Taijul Islam is no stranger to making a great start. He took six wickets on first-class debut to help Rajshahi Division to victory in April 2011. Between that game and his five-for on Test debut in St Vincent, the left-arm spinner has gone through several hurdles to reach international cricket, much of it under the radar.
He only recently came to prominence after after a fruitful Bangladesh Cricket League, when he was top wicket-taker. He took 55 wickets in the 2013-14 first-class season, and was picked to tour West Indies for the A side. Nine wickets from two four-day games kept him on the selectors' radar. With Shakib Al Hasan suspended and Bangladesh in need of a left-arm spinner, Taijul became the first cab off the rank.
Part of a three-man bowling attack in his first Test, Taijul was never going to be Mushfiqur Rahim's go-to bowler. However, he changed his captain's mind with a steady build-up of dot balls and used his flight cleverly. West Indies might not have known of him and he hasn't carried the scars of his team's weak form. That freshness helped.
His first wicket was Kirk Edwards, a result of his attacking mindset even when the opposition was strongly poised. Taijul was making the ball dip on Chris Gayle as well, giving the bowler enough encouragement to toss the ball up and give it enough time to turn. Edwards played across the line and was caught at silly mid-off.
The next four wickets, one might say, came cheaply as the batsmen got out trying to slog. But Darren Bravo was foxed by his change of angle. Taijul was swatted for two fours before he moved around the wicket and tempted the batsman again. Bravo, going for the hat-trick, was caught at mid-off. Kraigg Brathwaite had to place the need for quick runs above his natural game. Denesh Ramdin and Jerome Taylor also fell in service to a four-plus run-rate on the third morning, but Taijul was not tempted to bowl flatter and ended up with the wickets.
Former Bangladesh captain Khaled Mashud, the man who gave Taijul his first-class break, was not surprised by the debutant's success. Mashud said that Taijul was different from other left-arm spinners in the domestic circuit because he could make the ball do more than just slide on. Perhaps that is why the 22-year old, with only three seasons' first-class experience was selected ahead of more accomplished bowlers of his variety.
"He knows that giving the ball a bit of air and letting it turn is not a bad thing," Mashud said. "He is one of the rare bowlers in Bangladesh now who doesn't just bowl the arm ball. I don't think it was surprising to get a five-wicket haul on Test debut but Taijul has been in good form this season so that has helped him too."
Taijul was in the shadow of the more established left-arm spinners like Saqlain Sajib, Suhrawadi Shuvo and Sanjamul Islam. But after Taijul had taken 14 wickets in his first three games for Rajshahi, Mashud ensured he had a place in the squad for the next three seasons. The split of the Rajshahi team to create Rangpur Division two seasons ago meant that Shuvo moved away and Taijul became a regular member of the country's most successful first-class team.
There were a spate of left-arm spinners snapping up five-fors and Taijul was part of the support-act with Rajshahi, which has contributed to him slipping under the radar. Mashud believes that Taijul got recognition from the two BPLs in 2012 and 2013, though his wicket-taking ability wasn't coming through. His only had two from three matches in 2012 and nine from as many games in 2013. But he did display maturity in certain matches where his team needed someone to bowl tightly.
"In the first season, he just played three games but his economy rate was enough to suggest he was strong enough to handle the pressure. He was a regular for the Rajshahi side last year," Mashud said.
He is the sixth Bangladeshi bowler to have taken a five-for on debut. The last man to do that was Sohag Gazi, who is out of the team for issues with his action. But Gazi's slump in form recently has shown that you need a lot more than a sparkling debut performance to survive in top-level cricket.