Bangladesh quick Abu Jayed aspires to be a Test great

Bangladesh fast bowler Abu Jayed Rahi is new in the red ball arena, but the swing brings back old memories — of James Anderson on green tops.

Tests are his priority: New coach Russell Domingo wants structural changes by segregating the limited-overs and Test-focused players for results. Abu Jayed Rahi perhaps arrived at the right time.   -  WRIDDHAAYAN BHATTACHARYYA

 

“I want to play Test cricket.” Abu Jayed ‘Rahi’ is clear in his head. The right-arm pacer is only seven Tests old and he prefers keeping the T20 franchise cricket distraction on check. On his maiden tour of India, he got on top of the big four in the Indore Test to become the talk of the town.

With a mid-arm action generating vicious swing, he killed in spells. Rohit Sharma in the last session of day one, Cheteshwar Pujara and Virat Kohli — in two balls — in the first session of day two. And when Ajinkya Rahane looked set for a hundred, Rahi sent him back in the last session.

The performance of the 26-year-old was like sunshine in the gloomy dressing room of the touring side which hasen’t been at its best in the World Test Championship. New coach Russell Domingo wants structural changes by segregating the limited-overs and Test-focused players for results. Rahi perhaps arrived at the right time.

Sportstar met him for a quick chat in the middle of a practice session. He sat down and the first thing that struck was, “Bhalo lagtase apni Test cricket niya proshno korsen.” (It feels good that you are asking me on my Test aspirations).

You are only a few Test matches old. How do you want to prepare for the future, to make Bangladesh a stronger bowling unit in Test cricket?

I have to keep learning on the move. Picking up four wickets against India was a good start. There is so much more to learn. I am very new and I want to play as much Test cricket as possible to improve. If we play Test matches once in six months or a year, then it is difficult for us to win. In ODIs and T20Is, you can bowl and be successful instantly, but Test cricket is a different mindset. Our first-class structure is changing. The wickets are getting better and good cricket is starting. We are trying to follow India’s domestic system.

Many cricketers make themselves unavailable for Tests to play T20 around the world. How will you keep the distractions away?

I started playing first-class cricket from a young age. Since then, I had this desire to play for the national team as I played so many first-class games. From childhood, I had a weakness for the red ball. I prefer red-ball cricket compared to the other formats. I love Test cricket.

Who have been your role models?

James Anderson (England). I have followed him for a long time, and these days, I am liking Mohammed Shami’s bowling. I only follow bowlers with whom I find similarities like Shami bhai who can swing and reverse swing the ball. I really enjoy his spells. His height and physical built are just like us.

Did he give you any tips?

Not yet, but he has called me to his residence in Kolkata the next time I come to India. We spoke a little since he understands Bengali. He told me “Bari esho, boshe golpo korbo.” (come home, we will sit and chat).

How would you rate your Indore performance? It seems like the best so far in the short career...

If picking up wickets of big batsmen is an achievement, then it is the four of them, indeed. They are world class batsmen, they have dominated bowlers around the world. Kohli and Rohit are from the highest level. It will perhaps help me break into the big league. I became confident after getting Rohit out. I thought I can run through the Indian batsmen if I stick to my plans.

Prize scalp: Virat Kohli is trapped in front and Abu Jayed (right) appeals for a LBW, on the second day of the first Test in Indore. The decision which was reviewed by Bangladesh, went against the Indian skipper.   -  AP

 

You could’ve had a fifth wicket had Imrul Kayes not dropped double centurion Mayank Agarwal on day one…

Oh, yes. I didn’t sleep well that night. I was a little tense and I felt bad that Mayank’s catch was dropped, but these things keep happening. I could have finished with two wickets on day one itself. Thankfully, I never think of who I am bowling to. I just had to bowl in the right areas. It was a miracle to get Virat out off the second ball he faced. It is a dream to get him out, my biggest wicket of all.

What is your training regime? What do you when you are back home?

I come from Sylhet, it is close to Assam on your side [India]. I have the good habit of waking up early. I roam around my area a bit and then, play football. I do a lot of running in the evening. Sylhet ey onek boro boro maath ase (there are big grounds in Sylhet) where people play football. At times, in the evening, I run back home after a game of football. On match day mornings, I try to reach the breakfast table at least half-an-hour in advance to get the feel. I also try to maintain food habits, which I feel is essential to remain a good fast bowler. I am not a big foodie.

“I wake up early, and roam around my area a bit and then, play football. I also do a lot of running in the evening,” says Abu Jayed of his training regime.   -  AP

 

But fast bowling was not your first choice...

No, it wasn’t. I started as an off-spinner. My mejo bhai (one of the brothers) used to play first-class cricket. So I started playing. From there, I had once gone for an Under-13 selections trial as a spinner. I didn’t get selected then and the next time, I bowled seam up. My coaches said I was fast and there was a lot of heart in my bowling. Later, I discovered out-swing and it developed gradually from age-group cricket. My brother used to say that the wickets in Bangladesh would suit the spinners. Spinners always had a price in Bangladesh.

How did you break into the national league? You’ve gone through the hard yard with Sylhet Division and then, Bangladesh A...

That’s an interesting story. My district coach had told me that I had to bowl to Alok Kapali [former Bangladesh batsman]. If I could impress him, I would be selected for the national league. I came around 1 p.m. to bowl. I bowled two deliveries and it hit him in the ribs and chest. After that, I got selected. I didn’t intend to hurt him but the deliveries were such that it just happened.

How is your relation and understanding with the other Bangladesh pacers?

Mustafizur Rahman and I are all-time friends. He kept pushing me to bowl one more over in India’s first innings. He kept telling me if I could bag a five-wicket haul against India, it will be a massive achievement. Five wickets against India is a big thing. He really motivates me.

What has been your experience playing under Mominul Haque?

Mominul bhai  has been my captain since my early days in first-class cricket. We know each other in and out. So that understanding is there.

You were a part of the World Cup squad in 2019. It was quite a fast-track for your career…

I played well in New Zealand [earlier this year], and after that I was confident of the World Cup call-up. Injury to Taskin Ahmed increased my chances. I also picked up five wickets (5/58) in the second ODI I played, against Ireland.

Shakib Al Hasan and Mashrafe Mortaza are Bangladesh legends and you have spent a good amount of time with the both of them. Any favourite memory with them?

Shakib bhai’s words have been very sharp and it really rings in my ears. The first time he saw me, he was impressed that I could swing the ball. His BPL side Dhaka Dynamites had lost a game to Chittagong Vikings, my team. I swung the ball, picked up three wickets, and won my side the game. His words really encouraged me. Mash bhai  told me one crucial thing. A great advice. He told me if I am not able to bear with what people talk on social media about cricketers, I should be out of it. It could be a distraction. I really liked what he said, so I am not on social media.