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All was doom and gloom

The result of third One-day International (ODI) was a foregone conclusion. Bangladesh failed to break the jinx in New Zealand and digested a whitewash in a bilateral ODI series yet again. Ten years ago, such a result could have been digested easily, but right now, Bangladesh are expected to put up a fighting display and win matches. Keeping in mind the improvement of Tigers, such an expectation is not like building castles in dreams.

Sadly, the outcome of the 3-match ODI series had been a repeat of previous ones. Amid the frustrating displays from the Bangladesh batsmen and bowlers, there had been few positives to watch out for.

Mohammad Mithun’s composure at number 6 has given Bangladesh think tank a new ray of hope, while the return of Sabbir Rahman back to form has not only been encouraging, but this series could be regarded as one of his career-saving ones.

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For the last couple of years, Sabbir created a lot of noise off the field. His disciplinary issues hampered his progress to a greater extent. Last year, his inappropriate behaviour with two fans on social media triggered a massive controversy, which prompted Bangladesh Cricket Board Officials to take strong against him. The incident happened while he is serving a punishment for physically assaulting a child during a first-class game in December 2017. Again, he had been in trouble over disciplinary reason in past also, with the BCB fining him in 2016 for “serious off-field disciplinary breaches” during a domestic Twenty20 League.

Also read: Keep the faith in Soumya and Sabbir

Meanwhile, Sabbir’s form was quite poor as well. His bat was not talking and then, such inappropriate off-the-field-behaviours had put him in the hot soup. He was axed from the ODI squad during last year’s Asia Cup in the Middle East, stripped off from a central contract and then handed a six-month ban from international cricket, which meant he would miss the home series against Zimbabwe, West Indies and upcoming New Zealand tour.

Sabbir’s cricketing future looked bleak and it was pretty frustrating to see the woeful state of such a talented cricketer. Not so long ago Sabbir was the heartthrob of Bangladesh, but so quickly his star status had taken a severe blow. In such a competitive era, it is also very difficult to fight back and cement a place in the team. That smiling boy with charming eyes like a kitten blessed with the ability to time the ball better than any of his colleagues seemed to face the fate of previous talented customers in Bangladesh cricket, who faded all of a sudden.

Sabbir’s presence could be felt in the domestic arena of Bangladesh, but by then, Bangladesh started to forget him and move on.

But there is always a second chance…….  

There is always a second chance in life and for which, a slice of luck is needed. Bangladesh announced the ODI and Test squad for New Zealand tour, where Sabbir’s name was seen. It came as a surprise to many as Sabbir was serving a ban. According to various reports, his selection was part of a miscommunication between the chief selector Minhajul Abedin, captain Mashrafe Bin Mortaza and Bangladesh Cricket Board’s Boss Nazmul Hassan.

“This is his last chance. If he does the same thing again, he will get a life ban. I felt that maybe he would have done better had he taken more time to return. Now it is very risky for him. A small mistake can destroy his career,” said Nazmul Hassan while speaking to reporters about Sabbir on Januray 29, 2019.

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The pressure on the young man was immense, but when pressure helps a cricketer to deliver the best, one has to realise about his tough temperament. Pressure did not melt Sabbir, but it acted as a catalyst to rediscover his mojo. He got the opportunity to play in ODI series against New Zealand as Mashrafe wanted someone to score quickly at number seven and in Sabbir he witnessed such qualities.

Mash said, “I want a 15-ball 25 or a 20-ball 35 from my No 7. Imagine who he will be facing at the World Cup – Starc, Cummins, Bumrah, Shami, Bhuvneshwar, Rabada, Steyn, Woakes, Stokes, Boult, Southee, Hasan Ali or Amir. Give me one batsman who can play shots with power or improvise against these bowlers. I think Sabbir has the ability.”

Sabbir repays the faith……

In the first ODI at Napier Sabbir fired blanks and in the second he gave evidence of coming back to form. While in third, it was time to enjoy the class of this boy from Rajshahi. Bangladesh were reeling at 40 for 4 in response to New Zealand’s 330 for 6 in 50 overs. A heavy defeat was on the cards, but Sabbir decided to hit-back rather than getting peppered by the rampant pace attack of New Zealand.

The kitten-eyes were focused – watched every ball closely from release point, the feet moved well with initial-triggered movement on the back foot, body went behind the line of the ball quickly, the wrists seemed wrapped with silk and that pristine timing was back. Even when he attacked, it was cultured enough rather than a blind-whack, which indicated, how hard he worked to improve his game while being in the wilderness.  Most importantly, he showed the temperament to stay at the crease and put a price tag on his wicket. Certainly, the Rajshahi-lad is not going to give up easily but is determined to answer his critics in style.

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As soon as he reached his hundred, he celebrated with a “bat-does-the-talking” gesture, which was understandable from a lad, who has gone through so much over the past few years. Some of his critics did not like it and even they are pretty reluctant to recognize the class of Sabbir after this hundred. Such a hundred from a lad, whose career was on the line, deserves encouragement and not an underestimation.

Also read: Sabbir Rahman: A classic knock from Rajshahi’s elegant boy

That’s where the problem lies in Bangladesh. The so-called celebrated experts and critics are obsessed with personal favourites and if they don’t like someone, they try their level best to drag him down no matter how talented he is! Sabbir has his faults, but one must also think, did he receive enough support to rectify himself from these critics, who are always after his head? Did these critics ever try to understand; Sabbir is sort of a flawed genius and needs to be handled carefully?

Such critics never understood what Shakib Al Hasan is and always tried to drag him down and even they don’t have the eye to recognize Sabbir’s class as because these critics are biased.

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Thankfully, someone like Mashrafe was there to recognise Sabbir’s true value.

“I am thankful to Mashrafe bhai and to every single individual who had supported me through thick and thin. Their moral support was extremely helpful during the past. I dedicate my century to my father and mother as they were beside me all through when I was passing through some torrid time due to all the things that had happened during the last couple of months,” he said after the match.

Let Sabbir’s bat talk more…..

The back-to-back satisfactory performances should not fade like the early morning mist, but Sabbir should maintain his consistency to help Bangladesh cricket move forward. He must understand about the talent he has been gifted by God and thus learn to manage it accordingly rather than falling to traps set by his critics. The focus should remain only improving more and nothing else.

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