The posterboy of journeymen cricketers
The four wickets Elias Sunny picked up on the fourth day of the first Test against West Indies in Chittagong are just reward for a hardworking man who lives in a city - Dhaka - where cricket as a career is on the wane. They've also catapulted him into the spotlight, after nine years on the domestic circuit.
"Everyone was excited," Sunny told ESPNcricinfo, reliving the moment when Shahriar Nafees swung him around after he'd picked up his maiden Test wicket. "They congratulated me and were very happy for me. Every cricketer wants to play Test cricket. When Shakib [Al Hasan] put on the [Bangladesh Test] cap for me, I really loved that moment."
As far as journeymen cricketers go in Bangladesh, Sunny is now the poster boy. In domestic cricket, he has produced all-round performances for Dhaka Premier League clubs, churning out important runs and wickets for Dhaka (his hometown) and Chittagong (his birthplace). From the Surjo Tarun club, where he began playing in 2002, to the now-defunct Sonargaon Cricketers, to Cricket Coaching School and Bangladesh Biman, where he has spent the last two seasons, Sunny has always been among the top wicket-takers (top batsmen, too, on occasions). He has proved to be a value-for-money player, and, more importantly, has lost form on very few occasions.
In first-class cricket as well, Sunny's adaptability with both ball and bat has been his strength. He has not had issues switching between four-day and one-day mode, and has often bowled well under pressure. He looks particularly assured when dishing out deliveries that dip or come into the right-hander. His nine five-fors are split between Chittagong (5) and Dhaka (4), the last three coming in 2010.
He has opened for Chittagong on several occasions. Initially, he was a stop-gap opener, but as he quickly adapted (once again), the divisional side used him at the top with more consistency. His maiden century, though, came down the order for Chittagong, a solid 176. In the last couple of seasons, his form has been outstanding. His Premier League stats are impressive and he has been in great demand among the clubs. For Dhaka, he had struck two centuries within a month.
And so, he got his chance with the national team. The moment Shakib placed that Test cap on his head, his story hit new highs. This was not the clichéd "dream come true" moment, though, simply because he had given up on playing international cricket a couple of years ago. Back then, Sunny hardly pushed to play for one of Dhaka's giants, Abahani and Mohammedan, as his ambition was stalled after being repeatedly ignored. It was only when he was called up to the Bangladesh A team earlier this year, for the tour of South Africa, that he dared to hope once more.
Sunny also happens to be a popular taped-tennis ball player in Dhaka's neighbourhood tournaments. He began playing cricket with the modified ball at a very early age at the Abahani ground (now the Dhanmondi Cricket Stadium), and then progressed to a cricket ball at the Discovery Cricket Academy.
He played out his nine-year domestic career in five and a half hours of Test cricket on Monday - all the ups and downs that culminated in the wicket of Shivnarine Chanderpaul late on the fourth day in Chittagong. His courage to flight the ball had paid off three times already. Though the veteran, Chanderpaul, had struck him for two sixes and Marlon Samuels for three consecutive boundaries, he still flighted it, and it worked once more in the penultimate over of the day. He is now just a wicket away from becoming only the fourth Bangladesh bowler to take a five-for on Test debut, behind Naimur Rahman, Manjurul Islam and Mahmudullah. He should get there, provided the elements don't conspire against him on Tuesday.
Mohammad Isam is senior sports reporter at the Daily Star in Dhaka