Bangladesh cricket March 19, 2014

Sabbir readies for the big stage

As one of the few specialist T20 batsmen in Bangladesh, Sabbir Rahman has built on the potential he showed in 2010, when he helped the side win a gold at the Asian Games

In a country where batsmen have been surprisingly shy of expressing themselves freely in Twenty20 cricket, Sabbir Rahman has stood out. However, it still took him nearly four years to convince everyone that his breakthrough innings - an 18-ball 33 against Afghanistan in the Asian Games final in 2010 - was going to give him a place in the Bangladesh side three years later, for a competition as important as the World T20.

During his innings in that match, Sabbir struck two sixes in the penultimate over when it looked like the gold was swinging Afghanistan's way. It was a low-profile game in terms of cricketing value but the encounter, Sabbir admitted, brought out the T20 player in him.

"That Afghanistan match gave birth to my T20 life," he said. "So since that day, I try to play according to the situation. Now whenever I get the opportunity, I will try to finish the game for Bangladesh in a similar fashion.

"Everyone thinks that I am only for T20s. I wish to climb from T20s to ODIs and then to Tests. I want to play in every format for Bangladesh. I don't have to change my basic game but I have to change my mindset a little."

He has not been consistent in T20s since that innings in November 2010, but last year he scored 710 runs for Bangladesh A, Barisal Burners, Prime Bank Cricket Club and Rajshahi Division, and was the second-highest run-getter in T20s in the country behind Anamul Haque.

During this time, he had a strike rate of 145.18 in eleven innings in the Bangladesh Premier League, the highest for an uncapped Bangladeshi batsman. When he made a 27-ball 40 against Chittagong Kings, it was after Brad Hodge had been dismissed, and in the space of the next seven overs, he took Barisal to a dominant position.

Late last year he scored three fifties in the Victory Day T20 Cup, helping Prime Bank clinch the trophy. Ahead of a World T20, and with the Bangladesh team short of anything remotely close to a specialist in the format, his skills were what the selectors and team management wanted.

He made his debut against Sri Lanka, walking in at 41 for 4 in the sixth over. He started off slowly and drew a bit of unwanted flak but the situation demanded him to bat at that pace. Sabbir said the criticism didn't affect him as he took his time at the start of the innings.

"Not many batsmen can just get to the middle and start finding boundaries," he said. "So I try to face a few balls, get my eye in and start playing my shots. If the situation demands quick runs, it is a different issue altogether.

"I am comfortable in the middle, especially in T20s, if I can get a boundary in the first four or five balls. I don't try too hard as that might put me on the backfoot. Later in the innings I try to cover the difference between run and balls, especially when I don't get fours and sixes early on."

Sabbir prefers hitting the ball in a straight arc between extra cover and wide midwicket, particularly against pace. He uses his feet a lot against spinners, also in a bid to clear the straight fielders but also swats at the ball whenever it is pitched short or flat.

"I think I can hit it clean. If it is in my zone, I try to take advantage of those deliveries. But if it isn't, I try to stay calm and wait for the right ball," he said.

He tried one slog against Nepal on Tuesday, but quickly ensured that Shakib Al Hasan, the better hitter in the middle, got more of the strike.

"Against Sri Lanka there was some pressure to make 120-130," he said. "The match yesterday was less pressure, the runs were scored so I didn't have to charge. But I will try to continue on my routine."

From an innings that could have been labelled a one-hit wonder, Sabbir has come a long way. He also has a few challenges to prepare himself for, particularly once Bangladesh make it to the second round of the World T20, where he will face strong bowling attacks. But a doughty spirit is Sabbir's trait, evident in the way he started playing cricket.

"Back home in Rajshahi, my coach Rashid bhai took me around everywhere as a fielder, in the neighbourhood matches," he said. "Once I took a great catch, and it caught everyone's eye.

"I was about 12-13 years old at the time when I went to being a spinner, from being a fielder. They took me to Dhaka where I played in the age-group Helvetia Cup for Brothers Union. I did well there so I was called up for U-13s where I struck 151, which turned me into a batsman. Now I want to be a good allrounder."

Mohammad Isam is ESPNcricinfo's Bangladesh correspondent. He tweets here

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Nasim on March 22, 2014, 5:47 GMT

    Yes, selection of T20I, ODI and Test players should be specific as most players' performance vary with the red and white balls and very few have equally sound records in List A and first class matches. However, for a country that happen to play cricket too infrequently (both international and domestic) it is wrong to tag a newcomer player T20 specialist or Test specialist - which seems to be the case for Sabbir and Mominul respectively. Instead they should be playing in all three formats, with opportunity to exploit all of their skills (batting + bowling), abundant enough to finally find their perfect spot or get dropped even, e.g. it is safe to say that Abdur Razzak doesn't belong to tests or Riyad doesn't belong to T20I... Also it seems to become a norm to debut a player in T20I but I thing ODI is the perfect platform for a debutant...

  • Android on March 20, 2014, 8:47 GMT

    i saw this guy in bpl hitting shaun tait a six.a very good prospect.

  • Noor on March 20, 2014, 0:53 GMT

    He is undoubtedly a very good player. We need to nurture him and prepare for attacking against big side. He is the one we need in T20 and ODI. He can hit the ball clear. Sabbir, Mithun, Anamul, Ziaur are good players for T20. I hope they will be given more opportunities, specially with weaker teams at the beginging of their career, instead of Mahmudullah, Gazi and Razzak.

  • Dik on March 19, 2014, 18:48 GMT

    It's high time Bangladesh have specialist players. They mix and match players and ruin their form and then drop them. Fine example is Junaid. He was great in T20, and his t20 success brought him a place in ODI and Test right away. Why? Why not just continue with him in T20?? Currently it's Mominul and Anamul. One's a longer format player and other is just starting to perform in shorter format. But they shouldn't play all format! BCB needs to manage the players better. I highly suggest you make this a feature comment so they see it!

  • KH. RAFIQUE on March 19, 2014, 17:47 GMT

    Come on boy!One more match and you are in middle of PRIME shoot of your life.Go for it.Roar TIGERs Roar>>>>

  • Alamin on March 19, 2014, 17:44 GMT

    To touch the sky u need to avoid self satisfaction . Sabbir , Zia and Reza are good finder in BD cricket but they need to work hard . I mean the diaminf needs to be cherished doesnt matter where u are from

  • maruf on March 19, 2014, 17:04 GMT

    I hope he will be a good batting allrounder.

  • Amir on March 19, 2014, 16:27 GMT

    Definitely one for the future. Sabbir, Mithun, Mominul, Nasir, Anamul can become regulars in BD side if they continue to improve and work on their game. They have the talent and the mindset is getting there. Go Tigers!

  • Android on March 19, 2014, 16:14 GMT

    he will give lot more to bd team.

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