Sabbir ready to step up
Of all the changes made to Bangladesh's Test squad, exciting young batsman Sabbir Rahman's inclusion for the first Test against England starting on Thursday in Chittagong is the one that seems most like natural progression, or as much as the stop-start nature of Bangladeshi Test cricket can allow.
He is one of the few Bangladeshi cricketers in the country's 16-year Test history to be on the cusp of a Test debut after already establishing himself as a national star. With 25 ODIs and 26 T20Is under his belt, he is very much a part of the national set-up, especially as -- with a near 15-month gap between Tests -- the two shorter formats garner more national attention.
"Having played so many international matches will give me a good back-up to play Tests," Sabbir said before the team left their Chittagong hotel for practice at the Zahur Ahmed Chowdhury Stadium (ZACS).
As part of the generation that has followed the heady exploits of Shakib Al Hasan, Tamim Iqbal, Mushfiqur Rahim, etc. against all comers, Sabbir comes across as unabashedly and quite organically aggressive.
A strike rate of 95 in ODI cricket is analysed, with sincerity, by the right-hander as the product of a mentality where he 'takes some time' time to settle in. Despite coach Chandika Hathurusingha saying that they will try to find a way to fit Sabbir into the playing eleven come Thursday, it is still far from certain that he will make his debut with the top six of Tamim, Imrul Kayes, Mominul Haque, Mahmudullah Riyad, Mushfiqur and Shakib pretty much nailed on. But, in keeping with the natural self-confidence of millennials, Sabbir does not have time for negatives.
"It was my dream to be a Test player, and my family are also very happy that I got the call-up. It was my wish from childhood that I will play Tests, but you cannot just suddenly start playing Tests," said Sabbir. "I played T20s first, playing one-dayers now, so hopefully I will continue in Tests in the same vein.
"I set myself up in different ways for each format. If it is a one-dayer, I tell myself that I should take some time and play. In Test matches, I will think about how to sacrifice deliveries, how to judge a ball. It is a mental thing really, everything depends on mentality."
Even with talk of mental alterations, there probably will not be much difference in the way he approaches the innings. "I don't think there will be a lot of change. If I hit a six or a four, runs are runs. I will try to play to my strengths. There is also a matter of time here -- even if you play a lot of dot balls, there is no problem. There is also a mental satisfaction that there are no problems playing dot balls, as that will not create pressure on you like it would in ODIs or T20s."
If the ZACS does offer a turning wicket as expected, Sabbir's chances of a debut on Thursday will increase -- his leg breaks netted him three wickets in the first two-day warm-up between BCB XI and England XI. Moreover, Tanveer Haider's success with leg-spin yesterday in the second warm-up may tilt the scales further in Sabbir's favour.
"I am always interested to bowl, whether it is in Tests, ODIs or T20s. I am trying to improve as a bowler so that I can become a regular bowler. If the captain trusts me with the ball I will want to contribute as much as I can," he added.