A tradition that has defined Bangladesh cricket | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, June 21, 2020 / LAST MODIFIED: 04:09 PM, June 21, 2020

A tradition that has defined Bangladesh cricket

Ramchand Goala, regarded as the pioneer of left-arm orthodox spin in Bangladesh, breathed his last on Friday, reminding of the rich legacy of left-arm spinners – finger spinner to be more specific -- in the country's history. There is no doubt that Bangladesh has produced some of the finest left-arm spinners over the years and that they have played leading roles for the Tigers.

Goala was a notable performer in the domestic circuit before liberation and continued to be a regular fixture for Abahani in the 12 years from 1981 to 1993, but never represented East Pakistan.

Even in his forties, Goala continued getting wickets but mostly opted to bowl his quota and return to the dressing room, with rules back then not as strict. He eventually retired from competitive cricket at the age of 53.

Nazrul Kader Lintu was another left-armer and one of the few unorthodox spinners Bangladesh have produced.

The introduction of turf wickets in the mid-eighties raised the demand for left-arm spinners and they began to flourish at the club level.

The likes of Enamul Haque Moni and, later on, Mohammad Rafique were inspired by the trend and, although they were initially pacers, the duo would go on to become legendary left-armers in Bangladesh.

"Goala was the first notable orthodox left-arm spinner before liberation and was among very few cricketers outside Dhaka to play in the Dhaka leagues with authority. There was Lintu but he was a chinaman, which I think is still very exceptional in Bangladesh cricket. But if you talk about left-arm orthodox spinners, you also have to mention the emergence of Enamul Haque Moni and Rafique," prominent cricket writer and former coach Jalal Ahmed Chowdhury told The Daily Star.

By the early nineties, having left-arm spinners in the side had become a symbol of strength among the clubs which was also courtesy of low and turning wickets in the domestic circuit.

The role of a left-arm spinner was mainly to contain runs and there were clubs who even opted for three left-arm orthodox spinners in their playing eleven, which reflected the authority that left-armers had in Bangladesh cricket.

"Over-dependency on left-arm orthodox spinners mainly started due to the slow and low tracks during the late eighties. It was always difficult to hit away the left-arm spinners, who mainly looked to contain runs and tease batsmen," said experienced journalist Saydur Rahman Shamim, who is currently the chief of sports of a local TV channel.

Rafique would go on to raise the bar for slow left-arm orthodox spinners as he went on to become the first Bangladeshi to take 100 wickets in Tests.

That legacy was continued by the likes of Atique Khan, Mustadir Litu, Saifullah Jem and Ahsanullah, who were all among the top performers in the domestic leagues in the late nineties and early 2000s but never featured for the national team.

The emergence of a sixteen-year old left-arm finger spinner in the form of Enamul Haque Jr during the early 2000s alongside Rafique once again highlighted the lefty dominance in the Bangladesh team. Manjarul Islam Rana also looked a prospect, but he tragically passed away in a road accident while the Tigers were in the Caribbean for the 2007 World Cup.

In the meantime, another left-arm orthodox spinner was waiting to announce himself and once Abdur Razzak emerged, Bangladesh found themselves flooded by quality left-armers.

After playing 33 Tests ad 125 ODIs, Rafique handed over the baton in the late 2000s to Enamul and Razzak, who would become essential components in the Bangladesh team.

Shakib Al Hasan's introduction was perhaps the best thing to happen to Bangladesh cricket, as he raised the bar to new heights across all formats both home and away.

"Left-arm finger spin is something you don't need special talent for. Anyone can roll their arm for a finger spin. As left-arm spin has been a handy utility, players often tend to have a go. But when it comes to wrist spinners, you won't find many leg spinners or chinaman bowlers compared to left-arm orthodox. In that regard, Shakib has set a new benchmark," Jalal said.

The latest among the successful lot of left-arm spinners is Taijul Islam, who has also set a high standard over the past few years and is only the third Bangladesh bowler -- after Rafique and Shakib -- to take a hundred Test wickets.

"Honestly, I also started as a pacer during the under-13 trials before one of my uncles insisted that I become a left-arm spinner. I used to copy the bowling action of Rafique bhai as he was one of my role models," Taijul said.

The likes of Arafat Sunny, Nabil Samad, Elias Sunny, Sunjamul Islam, Sohrawardi Shuvo, Nazmul Islam Apu, Saqlain Sajib, Mosharraf Hossain and many more left-arm spinners were also part of that proud tradition in Bangladesh, which looks set to continue in the coming days.

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