Young, but promising. Enthusiastic, but always kept his feet on the ground. Steady, resolved and blessed with willpower. It was an eventful debut for Javed Omar.
The winter of 2000 ended with a lot of joy and enthusiasm for Bangladesh. The first four days of Bangladesh’s inaugural Test match against India at Bangabandhu National Stadium would remain as the talk of the town till the end of that year. While passing by a small cafeteria or tea stall, the words Aminul Islam, Habibul Bashar, Naimur Rahman or Mohammad Rafique would enter your ears by dissecting the evening fog which engulfed Dhaka in those days.
It’s always a nice feeling when you hear people talking more about the local cricketers and not foreign ones. The mentality of Bangladesh’s cricket fraternity was changing gradually. T was time to talk about their own players. Cricket would remain just another sport in Bangladesh.
But still, the young Test nation had a long way to go. According to many critics, it was early for Bangladesh to receive the coveted Test status. The performance in the inaugural Test match did help the Tigers to shut the mouth of critics, but in the upcoming days, things only got worse for Bangladesh. Even though, amid the heavy defeats, there were flashes of individual brilliance, which gave hope for a better future.
Bangladesh’s first tour to abroad was in Zimbabwe in April, 2001. The month of April, 2001 was eventful: Seven people were killed in a bomb blast at a Bengali New Year concert in Dhaka. 1 Indian and 3 Bangladeshi soldiers killed in their worst border clashes and the High Court confirmed death sentences on 12 ex-army officers for killing Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. Only four were in custody. Especially, the bomb blast at Ramna Botomul during Pohela Boishak rocked the nation. It triggered a shock wave around the nation and left everyone stunned as Bangladesh were experiencing such an incident for the first time.
The Tigers left the country with the motive to prove a point in Zimbabwe and make the tragic incident at Ramna Botomul to work as a motivating factor or them.
Zimbabwe in 2001 was a very competent Test side. They used to give testing times even the best in the business at their own backyard. The likes of Flower brothers, Heath Streak, Stuart Carlisle and Alastair Campbell made Zimbabwe a team to watch. In terms of experience and skill, they were way ahead of visitors.
The first Test match was at Queens Sports Club at Bulawayo. The home team prepared a greenish pitch as John Ward’s match report quoted, “a pitch containing an unusual amount of grass for this venue”. Streak won the toss and invited the visitors to bat on a seaming-friendly track.
Blignaut ended the stay of Mehrab Hossain and Habibul Bashar and 30 for 2 scoreline in the 14th over did not surprise anyone. It was evident, but what was not expected, the resolve and technical expertise from a young man named Javed Omar, who was making his debut at that time.
With the sun shining brightly above, scripting a sultry weather and the track doing a lot, steadiness and exhibition of character were required. Javed forgot about what was happening all around him. Neither the hot and humid weather, nor the ecstasy of the home team could overcast his will to perform. He knew, he had is imitations, but he was not in short of self-confidence.
Rock solid defence had always been an asset for Javed. He was one of those nuggety characters who would make the opposition grind with his tendency to occupy the crease. Of course, he would not just waste his stay at the crease, but as soon as he discovered his groove, he would flay some eye-catching strokes on both sides of the wicket.
Streak and Blignaut were tough to handle and when Watambwa came on to bowl, he was faster than his predecessors. But Javed remained unfazed by the hostility. Rather, he was pretty competent while getting behind the line of the ball better and never let the loose deliveries go wasted as they were smacked for fours.
Along with Aminul Islam, Javed weathered the storm well and went for lunch with no further damage. After lunch, he slashed Streak and Blignaut over the slip cordon for four. Then they were hit through backward point by getting on the back foot like an experienced campaigner and well, one needs to accolade him for his timing through the offside field.
Javed fell after scoring 62 runs with nine fours and stitching an 84-run stand for the third wicket with Aminul Islam. It helped to arrest a collapse, but all the good works were wasted as the visitors lost wickets cheaply at the fag end of Day 1.
In the second innings, while trailing by 200 runs, Javed raised above the rest when Streak, Blignaut and Matambwa set jitters I Bangladesh batting lineup. The Bangladesh middle-order batsmen lost their vim after toiling hard under the hot sun and simply failed to focus on what was happening in the middle. But the young Javed would not give up so easily.
He would spend 277 minutes at the crease and face 68 balls to essay an innings of 85 runs. While the rest of the team would add just 83 runs and digest an innings defeat.
Javed’s knock in the second innings was much more fluent than the first. Especially, his foot movement. It was synchronous along with his bat-swing. If he executed a shot through the covers, the toe end would face towards that area along with the bat and if anything pitched short, he would get very well on the back to achieve enough time to use the middle portion of the willow to flay the ground shots.
Well, not a bad show from a young player who was playing his first Test. Also, not a bad lesson from a debutante who taught others about how to exhibit character on foreign soil.