By Azad Majumder
One big quality of Mohammad Saifuddin is his ability to bowl yorker in death overs. But this is not the only thing that made him a rare talent in Bangladesh cricket.
He is someone who can bowl medium pace and bat down the order, a kinda player that Bangladesh had been looking for years. Since the retirement of Khaled Mahmud, who could bowl in the range of 120km to 125km speed apart from being a useful lower order batsman, Bangladesh did not have a regular pace bowling all-rounder in their squad.
Cricket has changed a lot since Mahmud played his last one-day international against Sri Lanka in 2006 with Twenty20 format gaining popularity rapidly. Teams now require more than one multi-skilled player to meet the demand of Twenty20 era.
One of the few reasons for Bangladesh being so unsuccessful in this format is the absence these many multi-skilled players in their rank and file. They have a genuine all-rounder in Shakib Al Hasan. Mahmudullah also can bowl few overs if needed. But their spin bowling is not effective in all conditions. So, they were looking for a pace bowling all-rounder who can bowl 10 or four overs and at the same time give their batting some depth.
Selectors in recent past considered Farhad Reza, Ziaur Rahman and Abul Hasan for a similar role but their performance was limited to mediocrity, to say the least. They were inconsistent with the bat and a lack of bite in their bowling did not help earn a regular spot.
Therefore, when Saifuddin was called-up in the national team in February in did not make too many people very enthusiastic about him. National team coach Chandika Hathurusingha fast-tracked him into the senior team from Under-19 squad without waiting for him to be tested in domestic cricket enough.
He got highest 13 wickets for Bangladesh Under-19 team in Junior World Cup last year but did not do anything extraordinary that would make him very special. But the urgency for a pace bowling all-rounder opened the door for Saifuddin sooner than it was expected.
It was a risky gamble with a promising boy, who could have been easily written off after one or two matches like what happened to Muktar Ali, Sunzamul Islam or Saqlain Sajib. Muktar and Saqlain did not get a second chance after making their Twenty20 International debut while left-arm spinner Sunzamul’s career was limited to just one one-day international that he played in the tri-series in Ireland this year.
Saifuddin’s career is also limited to an ODI and four Twenty20 Internationals so far. But he is unlikely to face a similar fate despite doing nothing very special in his short international career. Bangladesh were looking a Ben Stokes or at least a Hardik Pandya in him and Saifuddin could at least show his potential to fulfil the demand.
Saifuddin showed glimpses of his talent in the ongoing Bangladesh Premier League where he bowled few match winning spells that helped Comilla Victorians finishing top in the league phase. He claimed 15 wickets in 10 matches untilTuesday, the third highest in the tournament, though it would be unwise to judge him by the number of wickets only.
No everything, however, was rosy for Saifuddin since he burst into the international scene in February. David Miller struck him five consecutive sixes in a Twenty20 International in October and Saifuddin re-visited the nightmare in BPL when Darren Sammy took 32 runs in his one over in Chittagong.
But players and coaches hoped these things could only make Saifuddin only a better player like what happened to Stuart Broad or Ben Stokes after being hit for six and four sixes in an over respectively by Yuvraj Singh and Carlos Brathwaite.
“If someone dominates him, he sometimes loses his nerve. But he can solve it with experience,” hoped Saifuddin’s Comilla Victorians coach Mohammad Salahuddin.
Salahuddin, who groomed up the likes of Shakib and Mushfiqur Rahim in the early stage of their career, showered Saifuddin with huge praise after working closely with him in BPL.
“I think he is the best for death bowling in Bangladesh now,” said the highly respected Bangladeshi coach. “It’s natural for him that he can bowl yorker at any moment. It is very accurate for him. He does not have very good pace. If he can gain a little more pace he will be more effective,” he said.
Salahuddin suggested Saifuddin gain more control of the new ball and learn swing apart from improving his face if he had preferred a long-time career with the national team.
“We did not use him much with new ball (for Comilla Victorians). But I would say if he can gain a little more control with the new ball, develop the swing that will give him a big advantage.
“He has got variation, now he needs pace. He is still young, so I am sure it can be increased. He has every quality to become a good all-rounder. If he is taken care of properly I am sure he will give service to Bangladesh national team for a long period,” he said.