Tanvir Islam has been playing domestic cricket in Bangladesh for six years. He also regularly features for the BCB High Performance unit and the ‘A’ team. But for Tanvir, playing cricket sometimes feels like swimming against the tide.
No, no one is keeping him from playing cricket. But this left-arm spinner keeps getting bombarded with the same old question, ‘You are a spinner, why are you bowling so fast?’
According to the conventional methods of spin bowling, spinners must bowl at a lowered speed and give the ball ample flight. Tanvir is fighting against this very convention regarding spin bowling and also winning that battle.
Tanvir’s contribution to Comilla Victorians reaching the final of the ninth BPL is undeniable. In a tournament dominated by pacers, he is topping the wicket-takers list with 16 scalps.
I’ve always liked bowling a bit quicker. My speed is usually at 90-95 kmph. Not everyone likes that. They tell me, learn to bowl slower. But I can spin the bowl at this speed, why should I bowl slower?Tanvir Islam
The Comilla coaching staff have also played a role in Tanvir’s success. They didn’t tamper with Tanvir’s biggest strength, his ability to bowl spin at high speeds. On the contrary, Comilla’s head coach Mohammad Salahuddin and assistant coach Humayun Kabir are teaching him how he can use this skill to the fullest.
How exactly are they doing it? Tanvir explains, “They are helping me with information on how I should bowl against which batsman, what type of ball I should bowl at which situation. By observing a batsman’s body language, his backlift, you can predict what he is trying to do.”
Tanvir has been leading the bowling attack of the star-studded Victorians team. Tanvir gets called upon to stop the flow of runs and also when the team needs a wicket. His four overs are used sparingly in the powerplay and the middle-overs.
Tanvir also really enjoys this responsibility, “I’m liking it. I don’t really think about star players or experienced cricketers. I feel, whichever player is having a good season needs to lead with his performance. This season, I'm performing well, I’m trying to hold onto my form.”
I spoke with Shakib bhai. He said, ‘Look Tanvir, even I’m trying to bowl quicker... The speed you are bowling at is ideal. No matter what people say, you keep bowling like this’Tanvir Islam
Many of Comilla’s star overseas players have heaped praises on Tanvir. Pakistan’s Mohammad Rizwan named Tanvir as the future of Bangladesh cricket.
Such praise from Rizwan surprised Tanvir, “Rizwan bhai is on another level. Rizwan bhai and Moeen Ali bhai become one with the group. If anyone makes a mistake, they correct him. Everyone gives encouragement, but the way Rizwan bhai says it is different. After hearing him speak, I feel I have to do this, there is no reason I can’t do this.”
Tanvir’s season had begun poorly. At the start of the National Cricket League (NCL), he hurt his bowling finger. That injury troubled him in the 50-over and first-class matches of the Bangladesh Cricket League (BCL) as well. All the while, he kept getting pestered about his natural way of bowling.
“I’ve always liked bowling a bit quicker. My speed is usually at 90-95 kmph. Not everyone likes that. They tell me, learn to bowl slower. But I can spin the bowl at this speed, why should I bowl slower? I’ve had to fight this from the very beginning, I still do. Why don’t you bowl slower, I’m fed up of hearing this at the NCL and BCL.”
Still, Tanvir didn’t change his bowling. Now, he is even more determined not to change it after Shakib Al Hasan backed his bowling style!
This stamp of approval from Shakib will encourage him further, which was evident from what Tanvir said.
“I spoke with Shakib bhai. He said, ‘Look Tanvir, even I’m trying to bowl quicker. I’m right now one of the slowest bowlers in the world. But I’m focusing on increasing my speed. Our batsmen are maybe not that powerful, they can’t hit you over the boundary if you bowl slowly. But batters elsewhere wait for that slower delivery to hit it. The speed you are bowling at is ideal. No matter what people say, you keep bowling like this’.”
Tanvir is doing exactly that. And the BPL fans are regularly seeing his celebration after taking a wicket, where he puts one index finger to his lips and raises the other one to indicate out.
*This report appeared in the print edition of Prothom Alo and has been rewritten for the English edition by Ashfaq-Ul-Alam Niloy