Jubair Hossain Likhon was only 18-years-old when he was given his debut as the first leg-spinner to play a Test for Bangladesh in 2014. Likhon immediately caught everyone's attention with his bowling, which had a very impressive googly.
But despite noteworthy performances, Likhon was not selected in the team that went to the World Cup in 2015.
Slowly, he was cast out of the side with domestic cricket not prioritising leg-spinners.
In our first part, The Business Standard interviewed Likhon, now 24, to find out where he is now and why he failed to keep his place in the national team despite a bright start.
TBS: How are you spending your time during the pandemic?
Likhon: I've been in my hometown Jamalpur. I have been doing some fitness training and gym. Also, there's a cricket academy here where I practice regularly. Not a lot of guys are available these days because of the Covid-19 situation. But my brother, who is a coach there, accompanies me all the time. So I am making the best use of whatever facilities are available here.
TBS: Leg-spinning is considered the toughest art in cricket. Did it come naturally to you?
Likhon: I think this art came naturally to me. I feel I have all the ingredients a proper leg-spinner needs to have. I can bowl the leg-spinner, the googly and the flipper very well. But I don't get enough opportunities to play matches. I think that's where I've been lagging behind.
TBS: You were fast-tracked into the national team without having played first-class cricket. Tell us about that journey.
Likhon: I was among the highest wicket-takers in district level competitions which earned me a call-up in Division cricket. I performed well there once again and was selected in the under-15 national team. I was always among the top wicket-takers in age-level cricket. Unfortunately, I couldn't play in the 2014 under-19 World Cup because of an injury. But I was the highest wicket-taker in the youth ODIs played at home. I was called to bowl at the nets after that. My bowling in the nets impressed everyone and I got an opportunity to play a couple of practice matches. There I got nine wickets and suddenly there were talks of calling me up in the national team. But I was inexperienced. So I played in the A team and some good performances there earned me a national team call-up.
TBS: Despite doing well in international cricket, you lost your place in the national team. What happened?
Likhon: I've played only a handful of games in the domestic competitions. But I performed in most of the matches and even got man of the match awards as well. But I, as well as all the leg-spinners in the country, have been overlooked always because the clubs want quick results. The board has been generous enough to include me in camps of the high-performance team and academy team. But if the clubs gave me and the other leg-spinners opportunities, it would have been beneficial for the national team in the long run. A leg-spinner at times can go for runs but he can make up with wickets to turn a match in his team's favour. Even players from India who come to play domestic cricket here praise my skills. So it is really frustrating as a leg-spinner, not to play enough matches. The thing is that the board wants more leg-spinners but the leg-spinners don't even get selected by a team in the domestic competitions.
TBS: What do you think is the reason behind you not getting selected in the 2015 World Cup squad?
Likhon: I have no idea about that, to be honest. At that time I was almost a regular in the national team. But I lacked match practise prior to the World Cup because I couldn't get enough chances in the domestic competitions. That may be the reason.
TBS: What have other leg-spinners said about your bowling?
Likhon: I spoke to Rashid Khan a year ago. He watched me bowl and told me that my skills are absolutely fine. But he was surprised when he knew that I hardly get chances to play matches. He said that initially, he didn't have the control he has now. Playing a lot of competitive games helped him to do well. I think that's the most important thing for a leg-spinner. If I get opportunities to play more and more matches, I think I can do well too.
TBS: Do you think you can make a return to the national team?
Likhon: I will request everyone to pray for me and always support me. I am not done yet. With age on my side, I hope I will be able to make a comeback in the team again.