Shahriar Nafees, given the promise, could've been one of the greatest batsmen to have emerged from Bangladesh. He used to be one of the first few Bangladeshi batsmen who had the knack of playing eye-catching knocks when Bangladesh were yet to become a force to reckon with.
There is no doubt about the talent that Shahriar Nafees possesses. Although Nafees had to spend a lot of time practising and upgrading his skills, he never compromised on studies. He had started touring overseas at a very young age but still managed to build a superb academic career.
The southpaw was fast-tracked into the national team after little senior cricket experience. He toured England with the team in 2005. Though he didn't feature in the Tests, he was handed a debut in the triangular ODI series and the left-hander repaid the faith in him by scoring a sublime 75 against Australia in just his fourth match.
Nafees hit the purple patch in the next year when he became the first-ever Bangladeshi batsman to score in excess of 1000 runs in ODIs in a calendar year. No Bangladeshi since then has matched that.
He excelled in Test cricket as well, that too against the best of opponents. Nafees hit his magnum opus against the mighty Australians in Fatullah in 2006. He pulverised the Aussie attack that had Brett Lee, Stuart Clark, Jason Gillespie, Shane Warne and Stuart Macgill. He played a blazing knock of 138 off 189. He took the attack particularly to Shane Warne, arguably the greatest spin bowler of all-time, who went for 112 in just 20 overs.
But Nafees, somehow, couldn't back the big scores up with significant contributions and with the emergence of Tamim Iqbal, he slowly started to lose into the wilderness. On top of that, he joined the unauthorised Indian Cricket League (ICL) in 2008. He did make a comeback a year later, but could never replicate his old form. But Nafees not living up to the expectations at that time had a lot to do with lack of opportunities. Often he was given opportunities on grounds of the regular openers' absence.
He had fallen out of favours as early as 2013. But he did what one could possibly do to earn a call-up again but it never happened. He piled up runs in domestic cricket, grabbed headlines but the call-up never came.
Nafees is associated with a few more 'firsts' in Bangladesh cricket. He is Bangladesh's first captain in the shortest form of the game. Although Bangladesh won the game comfortably, Nafees could never play another T20I for Bangladesh. Not even after smashing the first-ever hundred in T20 cricket by a Bangladeshi batsman.
Nafees, 35 now, still as fit as a fiddle, has said goodbye to professional cricket and taken up a position in the BCB's cricket operations department. Nafees recalls the time when he would be taken for training by his parents, "They supported me. So I must thank them. I would like to thank my wife and kids, my in-laws, as well as my first coach Wahidul Gani."
The Bangladesh Cricket Board (BCB) organised a reception to honour the two cricketers at the Shere Bangla National Stadium on Saturday, during the lunch interval on the third day of the Dhaka Test against West Indies, where they were presented with crests by the BCB and the players' association.
Nafees, after the reception, said that it feels a bit weird knowing that he will never play an official game ever again. "I'm not sad, but the feeling is weird. I guess this was the right time for me. I have always wanted to contribute to cricket after retiring, I'm glad that I got the opportunity," said Nafees.
Nafees also mentioned that he has no regrets about his cricket career.
"Had I played a little more international cricket, my statistics would have been better. But I don't judge satisfaction with statistics. I don't think it's possible to get more love than I received over the years from the people and the media. I have no regrets."
Nafees, to his own admission, is an underachiever. The story of his career would've been different had he been given enough opportunities. His career will remain a story of 'what could've been.'