Enamul Haque jnr was delighted to become the first Bangladeshi bowler to pick up 400 first-class wickets. Enamul reached the milestone by dismissing Rajshahi Division's Farhad Reza, who gave a catch to Alok Kapali at slip, on the second day of Sylhet Division's National Cricket League match at the BKSP-2 ground.
Enamul is now 75 wickets ahead of second-placed Abdur Razzak, while Mohammad Sharif is the only other Bangladeshi bowler to have taken 300-plus wickets in this format.
"It is a great feeling and I am very happy," Enamul said. "I still remember my first wicket. It was of Asadullah Khan in 2002. I played a lot for Bangladesh A as well as Maharashtra in the Ranji Trophy, so I missed a bit of the NCL which affected my average a bit. I consider myself lucky to reach this milestone since we are playing less and less matches as the seasons go by.
"Alok Kapali took the catch at slip to complete my 400th wicket. From the start of this season's NCL, I had been eyeing the 400 wickets as I was 11 wickets short. After I got just one wicket in the first match, I thought it would take me a long time but then I took five wickets in the second game. When I took the wicket of Farhad Hossain, I was on 399 and only then I thought that I could do it in this game."
Enamul was also the first Bangladeshi bowler to reach 300 first-class wickets, completed in December 2011. He has taken 246 of his 400 wickets for Sylhet, 87 for Bangladesh A and 44 for Bangladesh.
But the 44-wicket haul in 15 Tests spread over seven years is underwhelming for a bowler of his caliber. Enamul is hurt about the lack of chances in the Bangladesh team in the last few years. He has played only one Test in the last four years. Still, he rates his 18-wicket haul against Zimbabwe in 2005 as his best-ever performance as it produced Bangladesh's maiden Test win and series victory.
"It is not much regret but I think I have been hard done by in the last 3-4 years. I have been among the top five wicket-takers in NCL over the last few years, and I have also done well in the Dhaka Premier League (domestic one-day) and I have been the highest wicket-taker over the two seasons of the BPL (domestic T20).
"I will keep the performance against Zimbabwe ahead, despite taking 400 first-class wickets. The pressure was on us, I can still remember. It had come from all quarters, and we had to win that series against Zimbabwe in 2005."
Enamul's bane had been the tag of being a "Test specialist' and the lack of wickets in the aftermath of that Zimbabwe series. He played deputy to Mohammad Rafique for a while, but could not break into the ODI side, having taken 14 wickets between 2005 and 2009. At one point, the selectors were unhappy with him playing in the Ranji Trophy rather in the domestic season at home. But they never really gave too much value to his 87-wicket haul for Bangladesh A, supposedly the second string side.
Rajshahi Division, Bangladesh's most successful first-class team, have given Enamul 57 wickets, the most among his opposition teams. He has also taken 50-plus wickets against Zimbabwe A. Enamul said that the improved wickets and batting across Bangladesh has made it more challenging for him.
"I always try to do beat Rajshahi since they are the best first-class team in the country. They never give away their wickets. The last three to four years have been the most challenging of my career. Earlier the wickets were low and slow and it was easier to bowl. Nowadays the wickets have improved and the batting overall has also been better."
As for his favourite delivery, Enamul could not look beyond the peach that went past Michael Clarke's front pad and bat and struck his off-stump after pitching on leg-stump in Fatullah in 2006.
"At the highest level the wicket of Michael Clarke would always stand out. In first-class cricket, my best wicket till date is a similar delivery that I bowled to Litton Das, which he edged to slip. I have never bowled a better ball in domestic cricket," he said.
Enamul wishes that he could win an NCL title for Sylhet at least once before he is done, and is positive about the division's future. "I am very lucky to be born in Sylhet. They gave me the first break more than 12 years ago. We haven't won much but I dream to win the NCL at least once before I retire. We now have a few talented youngsters so I remain hopeful that we will get better."
He also had a message for young left-arm spinners: "A bowler who does well in Test cricket, is bound to do well in all formats. But if he only wants to do well in T20, he will really struggle in Test or first-class cricket. In my mind, the real cricket is played in the longer format."