Abu Jayed Rahi has steadily made himself the spearhead of the Bangladesh bowling attack in Test cricket after making his debut in 2018. The 27-year old is one of the rare Bangladeshi fast bowlers who can swing the red cherry both ways and has considerable control over the swing. Despite playing only nine Tests, Bangladesh rely heavily on the fast bowler from Sylhet and the man himself desires to make it big in the most sophisticated form of the game.
Growing up idolising England's James Anderson, the right-arm medium-fast bowler has the goal of serving Bangladesh for a long time donning the white shirt and becoming the highest wicket-taker among the fast bowlers in Bangladesh.
Among the fast bowlers who have played for Bangladesh, Mashrafe Bin Mortaza tops the leaderboard with 78 wickets. Rahi wants to go past his tally of 78 as soon as possible. "We don't play 13-14 Tests a year like England. So I cannot say how many wickets I will have when I finish my career. But my initial goal is to be the highest wicket-taker as a fast bowler for Bangladesh."
Rahi tried to keep his fitness during the shutdown but now is delighted to return to practice. "It's always different practising on the field. I worked a bit on my fitness during the lockdown. Now that I have returned to practice, I've been able to bowl. I'm about to regain my bowling fitness. At the same time, I've also been working on batting and fielding- my secondary skills," Rahi said.
Cricket has been on hold in Bangladesh due to the outbreak of Covid-19. Like everyone, Rahi is a little disappointed but puts safety above everything: "Being away from cricket for such a long time is a bit frustrating. But at the end of the day, safety is what you have to give most importance to."
The 27-year-old played first-class cricket for six years before earning a call-up to the national team. He had the experience of playing as many as 75 first-class matches for Sylhet Division before making his Test debut. "From childhood, I have been an ardent fan of Test cricket. I am a swing bowler and the red ball has more swing and seam movement in the air and off the seam than the white ball. Naturally, I prefer red-ball cricket. My focus has always been on first-class cricket," he stated.
Having done extremely well in List A and T20 cricket, especially in the Bangladesh Premier League (BPL), he earned call-ups in ODI and T20 teams as well. Rahi claimed a five-wicket haul in just his second ODI match against Ireland. But the right-arm medium-fast bowler emphasises Test cricket and desires to cement his place in this format. "I want to play all three formats for Bangladesh. But right now, my focus is solely on Tests. Because Shakib bhai (Shakib Al Hasan) says that one who does well in Tests can do wonders in any form of cricket. Therefore, I want to do well in Test cricket first and stamp my authority here. The rest will follow then," said the fast bowler.
Rahi reckons that in the Sylhet division, unlike the other domestic teams in Bangladesh, do not depend heavily on the spinners. Rather, they play three fast bowlers no matter how the wicket is. He also pointed out that it's important for the cricketers to play on sporting wickets, "I don't think it's a good idea to play on green tops all the time. Because we may not get such tracks in international cricket. The wickets need to have something in for both the batsmen and the bowlers. Otherwise, we won't be able to learn the art of bowling in docile pitches."
Immense determination and stamina are required to bowl long spells in Test matches. But Abu Jayed has shown this quality to bowl long spells tirelessly, a rarity among Bangladeshi fast bowlers. "I've always been told that the swing is my weapon. I don't have the pace to rattle the batsmen. So what I do is to bowl accurately for as long as I can and force the batsmen into a mistake," Rahi explained.
The wicket of Indian captain Virat Kohli that he got during the India tour has so far been his most cherished one and he rates it as his best wicket in his career so far. "Kohli is such a great player, yet I forced him to make a mistake. It gave me immense pleasure that I could deceive him."
He may not be the most box office name in Bangladesh cricket and may not be that larger than life character that fast bowlers tend to be.
But he has taken up the unattended task of leading the pace bowling attack for the Tigers.
With a rare three-match Test series against Sri Lanka on the horizon, he will look to further establish himself as a key member of the side as arguably his biggest challenge awaits.