Bangladesh’s off-spin prodigy Nayeem Hasan seized his chance with both hands with a career-best 6-105 against Sri Lanka in his first Test after February 2021. Nayeem certainly can claim himself lucky considering he made the cut in the playing XI against Sri Lanka following the unexpected injury of Mehedy Hasan that ruled him out of the ongoing Test series against Lankans.
Nayeem, who grabbed three five-wicket hauls, made his presence felt on his debut after becoming the youngest cricketer to claim a fifer against West Indies in his first international game in 2018. Following that performance, he became an integral part of the Test unit before COVID-19 the following year. In four years of his career, Nayeem has played 7 Tests before going into the wilderness for 15 months after his disappointing performance against West Indies in February 2021 where he was playing with a lot of pain, not totally having been cured post his finger surgery.
“It was a very difficult time (after the surgery). It is always tough when you are injured but I tried to adapt,” Nayeem said after the second day’s play on Monday (16 May). His place in the playing XI was not assured despite the fact he was always considered to be the best off-spinner in Bangladesh with the team management always preferring Mehidy Hasan instead because of his batting, which left Nayeem sidelined on different occasions despite being a member of the Test squad.
“There were times when I was with the team, but Miraj (Mehidy) bhai was really playing well and so I did not get a chance,” he said. “When I was injured what I was doing was keeping myself prepared so that when my time comes, I can perform. All I was thinking (after getting a chance in the playing XI) was that when my time comes, I will try to give my hundred percent irrespective of the result and that was my only focus,” he said
Nayeem did not lose heart and kept working on his bowling while the biggest inspiration during the time when he was overlooked for Mehidy came in the form of bowling coach Rangana Herath. The Sri Lankan legend shared his own story of struggle during his initial years due to the presence of Muttiah Muralitharan.
“Herath always told me about my line and length and I did a camp in the Bangladesh Tigers and there I worked with Sohel sir on how to develop that (line and length). I don’t bowl the doosra and all I try to do is bowl with different seam and the arm ball.”
Nayeem needed some kind of confidence and he did get that by removing Sri Lankan skipper Dimuth Karunaratne. He got another wicket soon after too, but paid the price for trying too many things in his last spell to get further success. However, it was a different story when he bowled on the second day as he bowled with lot of purpose and clarity, and more importantly, bowled to his strengths.
“I probably bowled with lot of flight yesterday and tried too many things, but today I bowled a bit tighter. Shakib bhai was telling me not to panic if one run is scored and it is fine as far as boundaries are not scored, so I just decided to focus on restricting runs more than anything else,” he said, adding that he will rate this performance at the top of his list.
“Certainly, I would keep this as my top performance (ahead of the other two five-wicket hauls) till date considering I picked it on a good wicket (and against an opposition capable of handling spin well),” he added.