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A glittering trophy in his hand Mehedi Hasan Miraz, surrounded by a posse of local journalists, expected the keys to be handed over to him. The Bangladesh ‘Cubs’ captain had just been named the Player of the Tournament at the 2016 Under-19 World Cup in February and assumed — or was led to believe — that the swanky white Nissan sedan, which had silently witnessed his 242 runs and 12 wickets during the event from just beyond the ropes, was going to be his.
But the big cardboard cutout in the shape of a key never came. Miraz’s face betrayed dejection when someone whispered in his ears the car was placed there as an advertisement and was not to be given away as prize. For the son of a poor taxi driver from Khulna, it would have been a big deal, but Miraz would not drive away from the Sher-e-Bangla Stadium in his own four wheeler.
Rest assured, however, he soon will.
When Bangladesh’s lucrative central contracts come up for renewal in January, the name ‘Mehedi Hasan Miraz’ will almost certainly be added to the list. For, it was his 12-159 in the second Test at Mirpur against England that gave the Tigers their most significant long-format victory since they became a full member in 2000.
In the two Test matches of his debut series, Miraz took 19 English wickets, including three five-fors. The visiting captain, Alastair Cook, might have struggled to recall his name, referring to Miraz as “one of them”, but he wouldn’t forget this harrowing trial by spin anytime soon.
Miraz may have taken the world by surprise with an explosive start to the career, but in Bangladesh they always had faith in him to make it big sooner rather than later. He was, after all, their Under-19 captain for two years, leading them to the plate title in 2014 and an overall third-place finish in 2016. However, even the locals wouldn’t have anticipated the manner in which he announced his arrival on the big stage.
You see, Miraz was always touted as a batting all-rounder. Despite the fact that he has taken a record 80 wickets in 55 Youth ODI matches with his off-spin, it was his 1305 runs that excited the country more as it always saw in him the next Shakib Al Hasan. Batting very low down the order, he scored only five runs in four innings of the England Test series. However, Miraz’s lack of runs — as well the excess of wickets — should seen in proper context. These were extremely difficult conditions for the batsmen. The pitches, both in Chittagong and Mirpur, were turning square. In fact, in the press conference after the second Test ended on Sunday,
Bangladesh captain Mushfiqur Rahim admitted it was their strategy all along to roll out raging turners for England. “From the time we knew England were coming, we planned to make wickets that last three to four days. The sort of wicket that would help our spinners and trouble the English batsmen,” Mushfiqur said.
What Miraz brought to the table was relentless accuracy. He is rather low on variations — he doesn’t possess a credible arm-ball — but on such pitches, and against an opposition that loses all confidence at the first sight of turn, precision is enough.
Miraz’s feat is likely to have a knock-on effect on the upcoming India vs England series. If a greenhorn can run through this English side like a hot knife through butter, Ravichandran Ashwin, world’s leading spinner, and Ravindra Jadeja, it’s logical to assume, will certainly be chomping at the bits to have a crack against this softened-up team in Rajkot, a venue that has traditionally been a spinner’s paradise.
Bangladesh, meanwhile, have two months to go before they tour New Zealand followed by their first-ever Test match against India in India in February. It will be enough time for Miraz to reflect on his heady journey: from a modest rented house in Khulna to the very top of Bangladesh cricket. A journey that, in hindsight, was foretold.
In a “Future Stars” promo video shot by ICC for the Under-19 World Cup that now seems prescient, Miraz is seen sharing his aims and ambitions. In between, for effect, the promo also uses a footage of Rubel Hossain from the 2015 World Cup dismantling Jimmy Anderson’s stumps, with Nasser Hussain exclaiming: “Bangladesh have knocked the England Lions out of the World Cup. One of the greatest days in Bangladesh’s cricket history!” Then, with a background score that heightens tension, it jump-cuts to Miraz again. “I have a dream to play for the Bangladesh national team,” he says in Bangla.
Ten months after that video, Bangladesh have destroyed England again and made a history of sorts. And Miraz has realised his dream.