The old saying morning shows the day did not really apply for Sakib al Hasan. At the beginning of Sakib’s career, people around him considered him as a talented batsman, so did many of us.
I saw him first in the Under-19 tri-nation tournament in 2005, where he scored a top-notch hundred in the final. It expedited his selection for the national team apparently as a batsman who can bowl. But he did not get too many chances to bowl in the first few matches of his career, which further undermined his credential as an all-rounder.
I remember a game in the 2006 ICC Champions Trophy against Sri Lanka at Mohali, incidentally my first international match as reporter outside Bangladesh, where Sakib registered his maiden half-century in international cricket, an unbeaten 67 off 107 balls in a 37-run defeat. He was given just two overs to bowl in the match where he conceded 23 runs.
Some people still believed that Sakib could be a good all-rounder if he was properly taken care of. My journalist friend Mustafa Mamun was one of them. Mamun helped us see the off-the-field character of Sakib, rather to his personal embarrassment, in what was my first face-to-face interaction with the player.
It was before Sakib’s Test debut against India in Chattogram in May, 2007. Just like today, we, the media, were eager to speak to any potential debutant before a game back then. Mamun, then the sports editor of online news portal bdnews24.com, asked Sakib if he considered himself as an all-rounder. To our surprise, Sakib got angry. He reacted in a manner as if we were questioning his ability as a batsman.
Sakib did not do anything extra-ordinary in the series, yet got selected for the next series in Sri Lanka, where, after making 16 and eight in two innings of the first Test, he was dropped for the next two Tests. He was lucky to be selected for the next tour in New Zealand but was not considered for the first Test in Dunedin.
He watched his close pal Tamim Iqbal makes his Test debut from the dressing room and was uncertain to play the next Test in Wellington. I asked the then captain Mohammad Ashraful in a personal conversation why they were not playing Sakib. ‘You could see him, his feet were not moving in the one-day series. How can we play someone with such low confidence?’ Ashraful told me.
But somehow, I got an impression that they would play Sakib in the Wellington Test because Ashraful did not have too many options. And I was right. Ashraful took Sakib for the game, but only as a back-up bowler. This was evident in his batting number as Sakib was sent to bat only at number eight.
Top players often respond when their backs are firmly against the wall. This is what happened to Sakib. He made an unbeaten 41, the highest for the team in the innings and also got his first Test wicket playing his fourth match. This was the beginning of his transformation as an all-rounder.
Sakib’s fortune changed when Mohammad Rafique retired from Test cricket, creating a void in Bangladesh’s spin bowling department. Sakib grabbed the chance to take nine wickets against New Zealand in Bangladesh’s first Test match since the retirement of Rafique.
He took only three wickets in his first six Tests, but got nine in this match which also caused me and many others change our opinion about the player.
He also scored his maiden Test fifty in the match to put Bangladesh on course to a historic win before being denied by another great left-arm spinner Daniel Vettori. Despite the heart-breaking loss, it gave birth to an all-rounder who was going to serve Bangladesh for many, more years.
The writer is the sports editor of New Age
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