It is definitely too early to say that Bangladesh have found the quality off-spinner they have missed for so long, but it was encouraging to watch Shohag Gazi bowling in his debut Test at the Sher-e-Bangla National Stadium in Mirpur yesterday. Bangladesh had been searching for an off-spinner for long and the arrival of the 21-year old spinner was cause for some hope, especially the way the young man came back after he was hit for a six off his very first international delivery by the dashing Chris Gayle.
The Barisal spinner recovered from the early hiccup to become the most successful bowler on the day by picking up three wickets, including that of Gayle who was deceived in flight, and his bowling performance was the only highlight for the home team on the day apart from their impressive fielding performance on a difficult outfield.
Shohag got the call-up to the national team because of his outstanding performance in the domestic competition as well as with the A team and Academy team over the last three years. Interestingly enough, he thought of his first international match as another National Cricket League game, which might be the reason he could keep his cool and was not too excited despite Gayle's scalp. As he said after the day's play, opening the bowling was not new to him, having done it several times in first-class matches and he felt a similar sort of excitement (after getting the wicket of Chris Gayle) that he always felt after taking a wicket in first-class cricket. It may not have been new to him, but it marked the first time in 103 years that a debutant spinner opened the bowling in a Test.
"The Gayle wicket was not a target; rather I wanted to bowl well and bowl a good line and length similar to my performance in the National Cricket League. Obviously it (the wicket) makes me happy, whether it was Gayle's or not, just as I was happy during the National Cricket League," said Shohag after the day's play, adding: "Actually in first-class cricket I opened the bowling as well, so it wasn't a new experience".
When asked about what his captain said after he was punished by Gayle, Shohag said: "Captain (Mushfiqur Rahim) just told me that he (Gayle) is not comfortable with my bowling, that is why he was charging me and so I bowled accordingly. There was a bit of turn in the pitch initially so Gayle tried to play over mid-on but got caught and I got my first wicket," he added.
He also said that bowling coach Saqlain Mushtaq asked him to continue bowling to a 6-3 field and around the wicket, which is what he tried to do and got the wicket of ton-maker Kieran Powell. It was the former Pakistan off-spin great who handed Shohag his debut cap before the match, and he said that Saqlain was a much-needed source of confidence.