When Saleh Gazi, Bangladesh’s up-and-coming left-arm spinner, was a boy, his father abandoned the family, leaving it to fend for itself. If not for his maternal grandparents, Gazi is unsure where he would have ended up. His grandfather supported the family while its was his grandmother who inadvertently took him close to cricket.
“She enrolled me into a primary school that overlooked the Barisal Stadium. There I saw Sohag Gazi (Bangladesh off-spinner, unrelated) practise there everyday, which was a big influence. I started playing cricket when I was about 10 years old. Shyamal Sarkar was my first coach and I told him I wanted to be a fast bowler. But my district team coach Abdullah advised me to bowl spin because I didn’t have the physique of a quick bowler. I made the switch and started to bowl left-arm spin. I think I made the right choice,” Gazi told The Indian Express after taking 6/10 against Afghanistan U-19 at Jadavpur University’s Salt Lake Campus ground on Sunday.
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He was impressive in the first match as well, returning with 2/26 from 10 overs. But Bangladesh U-19 lost to India, being blown away by Avesh Khan’s pace. It put them under pressure for today’s fixture. Gazi rattled the Afghans with his arm ball that fizzed off the deck. He castled three opposition batters, while two were dismissed leg before. Only Naveen-ul-haq was out caught at long-on when Gazi induced him with flight, forcing a leading edge. “Yes, I bowl flatter and faster. Arm ball is my stock delivery,” he said.
Bangladesh have had a fine tradition of producing left-arm spinners. Mohammad Rafique set the trend with 100 wickets from 33 Tests and 125 scalps from as many ODIs. Shakib Al Hasan came close on his heels. They also have Arafat Sunny and Abdur Razzak, but Shakib’s record (147 and 206 Test and ODI wickets, respectively) makes him a pin-up star for every young Bangladeshi spinner.
“Shakib bhai is someone I look up to, although (medium pacer) Mashrafe Mortaza is my favourite cricketer,” said Gazi. It’s still very early days, but the 18-year-old appears to have the potential to continue the legacy.
He has been performing consistently over the past couple of seasons. Eleven wickets from five matches in Sri Lanka last year had been a decent show. He bettered it with 13 wickets from seven outings against South Africa colts in a home series this term. Gazi has already earned recognition at U-19 level. Surely, it’s time to dream big.
“Every young player dreams about playing for his country, and if I’m consistent I will get there. I want to play in the IPL as well, but making the leap to a higher level would be a big challenge. At the moment, however, I’m just concentrating on the upcoming (U-19) World Cup that we would be hosting. I believe we can win this. India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka will pose big threats, but we are ready to fight.”
For the record, Bangladesh U-19 won today’s match by four wickets. After bowling out Afghanistan U-19 for 85, they got over the line in 34.4 overs, surviving a middle-order collapse. It gave them a bonus point.
Brief scores: Afghanistan U-19 85 all out in 30.4 overs (Hazratullah 32, Saleh Gazi 6/10) lost to Bangladesh U-19 89/6 in 34.4 overs (Mohammed Hassan 32) by 4 wickets