By Azad Majumder
The night before the second Test against Sri Lanka in Dhaka, Abdur Razzak got a phone call from Tushar Imran. There were some routine conversations as Tushar wished the left-arm spinner good luck on his Test return. At one stage of their phone conversation, Tushar told Razzak if he had done well, he would also get a chance. It may be a routine conversation between two close friends, but the underline meaning of Tushar’s last few words is huge.
When Razzak took the field next day for his first Test in four years, he also carried the hopes of many other players of his age, who have done considerably well in Bangladesh’s domestic cricket in the past few years.
Tushar scored consistently well in all domestic first-class competitions last five years. Shahriar Nafees, Naeem Islam did well similarly, not only in first-class tournaments but also in 50-over matches. Only 24 hours before the second Test against Sri Lanka had started in Dhaka, Naeem scored an unbeaten century in Dhaka Premier League – the first century of the competition it its new season.
It is unlikely for Tushar, Shahriar, and Naeem to get a call-up again as selectors do not believe in the standard of Bangladesh domestic cricket. The pitches are often flat and the quality of bowling is also not that great. So, the runs of old guns have got little value to them. Chief selector Minhajul Abedin often said that the run-getters of domestic cricket need to be tested in ‘A’ team first before being included in the national team again. Bangladesh does not have an ‘A’ team for last few years, which denied these senior players a chance to test their merit and fitness.
Selectors did not believe in Razzak as well. He was one of three spinners to be called into the squad for the first Test in Chittagong after Shakib Al Hasan suffered an injury. Selectors quickly dismissed the experienced bowler after watching him bowling few deliveries in the nets. It was argued that even Bangladesh batsmen were finding him easy to handle. He played at least three first-class matches in January, yet some people were also sceptical about his fitness for a five-day game.
The outcome was embarrassing for Razzak, to say the least. He was released from the squad before the first Test ended as selectors preferred uncapped Sunzamul Islam ahead of him. They were forced to give a look at him again only after Sunzamul failed to impress in his only Test.
Razzak took only three overs to prove his worth, by earning Bangladesh their first breakthrough in the second Test. By the time the first session of the opening day ended he got three wickets to his name. Two of his wickets came off successive deliveries, which also took him close to a hat-trick on his Test comeback. Razzak did not get the hat-trick, but he claimed the wicket of highly-rated Kusal Mendis in the next session before finishing the innings with his career-best 4-63. Taijul Islam and Mustafizur Rahman claimed the last five wickets. Otherwise, Razzak could have marked his comeback Test with his maiden five-wicket haul also.
Razzak missed the feat narrowly and might not get another chance in next one year. But that cannot take anything away from him. What he has done already in the first innings of Sri Lanka it has come as a big statement. It is bound to have a far-reaching effect in Bangladesh cricket because it has come against a prejudice. It may not help Tushar, Shahriar or Naeem in near future because Bangladesh’s batting line-up is packed now. But after Razzak’s heroics, many cricketers will now know that their career cannot be over unless they themselves give it up. In Bangladesh, cricketers are easily written off after they cross 30. Razzak proved this is a wrong culture. Selectors should stop now looking for a spinner in the nets of the national team or fly back a teenager from Under-19 World Cup to play Test cricket. They should give the youngsters proper chance to groom up and look at the domestic cricket for players. They must give the performers of domestic cricket the right value. Only it can help Bangladesh cricket. Razzak provided them with an eye-opener.