Taijul Islam, who led Bangladesh to their first home Test victory over New Zealand in Sylhet, spoke with The Daily Star’s Mazhar Uddin on being overshadowed by his more prominent teammates and his thoughts on the usage of home advantage in home Tests. The following are some excerpts:
The Daily Star (DS): How was the recently finished New Zealand series for you?
To be honest, it was a good one for me, but it would have been even better if we could have won the series. Overall, I can say that I have gained a lot while also learning a lot from this series. As a team, I believe it was a vital series in which a number of young players demonstrated their abilities. We may not have won the series, but it will give the children hope for the future.
DS: As a bowler, how did it feel to acquire a 10-wicket haul on a sporting pitch in Sylhet and win that Test?
TJ: The Sylhet track was a sporty one since it offered something for both batters and bowlers. It was a challenge for me as a bowler, and I was up for it. As a bowler, you must read the surface and also play with the batter’s mind. It feels amazing to have contributed to the team’s victory, and I’d also like to mention that other bowlers like Mehedi Hasan Miraz, Nayeem Hasan, and even Shoriful Islam provided excellent support, making it a true team effort.
DS: Did you have a different role as a bowler in the New Zealand series in Shakib Al Hasan’s absence?
TJ: It’s not about the role; it’s about how capable you are of carrying out the team’s plan. So it’s critical to understand your capabilities and your ability to follow the team’s plan. When you can accomplish your work, you will naturally fit into a role. I’ve already stated that since I’ve been playing for Bangladesh for a long time, I believe now is the time to give something back to the squad since there’s no purpose in having this experience if I can’t win matches for my team.
DS: Whenever Shakib is gone from a Test, you’re asked if the squad would miss him. Do you feel suffocated by this line of inquiry?
TJ: Look, the media is all about obtaining more views. I’m not sure why Shakib bhai’s name continues cropping up when he isn’t even in the team since he isn’t playing. For example, Sachin Tendulkar no longer represents India, and Wasim Akram no longer represents Pakistan. Aren’t those teams winning games even without him? It’s just like that.
DS: Do you feel like you’re finally in the spotlight now that your play is helping Bangladesh win games?
TJ: I’m not concerned about being in the spotlight. When my team benefits from my performance, I automatically gain their attention. Nowadays, every media outlet seeks those famous stars. I’m not sure if the media actually examines and checks the statistics on my bowling because the amount of views is more significant to them.
DS: Despite being a consistent performer in Tests, you do not appear frequently in Bangladesh’s limited-over forms. Do you believe you have a lot to offer in other mediums as well?
TJ: Without a doubt. By the grace of God, I’ve done well in white-ball formats whenever I’ve had the chance. But I’m not sure what the team’s strategy is. If the squad needs my help, I am always willing to play for my nation. That is something I am always prepared for. Everyone wants to play in all forms, but I can’t go around asking everyone to give me a chance…(smiles).
DS: We often claim that Bangladeshi spinners are successful at home but struggle when they tour overseas. What’s the deal with this?
TJ: Look, a lot relies on the pitch we get from abroad. Because there is little for spinners to do on those surfaces, the team is compelled to play only one spinner. Spinners can enter the game on the third or fourth day of the Test if there is grass on the pitch. If a spinner bowls on the first day of a Test match in Australia, New Zealand, or South Africa, he will not be able to make a difference. Miraz was the solitary spinner in our victory over New Zealand at Mount Maunganui, while our pacers bowled effectively. So, in that scenario, Miraz pitched in as a support bowler, picking up a pair of wickets in the second innings. So it’s critical that we obtain that help from the pace unit; only then will the spinners be able to make an impact. This might be the blueprint for our international success. However, if we expect spinners to pick up wickets abroad on the first or second day of a Test, it will be difficult.
DS: There has been a lot of chatter about the rank-turners who are ready to seize home advantage in Mirpur. Do you believe we should play on athletic fields to prepare our athletes for the conditions they will face while playing abroad?
TJ: Every team benefits from home advantage. When we play abroad, we must be prepared. But that doesn’t imply we have to play on sports fields at home all the time. Playing on sporting fields allows us to strengthen our skills in domestic tournaments. You don’t play Tests to compete; you play to win, and we wanted to win the second Test in Mirpur because you can’t play for a draw. Look, we had a difficult time at Sylhet, but we performed okay. But playing in Mirpur is always a gamble, and we took it.