Comilla reap rewards from Zaidi's simple approach
Ashar Zaidi's walk to the crease, while approaching it to bat or bowl, is that of a man with the certainty that comes from playing 107 first-class matches. He has brought all that experience to the BPL and provided Comilla Victorians exactly what they had been looking for since the draft pick: a genuine all-rounder.
The Comilla management went through a long list of potential allrounders from around the world but when they settled for Zaidi, they didn't know his match-winning abilities. He has so far made 199 runs at an average of 66.33, and his 16 wickets have come at an average of 9.43. He bowls economically, and with the bat his slogs, pulls and cuts remind you of Darren Lehmann in his pomp.
On Saturday, Zaidi's 15-ball 40 and four-wicket haul came at crucial stages for Comilla in their Qualifier battle against Rangpur Riders. It won him the man-of-the-match award too, though he didn't want to talk big. It seems to go with his on-field performance and persona; he said his main aim with the bat and ball was not to go overboard.
"We speak in the meeting about what we should do in different situations," Zaidi told ESPNcricinfo. "So we are prepared for anything that happens in a match. It is happening for me. I don't try to overdo anything. I get in first and try to target different bowlers.
"I am happy that the team has gone into the final. It is a young team which has made a big achievement. I am proud to be part of this team. I think all the boys should get credit."
But he has made telling contributions. In the first three matches he didn't get to bat but took six wickets. Then came the unbeaten 53 against Sylhet Super Stars in Chittagong before he hammered unbeaten scores of 45 and 20 in his next three innings. In Comilla's last league match, Zaidi blasted 31 at a crucial period too.
He has done an important job batting down the order, particularly when required to provide the final thrust in the last five overs. In the first qualifier too, Zaidi's late-overs hits took Comilla to what Shakib Al Hasan called a "formidable" score. But Zaidi believed the 79-run opening partnership between Imrul Kayes and Liton Das was more helpful.
"Everyone will talk about the last over but I think the more important job was done by the openers who batted out a difficult period," he said. "Things would have been tougher for us had we lost two or three early wickets. So the credit should go to them, and not really all the credit should go to the last few overs."
Zaidi said his bowling plan was quite simple, especially in T20s, based around gathering together enough dot balls to get batsmen to panic. "I have been playing here for the last two years so I know how the wickets help the spinners," he said. "There is no bounce so I have to bowl stump-to-stump and try to bowl dot balls, and wait for the batsmen to make a mistake.
"The plan is not to get panicked, and keep bowling the dot balls. They will try to make it up with a boundary here and there, and that's when you have to look for mistakes."
Comilla captain Mashrafe Mortaza said Zaidi had given his team the boost it required with bat and ball, but said he had not predicted the extent of his contributions.
"The way Zaidi has given us service in this competition is unbelievable," Mashrafe said. "We never expected him to perform that way. With regards to his batting, we had given him a message that we want to score 140-145, but the way he finished it for us, was unbelievable."
If Comilla fall into trouble in the final on Tuesday, they know who to look for.
Mohammad Isam is ESPNcricinfo's Bangladesh correspondent. @isam84