Mohammad Isam in Dhaka
It had only been a few hours since Shadman Islam had made 73 against the West Indians in the practice game. But the news was already out. He had made the Bangladesh Test side. It was the final confirmation that the coach Steve Rhodes and selectors Minhajul Abedin and Habibul Bashar believed in his ability. He would be the back-up opener.
Soumya Sarkar failed in the first Test in Chattogram. So did Imrul Kayes, who then picked up shoulder and toe injuries as well. Bangladesh needed a new opener and Shadman was there. The eighth debutant in a year when they have played only eight Tests.
The onus was on the 23-year-old to make the most of his chance. Although he was a bright star from the Under-19 World Cup in 2014, some of his peers from that tournament – Imam-ul-Haq, Aiden Markram, Kusal Mendis, Liton Das – had already made it big on the international stage. He needed to catch up.
Shadman certainly looked the part on his first day as a Test cricketer, going to lunch on 36 not out, with three sweetly-timed fours. More than that, he had batted without being overwhelmed by the fact that he was facing an attack that had caused several Bangladesh batting collapses in the recent past.
Shadman struck three more fours in the post-lunch session, one of which brought up his half-century, and by the time he was finally dismissed, he had played 199 deliveries, the most for any Bangladesh debutant in the last 15 years.
“It felt good,” Shadman said. “Everyone has a dream to play for their country. I tried to give my best for the team, and although I couldn’t fulfill expectations, I will try to do it in the future.
“There’s no real regret [of not reaching a century]. I think everyone wants a century on debut. I tried to bat the way it was best for the team. I couldn’t finish the day properly. I felt I should have been around for longer.”
Shadman is an old-fashioned opener. He has made most of his 3023 first-class runs by concentrating on his defence. And that is what he did against West Indies as well.
“I didn’t think much more than trying to play to the merit of the ball, like the way I have played in domestic cricket,” he said. “I think the practice match helped me. I got an idea about their bowlers. My plan for the practice match also worked here. [My senior team-mates] are more experienced than me, so they kept telling me that I should do only what I do best, like I bat in domestic cricket. They told me to not try anything extra. You have trusted your natural game, so stay that way.”
Shadman became a contender for higher honours in 2014-15, when he accumulated 1,323 runs at 55.12 in both four-day and one-day cricket. He’s had a good time in recent Dhaka Premier League seasons as well, averaging 47.00 in 2017 and 46.20 in 2018, and his chart-topping numbers – 680 runs at 64.80 – in the ongoing National Cricket League made sure he couldn’t be ignored by the national selectors anymore.
Ironically enough, the reason behind his success is also the reason behind his taking so long to come to prominence. His steady approach to run-making goes under the radar when compared to some of the other, flashier talents in Bangladesh. But now that he has made good of his first opportunity at the highest level, Shadman certainly has the potential to catch up with the Under-19 class of 2014. His father – Shahidul, who has been a longtime talent scout for the BCB – made sure of that.
“My father definitely has an influence in my life. When I was a kid, Abbu used to take me to all the U-15 and U-17 camps. I tried to prepare myself in academy and school cricket like my father guided me.
“He supported my cricket a lot. He still tells me how to play, how to set my life as a cricketer. I try to keep myself that way.”
Shadman could have easily sulked over his lack of opportunities. He could have been lost in Bangladesh’s rapidly shifting domestic cricket system. But he seems to possess patience, a very important characteristic for a cricketer, especially for one in this part of the world.