These were not one-off performances, but rather the culmination of two years of hard work on and off the field, not least to convince Bangladesh cricket chiefs, the architects of a spin-only policy, that fast bowling had returned.
The best Bangladeshi cricket this year involves fast bowling. Taskin has navigated both sides of a midyear injury layoff with intelligence and maturity. Ebadot will go into possession of Bangladesh’s greatest moment in a Test in 2022. And Khaled Ahmed has finally come of age with bursts in South Africa and the West Indies. Shorif Islam, initially dropped from the World Cup squad only to be reinstated later, has taken the most wickets in all formats among fast bowlers. Hasan Mahmud looked sharp between his wounds.
“A better quick start has definitely made our side more competitive when we leave Bangladesh. In all formats. No doubt. But they are still a work in progress, a long way to go.
Domingo was not the decision maker in that game and every decision maker since was so mesmerized by the rotation policy that not having a fast bowler was normal. Nobody batted an eye, except when looking at the result.
For years Bangladesh pretended to take fast bowling seriously. The batsmen have ruled Bangladesh cricket – either in the form of the team’s senior players or former batsmen making administrative decisions in the BCB. And with evidence that the Bangladeshi batsmen could not cope with the visiting fast bowlers, the pitches began to fall lower and lower.
Against Australia the following year, fast bowlers bowled 14.5% of all overs and a remarkably low 2% against the West Indies during the home series in 2018. And in the one-off Test against Afghanistan mentioned earlier, Bangladesh did not pick fast bowler.
“The hardest thing for me was the lack of confidence in myself,” the rabbi said. “Captain, vice-captain, coach or fast bowling coach, nobody had faith in fast bowling. For example, no one would even bother to shine the ball carefully. . The moment I bowl a bad over, a spinner comes into the attack.”
The ripple effect was felt on the domestic scene. During this period, most domestic teams imitated the national team. Already, clubs or divisional teams were mostly picking fast bowlers only as token gestures, and as each season progressed, they had sharp-picking lineups full of left-arm spinners. When the few fast bowlers there went abroad, they didn’t know how to play there and often had no bowling experience as they hadn’t played most of the Tests earlier in the season.
“It’s a lot of things,” says Domingo. “Conditions, supporting them and giving them confidence and them being safer. We were so dependent on the spinners that the fast bowlers weren’t really considered big threats for Bangladesh. Now the captain looks at Ebadot, Taskin and Shoriful. to get those discoveries. This confidence that the captains have will help the fast bowlers to improve as well.”
A corner has been turned
Some point to two domestic tournaments in late 2020 turning things around. Eight of the top ten players in the BCB President’s Cup that year were fast bowlers. In the Bangabandhu Cup, that number was nine out of ten. Fresh pitches and rusty batting as players emerged from lockdowns and biosecurity bubbles played a role. But it certainly helped that the fast bowlers were the fittest they had been for some time.
This was when the changing attitudes of the likes of Taskin, Ebadot and Khaled became visible. Ports have reinforced their belief that they can continue to do well. Khaled, who has had a complicated career despite only nine Tests, returned from a knee injury and finally took his first wicket – three years into a disrupted Test career.
“Everybody thinks that just taking wickets means good performance,” he said. “Nobody notices good bowling. Only wickets are noted.
“I saw that people started blaming me. I tried hard to play regularly at the highest level. I think it’s important to play a long time in a test match so you get an idea of how can you actually take wickets.”
Shortly after the knee injury, Khaled said he started thinking about how to avoid injuries. The pandemic meant a lot of free time at home and he worked on fitness in Sylhet. A few hundred kilometers west, in Dhaka, Taskin was doing the same thing: running on sand, finding local parks to do a full run when his block’s garage was short, and even forcing his gym owner. to open during the peak period of the pandemic.
“When you’re healthy, you’re going to have a great mindset,” Khaled said. “When you’re tired, your brain doesn’t work. The moment I recovered from the injury, the pandemic happened. I had a lot of time. I focused a lot on running and working out in the gym as I had bought equipment for my home. I tried to get my body in shape.
“When I got my first wicket against Pakistan after almost three years, I felt motivated. I thought I can do it. I didn’t get to play in New Zealand but I was aiming to do well in the next opportunity. Sujon sir [Khaled Mahmud] he helped me a lot in the South Africa series. He encouraged me a lot, he told me to think about how I want to play bowling. He supports all the fast bowlers,” said Khaled, who has been impressive in South Africa and the West Indies this year, both otherwise tough Test series for Bangladesh.
Rabin, who continues to play in the National Cricket League for the Barishal Division, said the fast bowlers have fared better in the senior team in the last two years. “Today, a fast bowler is not just dropped after a bad Test. Ebadot has been traveling with the team for a long time and reaping the rewards. It was different six years ago. Then if you did bad in one game, you would be dropped for the next game. If you did poorly in two games, you’d be forgotten for the next series.
Domingo, who will return to Bangladesh duty after the T20 World Cup, said he was looking forward to a more robust fast bowling unit. “A year or two ago they were an inexperienced bowling unit. Now Ebadot has played 20  Tests, but we want him to learn and not make the same mistakes. I want them to become more consistent. I know what I will get from Taskin. The other fast bowlers are not there yet with their consistency.
“They just need to have less bad spells than in the past. I’m not looking for consistent match winning spells, I’m just looking for consistent spells where they are able to hold the game and keep control of the run rate. i think it’s their next phase. They have the ability to take wickets, but they should have the ability to keep control against world-class batsmen.”
Mohammad Isam is ESPNcricinfo’s Bangladesh correspondent. @isam84