"If you can't perform consistently for the national team, you won't see your pictures on billboards and get endorsements in near future."
Those words were from coach Mahbub Ali Zaki to pacer Taskin Ahmed, who was desperate to make a comeback to the national team in late 2019.
Taskin made a memorable debut in international cricket in 2014 and caught everyone's eyes with his pace and other attributes of a genuine fast bowler. But like many fast bowlers, Taskin's battle with injuries came as a major barrier to him becoming a regular feature in the Tigers' squad.
Apart from that, there was also a lack of consistency and game sense in his bowling. At times Taskin was guilty of bowling in wrong line and lengths, leading to the biggest downfalls of his career.
There were a few occasions when Taskin did look in better shape and was gearing to make an impact but injuries intervened right in those crucial times.
But while experiencing the harsh reality of being dropped from the national team in all formats during 2019 and 2020, Taskin made up his mind to go for a huge transformation.
It was during that period that he asked his childhood mentor Zaki to help him with his bowling and fitness. Zaki formed a team of trainers, physio and even a dietician.
"I used to work with him in his early days but after that I got busy with the Bangladesh under-19 team. In late 2019, one day Taskin told me that he wanted to have a transformation as a bowler. So we formed a team where we had trainers, physio and dietician. We worked on his muscle so that he can gain more strength keeping the injuries in mind.
"Being a fast bowler, Taskin is all about pace and speed. Without pace, he is nothing. Even Taskin expressed his desire to bowl around 150kph. For that, we started working on various aspects right from his body transformation to muscle development along with developing his running technique. We knew until he takes his fitness level to world-class standard, it is not possible for him to reach the goal considering his current age," Zaki told The Daily Star.
Taskin's improvement was evident in his comeback Test in Sri Lanka as the pacer, despite not getting enough assistance from a batting-friendly surface in Pallekele, went on to bowl 30 overs in an innings.
More importantly, Taskin hit the right areas and emerged as the most successful among the three Bangladesh seamers, picking up three wickets in the only innings that Sri Lanka batted.
"It is always difficult for express pacers to bowl at a tight line and length consistently. We were working on that aspect and even Taskin realised that really well. It is also about maturity and the more he plays the better he will get. I won't say he has done a tremendous job in Sri Lanka but progress is there and he needs to continue in this direction," Zaki said.