You were informed on the day before the match that you will have to open against Afghanistan. What was the reason behind this decision?
I was asked whether I can open the innings or not. I agreed to do it at once. As I have some experience of batting in that position, I told them, “Yes, I can do it.”
The last time you opened in an ODI was during the final of the 2018 Asia Cup. That final against India had much higher stakes. Did that experience make you feel confident that you can do it again?
My earlier experience has made me realise that I can open. I was also confident that if I am asked to open, I will try to give my best. Whether I do well or poorly, that would depend on the situation and on my luck.
You have a set position in the national team. You bat at a certain position and of course bowl your off-spin. When you are given responsibilities outside of that, do you feel more inspired to do well?
Cricket is firstly a team game. Every player is bound to bat at any position when the team demands it. The main thing is that the team has to win. Our first aim is to help Bangladesh win. For that, I’m ready to bat at any position. The others in the team also prepare themselves accordingly. I also keep myself mentally prepared for any situation.
Whenever you are given a special responsibility, like opening the attack with the new ball or open the innings with the bat, most of the times you are successful in it. How do you do it?
(Smiles) I always look for opportunities. My career started batting at No 8. But you won’t get the chance do something significant batting in that position, if the batters higher up the order don’t fail to deliver. From that point of view, getting to bat higher up the order is an advantage for me. If I score runs or play well, then maybe everyone will see me in a different light. Like how everyone is doing right now. Getting chances like these are good for me as they can help me elevate myself to the next level.
After debuting as a bowler in international cricket, you had lost focus in your batting. If you had been more serious with your batting early on, could you have played more innings like this?
I debuted as a bowler. So I used to focus more on bowling. There were many batters in the team as well. But at one point I realised that I have to focus more on the batting alongside bowling. That’s why I started working on it. In the beginning, my batting was terrible in international cricket. I used to get in and immediately get out. In Test cricket my average was just 1.5. So you can see what was the state of my batting at that time (smiles).
Did anyone inspire you to focus more on batting?
The senior cricketers in the team always used to say, “You can bat well, work on it. This will benefit the team and you too.” That’s how I have prepared myself. If I do well in batting, I will get more opportunities, the team also can win more matches. I’m getting the benefit of it now.
Before the match, there were concerns about Afghanistan’s bowling attack. But in the match, Bangladesh posted its highest ever total in Asia Cup. What was the team’s plan before the match?
Heading into the match, our backs were against the wall. What can you do in such a situation? You will give it your all in the match. That’s exactly what we did. We didn’t even consider whether Rashid Khan and Mujeeb Ur Rahman were great bowlers or not. Everyone tried heart and soul to win and everyone chipped in.
You have some weaknesses against spin bowling. But in this match you dominated the spinners as well. What was the secret?
I played well against spin because the wicket was really good. Firstly, the ball wasn’t turning, and we also knew how to bat on such wickets. The wicket also helped us. If it was a wicket that had help available for spinners, we would’ve batted differently. As the wicket was good, we batted really well.
You will take on Pakistan at their home ground in the first match of the Super 4. How are you viewing this match?
Our first goal in the Super 4 is to finish in the top two. If we can do that, we will qualify for the final. So, that’s our aim right now. If we can beat Pakistan, we will get one step closer to fulfilling our goal.
*This interview appeared in the print and online edition of Prothom Alo and has been rewritten for the English edition by Ashfaq-Ul-Alam Niloy