Bangladesh savours Hider's left-arm promise
The only good thing about Comilla Victorians' otherwise miserable performance on the first night of the BPL season was an overexcited fourth-change bowler, a left-arm seamer, who clean bowled Kumar Sangakkara, let out a huge scream and ran wildly in celebration.
Having repeated the sequence 16 more times in the last three weeks, Abu Hider the nondescript has become Abu Hider the promising. He enters Comilla's first qualifier against Rangpur Riders as the joint-highest wicket-taker in the competition, with Shakib Al Hasan. Both have 17 wickets each, with Hider's coming at a 15.41 bowling average.
During the 2012 and 2013 editions, there were claims made by some team owners that the BPL "produced" players like Mominul Haque, Anamul Haque and Sohag Gazi. It was merely a boast because while Mominul and Anamul came to the limelight through age-group, domestic cricket and Bangladesh A performances, Gazi's rise was entirely through first-class cricket for Barisal Division.
It is hard for newcomers to make it really big through the BPL, where only the experienced are often given importance. Even someone like Soumya Sarkar was a fringe player for Dhaka Gladiators in 2013. For an uncapped Bangladeshi pace bowler, it becomes more difficult.
Most team owners, coaches, managers and senior players prefer the tried and tested pace bowlers, and green ones only if they have raw pace. Time while planning is mainly awarded to batsmen and spinners.
In Hider's case, though, one can safely say his break has come through the BPL. He had taken a nine-wicket haul against Qatar three years ago at the Under-19 level, played the Under-19 World Cup, the Dhaka Premier League, and had become a regular in first-class cricket, but it is his displays for Comilla that have caused Hider to be talked about as a national prospect.
He has come this far through the wickets, important ones at that. Quick judgments are an everyday thing in Bangladesh cricket but no one even bothered to make one about Hider, even after the first two wickets. Bowlers are not really taken seriously.
Hider went for 44 runs in the next game, so it wasn't until Comilla's next two games that he was finally being noticed. He took 2-21 and 2-15 against Barisal Bulls and Rangpur Riders and in the first game in Chittagong took a four-wicket haul in a losing cause against Sylhet Super Stars.
Seven more wickets have come in the last five matches, making him an integral part of Comilla's bowling plan. Hider however isn't a flash in the pan, and his preparation for the BPL started months ago, even though it may have not been done with the BPL in mind. Initially, he says, his target was simply to make the playing XI.
"Preparation was all in the High Performance camp," Hider tells ESPNcricinfo. "There, [Sarwar] Imran sir showed us everything from how to bowl with the new ball, old ball and in different situations. It was all part of the bowlers' training in that camp, but it has really helped me in this tournament. When I was first taken in the draft, my target was to play matches for Comilla Victorians."
Having fulfilled that target, he has gone on to more impressive achievements, while catching the eye with his style of bowling.
Hider comes off a bustling run-up, almost like a mixture of Zaheer Khan and Ashish Nehra, before finishing with a quick-arm action, with no discernible jump in his delivery stride. He has bowled a lot of inswingers to the left-handers, but has also managed to bring the ball into the right-handers on a few occasions. He has developed an accurate yorker during the BPL and has also bowled the odd slower ball.
What has also stood out are his celebrations. "I am a naturally excited person," he says. "I do this type of celebrations in other tournaments as well."
The BPL has also helped him understand his bowling a bit more, especially in the shorter formats. He has spoken regularly to team-mate Nuwan Kulasekara and his captain Mashrafe Mortaza, though he has not had a chance to talk to Mohammad Amir yet.
"I haven't had the chance to speak to any of the left-arm pace bowlers but I regularly speak to [Nuwan] Kulasekara who has given me lessons in bowling with the new and old ball, how to set fields to certain batsmen and where to bowl to batsmen in the end overs. Mashrafe bhai is like our guardian. He takes care of us all the time."
Hider is from Netrokona, a district town 165km northeast of Dhaka. He started playing cricket for his school, Anjuman Ideal Government Boys School, in 2007, when he was in Class VII. He says if it wasn't for his dada Sajal Talukdar, he wouldn't be in the age-group tournaments that ultimately sped up his progress immensely.
"After doing well in the school tournaments, I played in Netrokona U-14s, U-15s and then the national U-17s and U-19s," Hider says. "I could start playing cricket because of the late Sojol Talukdar, who was my mentor growing up. He comes after my Abbu and Ammu [in importance]. He saw me in school cricket and recommended me for the age-group tournaments."
Hider has come across as a humble young man, slightly more excitable than the rest of his teammates but nonetheless someone Comilla have relied upon despite his youth and relative inexperience. The BPL has long craved credit for a talented youngster's rise. It certainly can with Hider.
Mohammad Isam is ESPNcricinfo's Bangladesh correspondent. @isam84