Ebadot Hossain, the fastest bowler in the Bangladesh squad who might play the first Test in Indore, had to wait for a letter from the Bangladesh board saying he has been selected for the India tour. He then took it to human resources department of the Bangladesh Air Force and asked for leave which was granted. It’s a decision the Air Force takes series by series; just because he is the next big hope in Bangladesh doesn’t mean he gets a free pass.
Not that Hossain is complaining. For the middle-class boy, the job was a life-changer. “I am a soldier in the Air Force. It’s a permanent job and means a lot to me and my family,” he tells The Indian Express after a long bowling session at the nets.
However, it was his prowess as a volleyball player that got him the job in 2012 through the sports quota. The Bangladesh volleyball team largely comprises members of the different services and they play all year long. Hossain hasn’t yet played for the Bangladesh volleyball team but turns out for the main Air Force team.
Hossain had played tennis-ball cricket as a teenager and was a sought-after player in the villages and district-level amateur cricket in the Moulavi Bazaar district in northeastern Bangladesh, that borders Assam and Tripura. “I played for teams here and there, whoever would pay me money to come play for them.” As years went by, though his love for cricket remained, Hossain chose volleyball for job security.
“In Bangladesh, the services don’t have quotas for cricketers or footballers. It’s in other sports that we get jobs. Like volleyball. I play four hours of volleyball in the Air Force, two in the morning and two in the evening. I have been told that I would be given an administrative role once my playing days are over.”
It was a pace hunt in 2016 that changed Hossain’s life again. He was one of nearly 40,000 young pacers who tried their hand in the Robi Pace hunt, supported by the the Bangladesh Cricket Board. Hossain speared a ball at 139.9 kmph, the fastest in the hunt, and came into limelight. “It was then I thought I can probably do something with cricket but nothing was sure still.”
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Then came Aquib Javed, the former Pakistan bowler, for a week-long camp in Dhaka. “I was sent for it after the pace hunt and I think he liked me. For the first three days, he taught us how to bowl with the new ball and then the last four days it was about reverse swing. Just a short camp but it was important as I began to believe I can play at a higher level.” Javed was effusive in praise. “He has pace, good body and action. Ebadot is bowling 138-140 kph with his physique. If he can build a decent body, he can be a future Bangladesh fast bowler. But coaches tell me that he will go back to the Air Force and stop practising.”
Those words spurred on Hossain, who went to his bosses in the Air Force with a request to let him continue playing cricket. “Initially, there were some who objected but some officers came to my help after they saw Aquib sir’s words and support from the Bangladesh board. They began to support my cricket, started to grant leave for camps – then for club cricket and professional cricket in BPL etc.”
So after just two years of earnest cricket training, Hossain found himself in the national team and made his debut on the tour of New Zealand earlier this year.
Brett Lee fan boy
Growing up, Brett Lee was his hero and there is something of the Aussie speedster in his action. “I remember I saw him as a child and fell in love with his action and the way he bowled. I don’t try to copy him consciously but it has become natural. The body mechanism in my action is like him. I have gone twice to Australia but have never met him, something I would love to do one day.”
Hossain's bowling speed averages around 138-140 though “I bowled a 147 kph delivery once in BPL,” he beams.
Just not Hossain, it’s a pretty inexperienced Bangladesh team in the absence of Shakib Al Hasan and Tamim Iqbal. The buzz in Indore, from a large Bangladeshi media contingent, is that they will be brushed aside by India without much fuss. Time will tell, but there isn’t much expectation. Even new captain Mominul Haque said as much two days before the game.
“We are not under any pressure; we all know there isn’t much expectation from this series. We will try to play good cricket.” It would be interesting to see if Bangladesh choose to give the likes of Hossain a chance against the Indians. “It would be a great challenge for me if I am given a chance to bowl against Virat Kohli and Rohit Sharma. It would be a great experience for me,” he said.
Despite the need for permission and leave to play for his country, Hossain is in love with the Air Force. “It’s a great way of life and I'm really grateful for all the support. They have told me that if I continue to do well in cricket, they would make me the brand ambassador for the Air Force in my country. That would be so special.”