Rubel Hossain
National Cricketer

The youngest boy of a family of seven, Rubel Hossain broke out from his scenic home district of Bagerhat and came to Dhaka in the summer of 2005 to try his luck with a non-league team, the Mirpur Boys Club. He then traveled to Khulna to participate in the Grameenphone Pacer Hunt, a nationwide search for fast bowlers. Rubel, not the typically strapping fast bowler type but 5 feet 7” with a thin stature, bowled at 80mph and made a return to Dhaka, this time with purpose.

From winning the Pacer Hunt, Rubel caught the eye of the national team players with his slingy action in the nets at Mirpur where he was a regular, earning Tk. 500 a day for his troubles. In late 2008, Rubel was picked in the national team after some consistently good performances in the Academy and A team, and henceforth cemented his place in the national team.

"There were times when my parents and family members thought it was no use. There wasn't much happening, but my mother always encouraged me and was very supportive from the early days," says Rubel from his Mirpur apartment.

Yet, so many boys from all across the country are ready to take the plunge. Discouraging parents sometimes win the battle of wills, in most cases education being the safer option. But for a boy like Rubel, of little education and stuck in the constricted world of Bagerhat, cricket offered a window of hope.

The Rubel story spreads hope and light but even that has its troubles. The boy is a fast bowler, the dirtiest trade in the business with the highest propensity of injury. Without education to fall back on, the handsome salary and perks he receives now may be of fickle importance if he has a major injury.

by Shahanoor Rabbani

Imrul Kayes
National Cricketer

Imrul Kayes is a great example of a cricketer who is always looking to improve his game. Willing to take criticism positively, he always sees his glass half full rather than half empty. If one follows his career, one would see how his batting has evolved since first showing up in national colours, starting from his stance to the number of shots he now plays. There is no denying that if Imrul keeps improving, he will become one of the best batsmen of Bangladesh.

Off the field, Imrul is an easily approachable person and doesn't let his superstar status get to him. Although just 25, he happens to have his own cricket academy in Meherpur, his hometown.

“It all started in 2009, and the academy has been doing well with players from there getting a chance to play first division cricket,” he says. “Before, it was very difficult for someone from this region to take up cricket as a profession because there were no academies around. I had to travel to Rajshahi to learn how to play. But since the academy opened, more players have taken up the game here.”

However, he believes there is room for improvement and there should be more academies in the country. He thinks the onus is on current and former players along with the officials to make that happen.

“I have to admit that we have developed some good coaches here recently and that is a really good sign,” he adds. Imrul Kayes is a cricketer who has given more back to the sport and the country than what most other give in their entire careers.

By Shahnoor Rabbani

Rajin Saleh
National Cricketer

Famous for taking the catch of Sachin Tendulkar in Bangladesh's inaugural Test match in 2000 as a substitute fielder, Rajin Saleh has come a long way.

As one of the most talented batsmen in Bangladesh, he is technically sound and equally solid forward or back. An 89 in the historic victory over Zimbabwe at Chittagong in 2005, an undefeated 108 against Kenya at Fatullah in March 2006 and a strong showing against Australia the same year were the highlights of his career.

More than just a man obsessed with fitness, Rajin has risen through the ranks, becoming the Bangladesh captain for a while in 2004. His batting maybe old-fashioned and dour, but he is a man of the future and a man who has acted on his intentions.

After Rajin, Alok Kapali and Tapash Baisya, Sylhet hasn't produced a Test-class cricketer for quite some time. Reports of internal politics in the divisional and district sporting associations have left the eastern cricketing post void of a backbone. Some old-timers have moaned the lack of interest among the urban youth to play sports with cricket taking a firm backseat to aspirations to go abroad.

Rajin however saw these differently. Three years ago, he began the South Surma Cricket Academy on the bank of the river Surma. He saw many youths loitering about, though interested in cricket. He has now relocated the cricket school at the town's main stadium.

“I saw many kids watching cricket in the bazaars but I hardly saw anyone play cricket,” he says. “So I decided that since there is interest in the game, why not begin an academy. I was actually inspired by [former national captain Khaled Mashud] Pilot bhai's model in Rajshahi.”

“I took Enamul Haque Jr and together, we began this academy on a small patch of green near the river. It wasn't much of a start but it drew interest. I made sure kids from 13 years of age came to the academy and we gave them equipments to play with, free of charge,” said Rajin.

“We have moved to the stadium now where we practice on proper pitches and with better equipments. I have some sponsors who pay the kids, some of whom are extremely poor. We give them clothes and money for food,” he added.

Rajin has certainly made a huge difference in the youth of Sylhet, particularly those who were careless in their approach to life. Funnily enough, his batting has improved as he gets more bowlers to bowl at him and more batsmen to work with.

by Mohammad Isam

Shahriar Nafees

National Cricketer

Calm, collected and calculated are three words that describe Tiger's batsman Shahriar Nafees. But he also boasts leadership qualities and is no slouch either when it comes to handling the press. Although he is not the most talented of batsmen, he uses his abilities to the maximum when the opportunity presents itself. His belligerent century against the mighty Aussies in the Fatullah Test stands as testament.

Currently, he is making his way back into the national team as a prominent batsman (since his stint in the ICL) with promising performances (including a 96) in the recently concluded series against Pakistan. He is also taking part in BPL as the icon player of Barisal (from where he hails).

He also happens to be one of the few cricketers in Bangladesh that has managed to focus on his education and gotten a Bachelor's degree from the coveted Dhaka University alongside his cricketing career. “Education is a must for everyone. They should look to get a degree first. Then focus on whatever else they want to do,” Nafees candidly says.

But in order to make it big as a cricketer in Bangladesh, one often has to sacrifice one's education. Even then, Nafees is upbeat about education being one's top priority. “If a person cannot continue his/her education while trying to become a cricketer, then he/she should drop cricket and focus on education,” he adds. Shahriar Nafees is a glowing example of how one can make time for education alongside making a career in cricket in a country like Bangladesh.

By Shahnoor Rabbani