyone’s attention through his blitzkrieg in Twenty20 format. But amid those power-hitting displays, people forgot to notice his stylish drives through cover and backward point. He had the habit of keeping the ball on the ground even in a Twenty20 format, but hardly anyone talked about it. They made him the poster of Bangladesh’s Twenty formats. But his destiny wanted him to unleash the colours of Rajshahi’s ancient Rajas and Maharajas. Cricket was needed to experience his aggressive but graceful stroke-play and the best stage to showcase such would be Test cricket.

Under pressure but not afraid

Sabbir’s selection in the Test team was always debated among the fans and critics. Even though last year at Chittagong against England, he showed great temperament and flair on debut, but somehow, the Raja’s grace waned in the following Test matches. Even in 50-over formats, he was a shadow of himself and the culture of Bangladesh cricket is pretty harsh – they’re habituated to write off anyone, who’s not delivered in one or two matches let alone for more matches. Moreover, there’s less sympathy for a cricketer in Bangladesh from the media, if he is backed by the head coach Chandika Hathurusingha.

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Sabbir’s performance in the first Test was not satisfactory. In the first innings he was out for a duck and wasted a review and in the second, he did not take a review. So, when he came out to bat at 117 for 5, the mood among the Bangladesh fans and critics was not cheerful. Some wanted the blue-eyed boy of Bangladesh media to come out to bat while some wanted to put Chandika under a guillotine for selecting a player who’s not yet fulfilled the expectations. Though, I am not sure, how can a player make everyone happy after playing just seven Tests?

The boy was under pressure, but one could not notice any sort of acute tension or fear in his eyes when he prepared to face the first ball. Just a few moments ago, Shakib walked out for the pavilion cheaply and with half of the batting order sitting in the dressing room, Rajshahi’s golden boy was ready to hog the limelight like a Maharaja.

The graceful display

Ashton Agar dished out a freebie on the pads first half and Sabbir opened his account. The next delivery was on a length and moving quickly towards off. Sabbir went on the back foot and opened up his defence for a square punch. He seemed confident of proving his worth and one could sense it more when he attempted a violent sweep against Nathan Lyon in the 48th over.

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In the third ball of over 50, Lyon, who stranglehold the Bangladesh top order since the morning,  gave a bit of width and Sabbir struck his first boundary and one over later, he charged down the wicket stylishly to disturb the length of Lyon and smashed a six over long on. Australia, for the first time in the first session, decided to go defensive in their approach and manoeuvred the field. Sabbir and Mushfiq rotated the strike.

Just before tea, Steve Smith introduced Pat Cummins, the pacer who was responsible to put chills down the spine of Bangladesh batters and create a platform for Lyon. Against Sabbir, Cummins was fast and deceptive, but Sabbir was not in a rush. He maintained his composure and always went behind the line against Cummins to defend and curbed his instincts to poke outside off by leaving the balls sensibly.

Hilton Cartwright took a meaty blow in the last over tea. His first ball was driven through cover beautifully.

After tea, the Sabbir show continued….    

His footwork was decisive, driving through offside and sweeping on the onside along with pristine timing gave me the impression of why the people of Rajshahi are called the torchbearer of ancient Kings of Bengal. He was attacking but the use of his wrist and superb timing made his stroke-play delightful to watch. One could not notice any misjudgment of line and length while flaying the inside out strokes by dancing down the track and those drives through cover and extra-cover were so eloquent as if the waves of an ocean were cascading down the sandy beach on a moonlit night.

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Each of the graceful strokes helped the crowd to find their voice, each of his strokes helped Bangladesh to travel through a crucial passage of play. He has paid back faith put in him by Chandinka Hathurusingha despite all the criticisms.

Bangladesh ended the day in a commendable fashion and it was all due to the elegant Maharaja of Rajshahi, Sabbir Rahman.

“I am focused now. I absolutely need to show everyone that I’m powerful and strong and can be graceful and artistic, too”.  


Aly Raisman

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