Bangladesh's first Test legspinner impresses on debut
Shane Warne's skill and charisma acted as a catalyst for the revival of legspin bowling worldwide, so it is hard to fathom why Bangladesh - a spinner-filled country - took so long to unearth a specialist wristspinner. And when they finally did, it happened quickly. Jubair Hossain, Bangladesh's 74th Test cricketer and their first specialist legspinner, had all of two first-class matches to show for experience.
"He has got a very mature head. That is the key," Shakib Al Hasan told ESPNcricinfo after Jubair took two wickets on his first day in Test cricket. "I never felt that he was nervous. It never felt like he was playing his first game. That's a good sign. He will have to keep working hard and do the right things. He still has a long way to go and I think he can win many games for Bangladesh.
"The way he bowled, it was inspiring for the whole team because as a legspinner, especially a debutant, you couldn't have expected too much, but I think he gave us more than that."
Popularly known by his nickname Likhon, Jubair not only broke into the Test team, leapfrogging an ever-lengthening queue of left-arm spinners, but also broke new ground. Bangladesh have had players who dabbled with the craft: Mohammad Ashraful used to get sharp turn with his wrist spin before he switched to offbreaks, and Alok Kapali once took a hat-trick against Pakistan but could only pick up three more wickets in his Test career.
You have to go back all the way to 1988 to find Bangladesh's last specialist legspinner, and Wahidul Gani is more famous for being the coach who discovered Ashraful. He was the first specialist legbreak bowler to play for Bangladesh but his debut ODI - against Pakistan in Chittagong - was also his last international game.
Once Bangladesh's squad for the first Test was announced, Jubair's debut was almost certain because there were only two other spinners to choose from and spin was going to be the weapon of choice against Zimbabwe. The captain Mushfiqur Rahim, however, held Jubair back until the last over before lunch. In those six deliveries, he gave a good account of himself - he tossed the ball up, got it to dip, and more importantly he did not lose his length, something that happens often with legspinners even at the top of their game.
Jubair only had to wait three more deliveries to pick up his maiden wicket. In the second over after lunch, Brendan Taylor was beaten in the air by a loopy delivery and could only toe-end it to mid-off. The 52-run partnership that had revived Zimbabwe after a shaky start was broken by a debutant, Jubair outfoxing an established batsman who was looking to impose himself. Sikandar Raza, the other set batsman, fell in a similar fashion, lobbing the ball to cover after being beaten in the flight.
The twin strikes opened Zimbabwe up for Shakib and he exploited it well, collecting a six-wicket haul on his Test comeback. It was that kind of support Bangladesh had pinned their hopes on despite the inexperience of Jubair and the other spinner, left-armer Taijul Islam.
Mushfiqur had appeared confident of Jubair's abilities before the match; he had seen the bowler's rise from close quarters. The first time the Bangladesh team management took notice of Jubair was when he dismissed both Mushfiqur and Tamim Iqbal in the nets while the team was preparing for the home ODI series against India earlier this year.
Jubair was asked to bowl in the nets again when Bangladesh started preparations for the West Indies tour and he impressed coach Chandika Hathurusingha. He was named in the preliminary list for the tour but was not included in the final squad owing to his lack of experience. Jubair was, however, fast-tracked into the Bangladesh A side that was hosting Zimbabwe A and picked up 11 wickets in two first-class games. He brought that form to Dhaka and there was no sign of any rawness on his first day in Test cricket.
His legbreaks fizzed and landed on testing lengths, sometimes kicking up on a first-day pitch; he unleashed a mean googly against Hamilton Masakadza, bamboozling the batsman, but was economical in its use; and he remained relaxed during the day, even finding the heart to smile when Al-Amin Hossain dropped a catch off his bowling towards the end of the Zimbabwe innings.
It's too early to predict where Jubair will go; he just had a good first day and many a promising player the world over excelled in their first appearance only to fade away. Legspin is a difficult art. In a country where every other bowler follows in the footsteps of Enamul Haque, Mohammad Rafique and Shakib, Jubair appears an investment worth making for the freshness he brings.
Devashish Fuloria is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo