The Lowdown - Shahadat Hossain

On the fast track

The Lowdown on Shahadat Hossain, the Bangladesh paceman who has been making a name for himself

Rabeed Imam

March 16, 2006

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With so much cricket played these days it is often difficult to keep track of who is who and what they are doing. In this weekly feature Cricinfo will take a look at one player who is making the news, whether at the highest level or an aspiring talent, and tell you what they are all about. This week, it's the turn of Bangladeshi fast bowler Shahadat Hossain



Shahadat Hossain's ability to bowl quickly was spotted very early © AFP
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With his hair fluttering like a flag caught between two winds the towering frame of Shahadat Hossain Rajib emerged from a distance, quite a distance. He entered the 30-yard circle, then accelerated with the smoothness of an airbus before letting out a grunt, while hurling down a short-pitched delivery that went past the nose of the startled New Zealand opener, and maintained the same trajectory on the way to the gloves of the wicketkeeper.

Nothing happened from that ball, no runs taken, no one got out and for all its worth it was just the inaugural match of the 2004 U-19 World Cup on a super slow, low Bangabandhu National Stadium track. But for those who were prepared to look beyond the obvious, there was a vision of the future. With that single delivery, Shahadat had announced his arrival but the masses would only take note a couple of years later.

By the time he was in the eighth grade, he had already touched six feet and he was creating quite an impression in the neighbourhood. Batsman after batsman would retire hurt or would curse him after getting hit on the legs and body and Shahadat was only bowling with a taped tennis ball.

His life changed, however, when his father took him to the Bangladesh Institute of Sports (BKSP) for an admission trial in 2002. A session at the nets was enough for the coaches of the BKSP to realise that Shahadat was handsomely quicker than anyone of his age and had the unmistakable killer-instinct. Now the raw tearaway from Narayanganj, a bordering town of Dhaka, was armed with a proper red cherry and fellow trainees had marks on their chins or helmets to testify to his famous bouncers.

Soon this pace find was being sent as a net bowler to the Bangladesh camp at the BKSP under their new coach Dav Whatmore where he reportedly had illustrious names hopping. At that stage Shahadat was crestfallen when he didn't make the preliminary squad for the U-19 World Cup in Bangladesh, but that sadness was short-lived as Shahadat had his chance at the and the rest, as they say, was history.

The Bangladesh U-19 coach, Richard McInness, wasted no time in drafting Shahadat into the main squad and, on dull batting tracks, he emerged as the quickest bowler of the tournament. Like many of his U-19 colleagues the next stop was the A team and, despite struggling with no-balls, direction and consistency at times, he proved himself a match-winner when Bangladesh A toured Zimbabwe in February 2005. His consecutive five wicket hauls in four-dayers earning the side an unassailable 2-0 lead in the three-game series. A year on he celebrated a career first five-for in his fifth Test and the nightmarish memories of a nervy Lord's debut - conceding 100 in his first 12 overs - were already erased.



He has overcome a nervous start to be a key weapon in Bangladesh's attack © AFP
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Timeline

February 2004 - Gets his first break in the U 19 World Cup.

October 2004 - Almost breaks New Zealand batsman Matthew Sinclair's toes with an yorker in a warm-up match at the BKSP. Sinclair has to retire hurt.

February 2005 - Takes five for 53 in the first innings of the second four-day match to better the five for 63 in the second innings of the first game against Zimbabwe during an A tour.

May 2005 - Called up to the national side to tour England and is dubbed `Sharapova' by the British press for his grunting. Concedes 100 runs in 12 overs on his debut at Lord's

September 2005 - Takes four for 108 in the first innings of the second Test against Sri Lanka at Colombo.

March 2006 - Unexpectedly emerges as the pace spearhead in the absence of Mashrafe Mortaza in the home series against Sri Lanka. He bags five for 86 in the second match and becomes only the second Bangladeshi paceman to take five wickets in an innings.

What he says about himself
"I am naturally aggressive, I have always been like that with the ball in hand. My idols were Brett Lee, Shoaib Akhtar, Wasim Akram but I never copied their aggression, it came naturally. Off the field, I'm not bad!"

What they say about him No. 1- Habibul Bashar, Bangladesh captain
"He has the fast bowler's attitude. It's priceless. He is an exciting prospect for us and we all recognise that. I just pray that he keeps clear of injuries so that we can have him and Mashrafe [bin Mortuza] bowling together. With [Syed] Rasel also bowling extremely well at the moment, the Bangladesh pace attack could become very potent indeed."

What they say about him No. 2 - Mohammad Salahuddin, former coach at the BKSP and now assistant coach to Dav Whatmore
"He has got all the ingredients to become a top fast bowler. He has height, pace, bounce and born aggression. If he just becomes a little more sensible and thinks about his game a bit more then his natural pace bowling talent would take him places."

What you may not know
He almost landed up in the wrong game when the basketball coach at the BKSP, apparently impressed by his height, desperately wanted to enroll him in his discipline.

Rabeed Imam is editor of tigercricket.com

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