Why the current Australia cricket team is better than others in one-day international? Geoffrey Boycott had an answer ready. During the World Cup final in 2015 at Melbourne Cricket Ground press box Boycott told a group of Bangladeshi journalists, Australia had a batsman called Glen Maxwell, who comes at six or seven and can destroy attack in very quick time.
The question immediately popped-up up in everyone’s mind do Bangladesh has a similar cricketer? It was not very easy to find an answer. Sabbir Rahman has the potential, so do few other cricketers have. To become Bangladesh’s Maxwell, Sabbir needed to do something very special. He did it indeed in very first opportunity after the World Cup.
A hundred in a warm-up match may not be regarded very highly. But still it came against a side that always enjoyed a psychological advantage against Bangladesh. Since gaining Test status in 2000, Bangladesh could never beat Pakistan in any format until April last year. Not even in a warm-up match. There were several near misses. Even a record score of 326 runs was not enough. Pakistan somehow managed to escape with a win.
So, Sabbir’s 123 off 99 balls in the warm-up game at Fatullah was much-needed an effort for Bangladesh. Bangladesh won the game but by one–wicket and went on to win every limited over games later in the series. The seven fours and eight sixes Sabbir struck in the innings they came as a body blow for Pakistani bowlers. Ask Saeed Ajmal, he would perhaps admit that this was the beginning of his end.
Tamim Iqbal and Soumya Sarkar stole the show in the series, so Sabbir was not required to do much. Once the duo failed in the only Twenty20 international of the series Sabbir delivered immediately. He struck an unbeaten 52 off 32 balls in a man-of-the-match performance to earn Bangladesh’s maiden Twenty20 victory over Pakistan.
Anyone familiar with Bangladesh cricket was not surprised at all. Sabbir showcased his talent way back in 2010 when he hit three late sixes to stay unbeaten on 33 off 18 balls and help Bangladesh beat Afghanistan and win their first ever Asian Games gold medal in Guangzhou.
He was barely a teenager then. It took him several years to join mainstream cricket. But once he got an opportunity he never really looked back. In one-day cricket his position is one similar with Maxwell. But a team like Bangladesh cannot afford to send a talent like him so late in the batting-order.
Coach Chandika Hathurusinghe decided to send him in one-down in Twenty20 internationals. It was not a very easy decision as Shakib Al Hasan was also a candidate for the position. In most of the Twenty20 leagues around the world Shakib is the face of Bangladesh. He also got some success batting in one down for Bangladesh in Twenty20. His all five half-centuries in Twenty20 internationals came batting at down position.
But Hathurusinghe and captain Mashrafe Mortaza wanted Shakib to bat down the order because Bangladesh needed some experience at six or seven. Sabbir was promoted at one-down and he grabbed the opportunity with both hands. His 80 off 54 balls against Sri Lanka on Sunday was one fine example of counter-attack that set up Bangladesh’s maiden Twenty20 win over reigning world champions Sri Lanka.
He came to the crease only in third ball of the innings, lost his partner Soumya soon in the next over and then decided to launch the counter-attack to get momentum back to Bangladesh’s way.
“I went to wicket trying to use the power play. We were a bit on the back foot when I went to bat,” Sabbir said after the match. “I tried to get myself into the match straight away. I tried to play differently and opted to attack despite being on the back foot.
“The moment I struck the first four in that over I knew it was my day as it was my releasing shot. Every player need that shot while making some substantial contribution.”
One of the Sabbir’s weaknesses is his inability to rotate the strike too frequently. But in this innings he did not require that. Shakib, his partner in 82-run fourth wicket stand was happy to allow him take the strike. He was timing it so sweetly that even Shakib watched his shots in awe.
As a man Sabbir has a volatile personality. He carried his volatility now in his bat and Bangladesh started reaping benefits.
It would have been an irony if Bangladesh had lost the game. Shakib with the bat ensured they did not. His two vital wickets and the catch of Angelo Mathews kept the party on and gave Bangladesh a shot in the arm for place in March 6 final.