The making of Ebadot Hossain – air force grit and smell of Sylhet

Right-arm pacer Ebadot’s match-defining 6 for 46 in New Zealand is perhaps the start of something new for Bangladesh in overseas conditions.

On a rampage: Ebadot Hossain wrecked New Zealand on the final day of the first Test in Mount Maunganui.   -  AFP

Bangladesh is known for nurturing spin bowlers. Every other kid in the country aspires to become a spin bowling all-rounder, especially after witnessing the monumental success of Shakib Al Hasan.

Sylhet boy Ebadot Hossain Chowdhury is an outlier in the Asian nation’s cricket script. The right-arm fast bowler did not come up through the ranks in the system. He was scouted from a pacer hunt in Faridpur where he had impressed former Pakistan quick Aaqib Javed.

Ebadot’s father had a job at the Border Guard Bangladesh, and he enrolled in the Air Force, where he would play volleyball. Natural speed and love for Brett Lee brought him closer to cricket.

His career-best 6 for 46 in the second innings to choke New Zealand in the first Test at Mount Maunganui could start a new chapter for the Bangladesh pacers who don’t get enough chances to shine in their home conditions that usually assist spinners.

The Bangladesh Cricket Board has been on its toes to find genuine fast bowlers and fine-tune them at their High-Performance camps. Ebadot’s figures throw light on the work by the coaches.

Before coming under the wings of Ottis Gibson in the international team setup, former Sri Lanka fast bowler Champaka Ramanayake had polished Ebadot in his early days. “He came from nowhere. He was with me for about two-and-a-half years. When he came, he was raw, but he had the pace with the heavy ball. He was not consistent and had not played much cricket at the junior level. Even his run-up was not right, so he had to do a lot of technical work.

“He has done remarkably well since he delivered that kind of a spell in the second innings. Now he has the belief that he can do it. Earlier, he was not picking up wickets. I always told him to be consistent as much as possible to get the reward one day. Finally, my hard work has paid off. Test cricket is all about having patience, hitting the length consistently, bowling lots of overs and spells,” Ramanayake, the fast bowling consultant at the High Performance Center, tells Sportstar.

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Ebadot has been disciplined in his approach but he took time to become consistent. Before this Test, he had only 11 wickets in 10 outings. “He was playing first-class cricket, but he was not consistent. It was only recently with the A team when he slowly gained that consistency. It took a while for him. Now that he is in the national team, he realises the importance of consistency at the highest level. I have to praise the selectors for having faith in Ebadot because he had not picked wickets in the earlier games,” says Ramanayake, who is confident that this historic performance could pave the way for future glories in overseas conditions.

Changing the culture

Ramanayake understands the challenges of a fast bowler to shine on the spin-friendly tracks in Bangladesh. He believes neutral wickets could help satiate the hunger of these quick bowlers who can later breathe fire in overseas conditions.

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“He had played a lot of cricket back home but there was not much support from the pitch but when you go away, and if you hit the right length, you can always pick up wickets as a fast bowler since there is always a bit of grass left on the pitch. If you are smart enough, you can do it,” he says.

After many years, the BCB is convinced about assisting fast bowlers in domestic matches. “In domestic, the BCB is trying to have green tops. But for Tests at home, you have to win with your best skills and that’s why the focus is on spin. In domestic, there is a 50-50 wicket and I believe that is ideal as it will force the bowlers to work hard for the wickets,” adds Ramanayake.

The Sylhet connection

Three Bangladesh pacers from the current crop – Ebadot, Abu Jayed Rahi and Khaled Ahmed – are from Sylhet, a picturesque city on the eastern side of Bangladesh with hills and tea gardens.

Ebadot honed his skills under coach Mohammad Emon in Sylhet which offers good facilities, weather and bouncy wickets to train as a fast bowler.

Cock-a-hoop: Ebadot celebrates a dismissal during the first Test against New Zealand. - AFP

 

Emon highlights how the moderate temperatures and world-class facilities in Sylhet Division help the pacers. There is also a lot of bonhomie among the boys. “I have been the local coach for Ebadot. A lot of pace bowlers are coming up from our region, such as him, Rahi and Khaled. I feel the cricket culture in this region has changed with better facilities. Since it is a hilly area, it helps the players train better. I think the training is helping the players in the long run,” he says.

The erudite coach had to face a lot of flak for trying to make a bowler out of Ebadot who had a wayward line and length back in the day. “See, pace is something that comes naturally and how one can add more skills and develop the bowler is the work of a coach. I never backed down. Ebadot also had a lot of support in Rahi. They have trained together and supported each other all the time,” he adds.

Emon breathes easy these days since Gibson clears most of Ebadot’s doubts. “I know the kind of good work Gibson is doing with Ebadot. I keep hearing from him about the kind of tasks he is assigned. He would bowl short of length earlier, now he can bowl a lot more fuller.”

The pace future in Bangladesh

Bangladesh has quality in its pace department with the Sylhet boys, along with Taskin Ahmed and Shoriful Islam – the youngster from a remote area in the Panchagarh district. “They are all smart boys, and they will do well. Shoriful did not have electricity at his home when he started playing cricket but he did not look back. Even at 19, he had a lot of confidence. It took a while to change the culture of spin in Bangladesh. But to win games outside Bangladesh, you need pacers and that’s what my job has been for the past four years,” says Ramanayake, who will be visiting Bangladesh for a special camp in March.

Meanwhile, the Tigers can take a moment to cherish the Test victory and prepare to close the series at Christchurch.

Come Sunday, Ebadot will be expected to roar louder. Let there be more salutes.

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