Interviews

Ebadot Hossain: 'If you are fit enough as a fast bowler, you can do anything'

Bangladesh's newest hero on his international struggles, Air Force background, sledging Ross Taylor, and more

Mohammad Isam
Mohammad Isam
06-Jan-2022
Ebadot Hossain brings out the salute: "My Army background has helped me a lot at a personal level"  •  AFP/Getty Images

Ebadot Hossain brings out the salute: "My Army background has helped me a lot at a personal level"  •  AFP/Getty Images

A stirring speech by the team director, a specific message from the captain, some encouragement from his team-mates, and a doting bowling coach. Those were some of the ingredients for Ebadot Hossain's match-winning performance in Bangladesh's fabulous Test victory against New Zealand. A day after that incredible feat, Ebadot spoke to ESPNcricinfo about how he, a struggling bowler worrying about a poor bowling average, turned things around.
You have come a long way since that pacer hunt in 2016...
I came out as the speedster from the pacer hunt in 2016. The BCB put me in the High Performance unit for three years. They trained me. I played in the A team, BCB XI, and gradually got to this stage.
How did you build towards your figures of 6 for 46 in the first Test?
I think we have to go back to the start of the tour. We were in quarantine for 10 days. On the day before our first training session, team director Khaled Mahmud Sujon sir addressed everyone with a speech. He said, 'We have not won a single match in New Zealand in 21 years. Does it mean we will always lose here? One team has to win here. I think this is Bangladesh's best team, and the one that beats New Zealand to create history'.
This speech inspired me a lot. I thought to myself, someone has to win here. It should be us, this group. Our captain [Mominul Haque], Mushfiq bhai [Mushfiqur Rahim] and Litton [Das] also spoke well. The fact that motivation works, this match is proof. I told myself that we will be the team that beat New Zealand on New Zealand soil. They are the world champions [of Test cricket], but if we give our best in the field, nobody can beat us.
During my second spell [on the fourth day], the support from my team-mates stirred me. I think I was doing anything I wanted with the ball. The captain told me, 'Bowl to your heart's content, we are with you'. I never looked back. Every ball, I bowled 140-plus.
That's the thing. You kept hitting one specific length, but how did you manage to bowl both spells around the same 140kph speed on the fourth day?
If you are fit enough as a fast bowler, you can do anything. Fitness is the first thing for a fast bowler. Part of my preparation was to play four first-class matches before the Test series against Pakistan. I wanted to improve my physical fitness and mental toughness through these four matches, and I think I bowled well against Pakistan as a result.
Initially, we were supposed to do three days of in-room quarantine in New Zealand before getting into practice. Unfortunately, we ended up in room for ten days. We obviously couldn't do any running but the BCB provided us with Theraband flex-bars and stationary cycles. I spent days and nights trying to remain fit. The conditioning coach Nick Lee and physio Bayezid bhai also helped us a lot, [so] all six fast bowlers are fit.
What changed for you in the Mount Maunganui Test from an individual point of view?
I hadn't put things together despite making my Test debut in 2019. It drew a lot of criticism. I have been working with [fast-bowling coach] Ottis Gibson for the last two years. He always encourages me, saying things like, 'You possess the ability to swing the ball both ways. You can reverse the ball. You have the best release position in Bangladesh. You have everything, except the confidence. The day you have the confidence, you will be the best bowler in the country'.
He changed everything in my bowling. With my previous bowling action, I used to lose energy in latter spells. Gibson changed my action, allowing me to bowl faster with less effort. My accuracy has improved too. Today he said in the team meeting, 'I can see the perfect Ebadot today. He has understood what he has to do. He will now take it further'.
The captain was also very encouraging, and he is always trying to help me.
The captain Mominul Haque said that you can finish teams off when you are bowling well. He said that when you took those three wickets in the fourth evening, he finally felt that Bangladesh might win the Test...
There's a background to every success. Everyone from outside - the support stuff, the substitutes - were very helpful. Najmul Hossain Shanto kept telling me from the slips, keep bowling fast. The captain and Mushfiq bhai said that the bowlers are doing well, let's support them. Taskin [Ahmed] kept telling me things are working. We will win the game.
Believe me, hearing all of this from all my team-mates made something burn inside me. I wanted to give it my all to win this Test. I gave my 120%. I just kept bowling fast at the stumps, and the ball was reversing so much. It was unbelievable.
The key wicket was that of Ross Taylor on the fifth morning. He had survived two chances on the fourth evening. Did you plan to bowl more inswingers to him?
Removing Ross Taylor early meant their tail would be exposed, and it meant we wouldn't be chasing a big total. Mushfiq bhai gave a great tip when he said that batsmen take a bit of time moving their feet early in the morning. I should bowl my best ball in the morning. I saw the first ball move slightly inwards. I bowled the next one with all my strength, and it reversed so nicely that it beat him.
It appeared you two were having a brief conversation after you beat him at one point on the fourth evening. What were you two talking about?
I told him that you can hit so well, why don't you hit me? He said, 'Brother, if you bowl like that on this pitch, no one can hit you'.
After the Taylor wicket, what did you make of Shoriful Islam's catch?
It was an unbelievable catch. Shoriful, Taijul [Islam] bhai and Shadman [Islam] all took brilliant catches. We fielded so well. If you were here, you would have ran inside the ground in delight. I don't think anyone could have stood still at the ground. We had such a great feeling among us. I think this win proved to our country that Bangladesh can beat any team, anywhere.
"I told Ross Taylor that you can hit so well, why don't you hit me? He said, 'Brother, if you bowl like that on this pitch, no one can hit you.'"
It also appears that there's a lot of affection within the pace-bowling group.
We talk to each other a lot. When Taskin was bowling during the Test match, and he bowled a great delivery, I told him that his pace looks scary even from mid-on. Taskin also keeps encouraging me when I am bowling. He told me recently that we spend 11 months in a year together. If we stay like a family, we can do a lot of good things together.
There's now a lot of interest about your Air Force background. I don't just mean about the celebratory salute, but being in the Air Force must have also helped you become a more disciplined and fit person?
It is a different lifestyle for uniformed persons. They are very disciplined and keep it to themselves. It has helped me a lot at a personal level. I always remember this background, which is also a reminder that I am representing my nation on two fronts.
Before this Test, did you worry a lot about your bowling average?
I don't want anyone to start their international career like me. I have struggled a lot. I was telling Ottis, 'Coach, not a single Test wicket came easily. I have had to work very hard for every wicket. I sometimes got a wicket after 17 overs or 22, or 33 overs. There were Tests when I got only one wicket'.
He just smiled and said, 'Welcome to Test cricket' (laughs). He said, 'You are a Bangladeshi fast bowler. The conditions are not in your favour. How many Tests do you play in a year? So make the most of your opportunities'.
Patience is everything in Tests. This is why it is called "Test". It tests the patience of batsmen and bowlers. Playing a Test is not easy.

Mohammad Isam is ESPNcricinfo's Bangladesh correspondent. @isam84