Sabbir reaps rewards of recalibration

The Bangladesh team hit the ground running in preparation for the Test series against Windies, with Tamim Iqbal and Mahmudullah notching up centuries in a warm-up game against against a WICB President’s XI in Antigua. Meanwhile, another Bangladesh batsman registered a three-figure score, albeit across the globe in a different cricketing landscape, making the right noises to keep the selectors interested.

Usually known for his aggressive batting, Sabbir Rahman’s capability for the longer forms of the game has been questioned a lot in the past, with his critics pointing out at his lack of application and temperament as the reason for his average numbers in Tests and first-class cricket. Being in the news for all the wrong reasons, with his disciplinary issues threatening to derail his career, Sabbir was in immediate need of re-calibration when it came to his game and the thought process involved.

Dropped from the last match of the recently-concluded T20I series against Afghanistan on disciplinary grounds, and already serving a six-month ban from domestic cricket for his past indiscretions, the unofficial Tests against Sri Lanka A provided Sabbir an opportunity to mend his ways and bring the focus back to his cricket.

With Sri Lanka A posting a sizeable total of 449 after opting to bat in the first match at the Zahur Ahmed Chowdhury Stadium in Chittagong, and Bangladesh A slipping to 74 for 3 in reply, Sabbir arrived to the crease with a question mark hovering over his ability to script a rescue act. Having had to wait for the storm to pass, Sabbir had to go against his natural instincts, which meant that he could only manage 15 off the first 70 balls that he faced.

For all the toughness that he displayed during that time, it was only a start and he needed to endure – a quality that isn’t generally associated with him. But endure he did and the outcome was a 287-ball 165 that ensured Bangladesh A came close to matching Sri Lanka A’s total and secured a stalemate in the four-day game. It was also a huge shot in the arm for the confidence of a cricketer who proved he isn’t as uni-dimensional as he’s portrayed.

That he missed out on his maiden double hundred having put himself in a good position to get one, could be singled out as the only downside of what was a spectacular effort. But the milestone didn’t matter as much to the 26-year-old who was only pleased with the manner in which he got his runs.

“Yes, you can say I missed a double hundred but for me scoring a century in the longer version can be considered as a huge accomplishment in itself,” Sabbir told Cricbuzz. “Even I am having a mixed feeling regarding my innings as to whether it was me or someone else who did all these things in the middle.

“I am pleased that I did not lose my head during the initial phase when things were tough and probably it took 64 deliveries for me to score just 14 runs. I made up my mind that I am ready to struggle but I will not lose my wicket trying to do anything silly,” he added.

The time away from domestic cricket allowed Sabbir to work on his fitness and also address some technical flaws concerning his batting. “I focused on individual training during this period. I also made some technical changes (to address the flaws) that was believed to be largely responsible for my lack of consistency during this time. I am quite satisfied that at least I could execute it in the middle,” he noted.

Having curbed his attacking approach, Sabbir said his focus was on playing the ball on its merit and keeping the bowlers at arm’s length before thinking about ways to add to his runs tally. He also said he had a clear-cut idea of how to handle Lakshan Sandakan, who had been Bangladesh’s tormentor in the past. But his emphasis, he insisted, was on building it block by block by concentrating on the situation on hand.

“I had a plan against Sandakan that if he bowls off-spin I will sweep and if he tries to bowl the googly than I will try to play according to its merit,” Sabbir said. “But I planned all these things after crossing my fifty and until that time my major emphasis remained on trying to keep my composure in the middle. Longer version cricket is all about temperament and application, and for me… I knew I can play my shots if I manage to stay focused.”

Sabbir also received a thumbs up from chief selector Minhajul Abedin, who said: “He batted really well but what was really satisfying is that he looked determined not to give up unlike in the past when he spilled his opportunities despite doing all the hard work.”

Things may have not gone too well for him in the past but this was a conscious approach towards addressing those issues and re-establishing his credentials. It’s a step in the right direction and Sabbir hopes he continues in the same path. “I think it is a new beginning for me and I am not willing to waste any opportunity that comes my way after making all these efforts and taking all these troubles.”

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