In this series, we take a closer look at the under-19 World Cup winners and see how they could fare in international cricket
Quality fast bowlers are few and far between in Bangladesh. That number is even lower when it comes to left-arm fast bowlers. Very rarely we see one or two left-arm pacers coming through the ranks, and even they gradually fade away. But Shoriful Islam is the name Bangladeshi supporters will be hearing for a long long time.
Shoriful Islam has already grabbed the spotlight with his bowling performances for Under-19 and Bangladesh 'A'. He featured for the Khulna Titans in Bangladesh Premier League as well. He played for Tamim XI in the BCB President's Cup last month, where he showed why he has been regarded as a long time triumph.
Shoriful was the true reflection of the whole Under-19 team in the final against India as his roars got louder each time with his ferocious aggression on the pitch. Aggression is regarded as a must for fast bowlers, and patience, of course. These qualities are bred within Shoriful.
Coming this far was never easy for him. Hailing from Panchagarh, Shoriful's family had financial difficulties. His family would not allow him to play cricket, but he held on to his dreams. He never gives up.
Unlike some of his Under-19 teammates, Shoriful is not a BKSP graduate. But, he apparently had a chance to get admitted in BKSP, not for cricket though. He had a knack of playing Volleyball and one of his local brothers advised him to give a trial at BKSP, but he eventually opted for cricket under Alamgir Kabir's academy in Rajshahi.
Alamgir Kabir, the former Bangladeshi pacer from Rajshahi, spotted him in a local tape-tennis tournament in Dinajpur and gave him the chance to shine. Shoriful would forever be grateful to him for the chance he gave. "It was during 2016 when I was playing in a local tape-tennis tournament in Dinajpur. He saw something in me and advised me to play for his academy. I'm glad I took that chance.
"Had he not brought me from Dinajpur, I might not come into cricket. And coming this far would have been impossible. He made the path easier for me. He gave me the chance to play in U-18 divisional cricket. I even played NCL for Rajshahi Division. I would have been nothing without him," Shoriful told The Business Standard.
Shoriful wants to make the best use of any chance he gets in cricket. May that be for 'A' team or any league match. He is full of self-confidence.
Talking about his self-confidence, he showed a glimpse throughout the Under-19 World Cup in South Africa, especially in the final against the arch-rivals India. If you think our pacers lack confidence in the big games, Shoriful and Co. have shown the way.
Body language, especially in big games is important. Shoriful spoke about junior Tigers' pre-planned aggression and aggressive body language that helped them dominate India and eventually become the World Champions. The positivity, the attitude is important for fast bowlers, and this is something that he possesses big time.
The ongoing Covid-19 pandemic has taken away seven long months from cricket. But Shoriful did not remain idle, he had worked with his fitness during this lockdown. Earlier, Shoriful was selected to play for Prime Bank Cricket Club in the Dhaka Premier League, played one game with his idol Mustafizur Rahman and Rubel Hossain before Covid stopped everything. He did not bowl exceedingly well in that match, but he got to spend time, practice in nets and learn a lot of things from his idol.
How did Mustaafiz inspire Shoriful? The question may arise. He answered it himself. "When I first watched him on TV (2015), he was very thin, and he was bowling brilliantly. World-class batsmen were finding it hard to play him. Then I thought if a lanky fellow like him can bowl like this, why not me! So, Mustafiz Bhai actually inspired me to become a pacer," the young fast bowler said.
"I don't want to set a time frame (on when to make it to the national team), rather I want to make my way into the national team when I'm fully ready."
Mustafiz burst into the scene with a flash, bowled amazingly well, regarded as one of the top bowlers in the world, but injury hindered his progress big time. Now he is gradually trying to find his old self back. Unlike his idol, Shoriful does not want to hurry into anything. He knows his job well, wants to work accordingly, and wants to get into the national side when he feels the time is right. "I don't want to set a time frame (on when to make it to the national team), rather I want to make my way into the national team when I'm fully ready," Shoriful said.
Despite the hype he is getting already, Shoriful is keeping his head down and focusing on his game more. A noteworthy characteristic of a cricketer, knowing what to ignore and what to focus on. " I have only begun my career and still have a long way to go, so I am just keeping my head straight and clear," something you do not hear from the rising Tigers often.
Shoriful's game reading and to be able to bowl accordingly is outstanding. He impressed in the National League matches he played, he showed great authority throughout the Under-19 Cricket World Cup, and now in the BCB President's Cup as well. His bowling figure of 10-1-37-4 against Najmul XI in the third match of the tournament would not really justify how well he actually bowled. He maintained a tight line and length, provoked the batsmen to make mistakes and sent them back to the pavilion. A Classic fast bowler's way to do business. Even Mushfiqur Rahim, who batted brilliantly and scored a hundred in that game, found it difficult to play Shoriful.
Another interesting fact about Shoriful is, he is trying to stay away from social media these days. Shoriful thinks it is absolutely a waste of time and hampers his concentration.
Shoriful has already made headlines, he is all geared up for the next step of his cricket. Even though he does not want to hurry, supporters will be eagerly waiting to see him roaring in Red and Green, and that day is not so far away. And when he will finally make it to the national side, you will hear the name "Shofirul Islam" a lot, for a long long time.