The Sher-e-Bangla Stadium is different from any other international cricket venue you would have seen. It’s more than a stadium. It’s open on most non-cricketing days as it houses a small but thriving furniture manufacturing industry. As soon as you enter the compound, you encounter, well, not the dressing room but rows and rows of half-complete dressing tables and other home décor paraphernalia, with the peculiar smell of sawdust hanging in the air.
You walk past those workshops and take a right through a narrow entrance. It opens into the lush-green ground. Out there, the Bangladeshi team are training. Among that group of small to medium-built players, one lad stands out. Or, should we say stands tall. Taskin Ahmed, the 20-year-old Bangladeshi tearaway, looks like he was made to order, carved out of a tree trunk by the finest of those fine carpenters plying their trade on the outer periphery of the edifice.
When you type ‘Taskin Ahmed’ in the Google search bar, the first suggestion the search engine prompts is ‘Taskin Ahmed height’. It says 6’4″, which is an exaggeration. But the hyperbole — and it’s not a hyperbole by much; he is 6’2″ — is understandable.
For a young cricketing nation, or even an established one like ours which doesn’t have a tradition of producing tearaways, the yearning for a powerfully built fast bowler is above anything else. And it’s basic. Almost like a school kid’s longing for an older brother after suffering another episode of bullying at the hands of his classmates.
The smile says it all
A bit of digression here, but the hype about Taskin reminds you of a pre-tour photo-op that the then Test captain Anil Kumble had before the Australia tour of 2007-08. In one particular photo, Kumble, a tall man himself, is flanked and dwarfed by, Ishant Sharma and Pankaj Singh. The smile on Kumble’s face says it all: Australia, you better not take us lightly now.
The point is, the big fast bowler has to be big first. It is as crucial to the team’s (and its supporters’) confidence and self-esteem as the kilometres-per-hour that he clocks. He has to look intimidating as well. Hence the slightly ‘tall’ claim about Taskin.
But with his obviously impressive build, the young Bangladeshi possesses speed as well. And Team India know it. He took a five-for against them last year to announce himself of the world stage.
All right, it was a second-rung Indian team captained by Suresh Raina, and that Mirpur pitch uncharacteristically offered zip and swing. Still, look at some of his scalps that day. Robin Uthappa, hurried into a pull shot. Ambati Rayudu and Cheteshwar Pujara, both leg-before after being beaten by pace and swing.
The next time Bangladesh faced India was in Melbourne, the World Cup quarter-final. It was a full-strength Indian team this time around. Taskin impressed again, taking three wickets.
In fact, like the host broadcasters had highlighted Tamim Iqbal’s 58-plus average against India in the build-up to the Test match, they can throw up a similar stat about Taskin’s bowling in the run-up to this three-match ODI series. The youngster averages 11.20 against India and has a strikes rate of 15.6. These numbers look anemic, because he has played only two matches against his stronger neighbours. But his 12-match career record is fairly impressive too, an average of 27.31 and a strike rate of 29.0.
“He (Taskin) bowled really well. He bowled well against us in the World Cup,” said Raina, speaking to the media after India’s training session.
For his part, Taskin said he would look to repeat his performance against India. “That performance will inspire me to give my all against India in the series. This is a much better Indian team, so we will have to play at out absolute best if we are to beat them,” he said.
It’s still early days, you can say, but Bangladesh have plenty of hope from the youngster. If he can keep himself injury-free — which he hasn’t so far — without cutting down on pace, he could become this country’s biggest sports star.
Already, he is immensely popular here among youngsters, though in overall figures he might lag behind the likes of Shakib Al Hasan and Mashrafe Mortaza.
“I like Shakib, but Taskin Ahmed is my favourite,” a teenager by the name of Hasan from the district of Narayanganj had told this correspondent ahead of the Test match. “He is very feet,” he said, pronouncing “fit” in a very Bengali way.
But “very feet” wasn’t too far off the mark, either.