In 2018, Nayeem Hasan became the youngest spinner ever to pick up a five-wicket haul in Test cricket. He achieved the feat against West Indies on his debut Test, aged only 17 years and 355 days. Since then, he has been a regular face in Bangladesh's Test squad, picking up 19 wickets in five Tests.
In this troubled time of coronavirus, Nayeem spoke to The Business Standard (TBS) on his debut Test, his ups and downs and the feud with Herschelle Gibbs during the latest Bangladesh Premier League.
TBS: How are you biding your time at home?
I am doing some gym work. Also, there is a 20-metre space by my house, I do my running and bowling there. Besides this, I pass my time watching series and reading books.
TBS: How difficult is it to stay out of cricket for so long?
It is very difficult for me. I have never gone through such a long break in my career. Even when I was injured, I was out for 42 days. I am getting very bored.
TBS: How tough was the time after breaking your finger?
It was very tough for me because the bone had split into three parts. I was thinking that this would never heal, I will never play again. Different thoughts clouded my mind.
TBS: Who helped you out at that time?
My family helped me a lot. They told me that something worse could have happened and assured me that I would get my chances once I recovered.
Actually, the day I broke my finger, I went out of the hotel and saw a man who had lost his leg. After seeing him, I was thinking that I am way better-off than that guy. Allah could have made me like him but He has kept me sound and healthy. My friends also told me that worse things could happen.
So after a month, I started running and then slowly returned to the National Cricket League (NCL).
TBS: Who gave you the news of your selection in the Test squad?
I was in New Zealand, representing the Under-19 side at the World Cup. We had a match against India the next day and I got a call. When I came down, there was Shezan bhai and Jewel bhai there and they gave me the news of being called up for the Test team. I was very happy to hear the news. After the match, I had to return home immediately for the series against West Indies.
TBS: Were you afraid before the match?
No, not really. Because I was in fine form back then. I had just picked up 28 wickets in four first-class matches. So, I was bowling really well, everything was going really good. And after playing the practise match against them (West Indies), my confidence boosted up.
TBS: How big an achievement was it to get five wickets on your debut Test?
Actually, those days went past in the blink of an eye. I have no idea how they went by.
TBS: You could not bowl in the Pink-ball Test against India because of concussion. How frustrating was that?
I still wanted to bowl after being hit in the head. But I was in such a bad state that the doctor forbade me from playing. I was feeling bad when I watched Taijul (Islam) bhai bowl the next day. I was thinking that I could have bowled today, I could have bowled against quality batsmen and could have taken up a challenge against them. I felt really bad about not being able to bowl.
TBS: You have bowled very well for Sylhet in BPL. How soon do you want to get into the national ODI and T20 side?
I want to play in all formats. But as everyone is playing really well, there is no room in the team right now. I am trying my best. When the selectors will deem me fit for other formats, I will try my best to perform.
TBS: Regarding BPL, Sylhet coach Herschelle Gibbs had criticised the Bangladeshi players about their lack of English understanding, what is your opinion on that?
What can I say about that? (Laughs) English is not our mother tongue. So, some of us might face difficulty understanding it. But it is not that nobody understands English. Some of us might not understand or speak English that well, but everybody is not the same. He can not judge the whole team by one single player. If someone did not understand and I did, he (Gibbs) could have asked me to help. If I don't understand then he could have called Saikat (Mosaddek Hossain) bhai and help me understand. If only one player in the team understood what Gibbs said, he could have called that player to help the others. If you want the others to understand, you can always find a way. I don't want to talk about this matter further, let it be.
TBS: Which aspect of your bowling are you looking forward to improving?
There are a lot of aspects of my bowling that need improvement. Bowling on a consistent line, flighted deliveries, arm ball, deliveries like 'Doosra'- I need to improve a lot in these. To play on an international level, you have to improve all of these. There is no end to improving. Even world-class spinners like Nathan Lyon has things to improve on. You can not be satisfied, you have to keep on improving.
TBS: How do you feel about working with Daniel Vettori? How much is he helping?
I feel very lucky to work with him. He is a legend of the game. He has taught us three variations which we are currently working on. You can not learn those out of the blue so we are practising those. Once we get our control over them, we will use them in-match.
Vettori is guiding us very well. He has given us proper guidelines and we are working accordingly.
TBS: You have shown your capability with your bat. Do you have any intentions of working on your batting?
Yes, definitely. What I think is that if I bat well, it benefits the side. Because you see, Ravindra Jadeja, Ravichandran Ashwin score fifties or hundreds from the lower order and hand their side an advantage. If I can play such knocks, it will benefit the team a lot, those fifties or hundreds might just win our side the match. I always try to keep my focus and bat thinking myself as a batsman.
TBS: You bowled a 32-over spell against Zimbabwe recently. Do you enjoy bowling long spells?
Yes, I enjoy them very much. It started under Mominul (Haque) bhai in the NCL. When I bowled well, he kept me on for long spells and I also enjoyed bowling those. I also bowl for long periods in the nets, I keep bowling until I am satisfied.
TBS: How much does the team's bowling get affected by Shakib's absence?
Not having Shakib (Al Hasan) bhai means that you are a batsman and a bowler short. When Shakib bhai is around, he advises us on our bowling, and supports mentally. Everyone helps but as Shakib bhai is a spinner, he knows better. So he tells me what will be better, which will help me be successful.
TBS: There are quite some spinners around the national side. How does this competition help you perform?
I don't think like that and I think it is the same for everyone. Whoever plays, we want him to perform. What I think is that I must be ready at all times. So that whenever I get the opportunity, I can do my best and perform.
TBS: Which is your favourite wicket till date?
My fifth wicket against West Indies in my first match, the one where I bowled the batsman. It was a dream-ball for a spinner, as the ball went between his bat and pad to clatter his stumps.
TBS: Whose wicket do you cherish?
Virat Kohli, Steven Smith and David Warner.
TBS: Recently, one of your Sylhet teammates, Shafiqullah was banned for six years for fixing in the BPL. Did you have any idea about it?
No, I had absolutely no idea. I played the matches and then returned straight to my hotel room. Except for this, I have little to no communication with others. I am like this everywhere, I lead a very simple life.