West Indies in Bangladesh 2012-13 November 19, 2012

Sohag Gazi overcomes small-town doubts

Sohag Gazi's journey to Test level hasn't been easy, but the Bangladesh offspinner could be an inspiration for youngsters from small towns to pursue their dreams

Khulna is where offspinner Sohag Gazi was born. It's where he learnt his cricket. The Sheikh Abu Naser Stadium, the venue for the second Test against West Indies, is where Gazi began his first-class career with a five-wicket haul. Three years on, he has made an impressive Test debut, but the journey hasn't been easy from the time he began representing his hometown Patuakhali, a tiny coastal town in Barisal Division. As cricketers from small towns often do, Gazi faced rejections, but he is now developing a "weapon" - a delivery that doesn't spin bowled with an unchanged action - which he believes will give him an edge in international cricket.

"I started as a pace bowler but I wasn't that quick, so I took to offspin in my teens. My coach at the time said that my height will help me," Gazi told ESPNcricinfo. "I got a lot out of bowling offspin when I was younger, but I wanted to develop a weapon of my own so that everyone knows I am the one who created this delivery. Spinners [shouldn't] just spin the ball, they need to have something extra. I sometimes try the doosra but I have a lot of faith in my weapon."

The nine wickets he took in the Mirpur Test against West Indies and the six-wicket haul in the second innings were both records for Bangladesh bowlers on debut. He used the weapon he spoke of often in the second innings and that delivery accounted for Marlon Samuels, Darren Sammy and Shivnarine Chanderpaul among others.

"My dream was to play for Bangladesh. When I started understanding the game, and started competing in age-group cricket, from then I wanted to play for Bangladesh," Gazi said. "I never told anyone, but it was within me."

A son of a government officer, Gazi began playing age-group cricket in 2000, but though he climbed the rungs he was only a standby for the 2006 Under-19 World Cup. Orient Sporting Club, a Dhaka First Division League side, signed him and he remained there for the next four years. Gazi's patience in Dhaka's second-grade cricket earned him a place in the Barisal team during the 2009-10 National Cricket League. After he became the highest wicket-taker in the next season, Gazi was nominated among the National Cricket Academy (NCA) graduates. He was adjudged the best player in NCA's South Africa tour last year and as soon as he made it to the Bangladesh A side, his senior call-up was imminent.

There were moments during his development, however, when Gazi felt like giving up the game. For a cricketer who comes from a region not known for sporting prowess, his opportunities dried up after the Under-19 World Cup snub. "I was a standby in age-group cricket for five years. I felt bad, which is natural for any cricketer who gets dropped or ignored.

"Sometimes I wanted to leave the game but my parents and my elder brother told me to hang on, wait for the next opportunity. I was determined to see it through. I wanted to see what was there in the end for me."

On Test debut, Gazi was given the responsibility of bowling with the new ball, and faced an intimidating opponent in Chris Gayle. His first and fourth balls disappeared for sixes. His captain Mushfiqur Rahim did not lose faith in the debutant.

"We had planned earlier to open with him [Gazi]. Gayle always attacks so we couldn't be defensive against him to get him out. We wanted to attack him," Mushfiqur said. "He didn't play his natural shots in the first over. The shot he got out to wasn't his natural shot. He doesn't come out of his crease so early in the innings. In the second over, he played a rare sweep shot. Gayle wanted to get rid of Gazi quickly, but we trusted him. We wanted to give away 20-30 runs but get Gayle out."

Gazi knows he will have to face more disappointments, an inevitability of life on the toughest stage. His story, however, is an example to all small-town cricketers in Bangladesh that reaching the top is possible.

Mohammad Isam is ESPNcricinfo's correspondent in Bangladesh

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Rakib on November 21, 2012, 11:39 GMT

    I am from Barisal, and I know there is no such cricketing platform in this area. No international ground, no league, no tournament, nothing. Transtport route is also very crappy. Players, who are playing in Barisal Division team or Barisal Burners in BPL are maximum from other division. So obviously Shohag had to work very hard to reach this level. Wish him best of luck. You have a long way to go.

  • Dummy4 on November 20, 2012, 9:04 GMT

    Sohag Gazi is very fortunate that in his debut match he got great off spinner Saqlain Mustaq....he should learn more things from him ...becoz he will face very tough time in future....We need more off spinner and leg spinner in longer vesion match for improvement in test...BCB should take forward decision to produce such spinner ....

  • Enamul on November 20, 2012, 9:01 GMT

    Please bring back Elias sunny by dropping Shahadat Hossain as the wicket in Khulna is more spin friendly ,Gazi-Shakib-Sunny trio can be a peril to the carribeans. All the best to the young star Shohag Hazi,we are with you man.

  • sadequl on November 20, 2012, 7:07 GMT

    Very best wishes Sohag Gazi & we all welcome you to the grand success you achieved in your debut test match. We wish to see you for a long time in BD team to prove that patient has its own result to be in top to dominate. This is just the begging what you dreamed about so carry on towards more success of your own to make your countrymen proud of your self.

  • Amzad on November 20, 2012, 3:51 GMT

    Gazi (apart from Mahmudullah) is the only batsman who did not feel any pressure against Tino Best. Bangladesh renewed it's hope when he was batting, but target was too high for him to achieve. I wish all the best for him.

  • Zahirul on November 20, 2012, 3:47 GMT

    Hope Saqline Mustaq nurtures him really well and being a off-spinner himself, Gazi should be his comforting zone to inherit some of his own weapons. However, I'm a bit gutted with Shakib's bowling performance in recent days, feels like he's not working hard or the chemistry with Saqline is yet to click for him! Anyway, good luck to Gazi. I don't know about the pitch of Khulna but if it is spinning then please bring back Elias Sunny instead of Rubel, we surely can afford a well performing spinner over a non-performing pacer if India can only with Zahir Khan.

  • atlas on November 20, 2012, 2:38 GMT

    Best of luck man i know what kind of problem face a young small town boy in early days.m also from a small town off spinner and i had a very good delivery same like carrom ball but its quickly turn more away from right hand batter .and bowl get more bounce.but i give up to early unlike sohag.best of luck wish you a very long test carrier.

  • Dummy4 on November 19, 2012, 23:54 GMT

    Best of luck! Getting a spinner with a variation would be great for Bangladesh attack.

  • Dummy4 on November 19, 2012, 20:00 GMT

    & as a supporter i sometimes feel happy when i see someone in the national sting whom i admired & whose entry was well awaited for me... I was following Gazi for just 2 years, but so far i could know about him or his performance i was sure to see him in the national side... CONGRATULATION !!!

  • Jonny on November 19, 2012, 17:55 GMT

    I remember that delivery that surprised Samuels because at that time, the wicket wasn't offering any turn so that 'weapon' of his is interesting. I didn't know he has the ability to bowl the Doosra but heard he was learning the Carrom Ball of the spin legend but was told to practice it in the off-season. He should solely focus on tests for now because its very unlikely he'll even come close to being considered for the limited overs games as there's so much competition and already some of our other spin bowlers are having success in these formats. The pitch at Khulna judging by the pictures I saw looks a lot drier so there should be assistance for slow bowlers.

  • No featured comments at the moment.