Nasir's temperament the tonic for Bangladesh
When Akram Khan, Bangladesh's chief selector, picked young allrounder Nasir Hossain for the Zimbabwe tour in August this year, he had said Nasir had a fine temperament. "There's no one way that he bats. He plays according to the situation, whether it is to hold the innings together or push for late runs," Akram had said.
Nasir, who just turned 20, showed both facets of his game while compiling his maiden one-day international century. He came in with Bangladesh struggling at 19 for 4 and said he enjoys batting his way out of tough situations. "I really enjoy batting when the team is under pressure," Nasir said. "When four or five wickets are down, I love batting in those situations. I really don't know why but I really enjoy it."
The match had ended as a contest when Mushfiqur Rahim, the Bangladesh captain, sliced an Umar Gul delivery straight to gully to be the fourth wicket to fall by the tenth over of the chase. The capacity crowd at the Shere Bangla National Stadium was witness to yet another top-order disintegration from the home side.
But Nasir, along with Shakib Al Hasan, at least gave them something to cheer about, lending the innings some respectability with a 106-run fifth-wicket stand. After Shakib's tame dismissal, Nasir added 60 more with vice-captain Mahmudullah for the sixth wicket. During the partnership, Nasir moved closer to a century, and it was two unlikely sources that pushed him to go for the three-figure mark.
"First Younis [Khan] bhai, and then Umar Akmal told me to go for the hundred when I was around 75. That's when I decided to go for the century because till then I was trying to bat out the 50 overs," Nasir said.
Nasir was in a lively mood while describing the moment he got to the century at the post-match press conference. "I thought I was on 98 when I had actually reached the century. [Mahmudullah] Riyad bhai told me that I had reached the century. So I asked him, 'How should I raise the bat?' He told me to just raise it."
He realised his century did not mean much in the context of the match, which Bangladesh lost by 76 runs thereby going down 0-2 in the three-match series, but said he hoped his performance could motivate his team-mates. "I am the junior-most member of the team. So if the senior guys see that I am doing well, they will think 'if he can do it, so can I'. It is a matter of confidence. I started off slowly. You'll see that I got the first 30-odd runs from 80 balls but then I accelerated.
The naturalness of Nasir's answers at the press conference was a perfect reflection of his character, as anyone who has spent time with him in an adda (hangout) would agree. He is best described as spontaneous, just like his wicket celebrations. When asked why he celebrated in a manner similar to some professional wrestlers from the WWE, he said that he would stop it for the "greater good of the country". Even his send-off to Imran Farhat during the first ODI was a spur-of-the-moment reaction. It is his spontaneity, perhaps, that allows Nasir to adapt to situations the way Akram had said he could.
His half-century on ODI debut came in similar circumstances. Bangladesh were in deep trouble at 58 for 6 against Zimbabwe in Harare when he calmly marshalled the tail while also putting away the bad balls. His run-a-ball 50 against West Indies in Mirpur last month also came after Bangladesh got off to a poor start; there, as well, he started slowly before accelerating in the slog overs.
Nasir's upbringing tells you a lot about his character. He was raised in Rangpur, in the northern reaches of Bangladesh, left home in his early teens and came to play in Dhaka for BKSP, helping the sports institute get into Dhaka's Premier League. He quickly became a dependable force, prompting giants Abahani Club to sign him very early. His offspin with the new ball caught everyone's eye, and he showed off his temperament when he famously restricted Sanath Jayasuriya, the former Sri Lanka star batsman, from blazing away in a league game.
That temperament helped Nasir get his maiden international century at a time when all the noise around Bangladesh cricket has been negative. It could perhaps be his happy-go-lucky demeanour that sparks a turnaround in Mushfiqur Rahim's gloomy dressing-room.
Mohammad Isam is senior sports reporter at the Daily Star in Dhaka