906 runs from 40 ODI innings at an average of just 25.88. An average of just 27.87 in List A cricket from 119 innings and 2983 runs. On top of that, controversy sticks to him like a shadow.
He was banned from domestic cricket for six months for assaulting a fan with ill intent during a first-class match. And then, once his suspension was lifted, he went on to threaten a fan on Facebook, for which he was banned from international cricket for six months.
These are not really great numbers and behavioral patterns. In fact, it is a disappointment. And yet, there is so much hope – and, seemingly, faith – in Sabbir Rahman.
Sabbir’s suspension from international cricket in September meant that he was set to miss the tour to New Zealand next month. And yet, owing to the advice of ODI captain Mashrafe Mortaza, the selection committee decided to cut short the ban and include him in the ODI squad against the Kiwis.
So, the question is, why did Mashrafe Mortaza recommend him?
In his own words to bdnews24:
We need alternatives for the number 6 and 7 spots. For that, I considered Mosaddek Hossain and Sabbir Rahman. The former hasn’t been in good touch apart from the [Chittagong Viking’s] last match and even you [the media] have questioned whether he is right for the number 7 spot, which is logical. So, who else remains apart from Sabbir?
On why he believes Sabbir is the best possible option for the number 7 spot, he claimed, "He has the ability. As a captain, I now have to think about the upcoming World Cup and dream big for it. So, for the for number 7 spot, I would like a batsman who can score runs quickly. I don't expect a number 7 to score the fifties regularly.
"A number 7 batsman usually has to bat in the death overs [where the best bowlers from the opposition team bowls], so the batsman has to improvise and try to play powerful shots.
"Name me another alternative who could do that."
Mashrafe’s words reveal a glaring problem with the depth of batsmen in the Bangladesh cricket circuit. While he acknowledges Mahmudullah Riyad’s power-hitting abilities in the final overs, he also rightly mentioned that it is not fair to expect him to do it always.
That, there is a need for a backup – and there is no better alternative than Sabbir Rahman for that.
In recent matches in limited overs cricket, Bangladesh has tried both Mosaddek Hossain and Ariful Haque at number 7. However, none of them were able to make the spot their own.
It is not as though Sabbir Rahman becomes an inferno that burns the opposition’s bowling attack while batting at number 7. The right-handed batsman has played 14 innings in the position and only has 261 runs at an average of 21.75.
In comparison, Hossain – the other alternative – has 183 runs from 11 innings at an average of 26.14. Seemingly, Hossain is a better option than Rahman.
However, Mosaddek’s strike-rate at number 7 is 64.89 – which is not even the norm in Test cricket these days, let alone for someone batting at 7 in ODIs – whereas, Sabbir Rahman strikes the ball at 103.57 runs per 100 balls.
The potential ability of a player, i.e., how good he can be with the talent that he has – can’t be judged on simply on numbers. Numbers only show how far the player has come but it can never really be a true indicator of how far he can go.
A perfect example here would be of the legendary former Sri Lanka batsman Mahela Jayawardene. In his first 50 innings in ODIs, he had only 1125 runs to his name with a puny average of 23.93. In the end, he finished his career with almost 13000 runs in ODIs.
One actually doesn’t have to go that far for an example as Bangladesh’s best batsman right now, Tamim Iqbal, had a mere 1302 runs from his first 50 innings and scored them with an average of only 26.04. Now, he averages 36.64 and has 6450 runs in 184 innings.
In both these cases, the numbers weren’t great but anyone with keen eyes knew that both Tamim and Mahela Jayawardene had something special in them.
And those keen eyes see something in Sabbir Rahman as well.
There is an aura surrounding his batting, something that he exudes in a magnificent way when he is at the peak of his powers. This was very apparent when he absolutely desecrated Rangpur, led by Mashrafe Mortaza, with an innings of 85 runs from 51 balls.
It happened right in front of Mashrafe’s eyes – and there are only a very few keener observers than the veteran Bangladesh captain.
He saw what almost everyone deep down knows: that Sabbir Rahman is a supreme talent and an in-form Sabbir exponentially increases Bangladesh’s chance to obtain glory in England at the World Cup.
Sabbir Rahman might have had a rowdy attitude; he might have courted trouble a lot of times with his off-field antics but it doesn’t change the fact that he is among the most talented players in the Bangladesh circuit.
And that talent deserves another chance, another shot at redemption, another glimmer of faith amid all the disappointment, and Mashrafe has given that to Sabbir.
Now, it is up to the dashing right-handed batsman to ensure that he not only does justice to his incredible talent but also repay the trust shown in him.