Sports, Cricket

Rishad’s legspin potential gives Tigers hope

Published : 07 Mar 2024 09:28 PM

Rishad Hossain is one of the rare and endangered classes in Bangladesh cricket: the leg spinner. Although other countries have adopted leg spinners for decades and developed them into potent weapons in all their forms, Bangladesh has largely ignored them, even in domestic cricket, where orthodox left-handed and right-handed spinners are favored. This is due to the widespread perception among the country's officials, coaches, and captains that leg spinners leak runs in limited overs cricket. The dearth of legspinners in the country is so grave that when Rishad was picked recently by the national team, there were doubtful stares from the cricket fraternity over how long he would be sustained. Younger leggies are often advised to switch to an off-spin position. So Rishad, a skinny 21-year-old from Rangpur, the country's northernmost region, went where few runners had gone before.

He has played the first two T20Is of the ongoing series against Sri Lanka, befitting his length, getting hit multiple times, and taking a wicket. Nothing noteworthy.

He started the first T20I match well in Sylhet before conceding 18 in the third over.

That should have been the end of his spell, but his captain, Najmul Hossain Shanto, brought Rishad back in the 15th over. It was a brave decision considering Rishad's lack of cricket this season; in fact, he has only made 52 appearances in the past six years.

He dismissed Kusal Mendis, bowled him with flight, had him caught long on, and finished with figures of 1 for 32 in four overs.

In the second T20I, Shanto bowled Rishad for three solitary spells. He conceded only one maximum and one boundary on a pitch considered to be ideal for batting. Despite not getting a chance to play domestic cricket, Rishad has played 10 international matches since his debut in March last year. He has taken four wickets in seven T20I innings at an economy rate of 7 and gone wicketless in 12.2 overs in his two ODIs so far. His opportunity coincided with the return of Chandika Hathurusinghe as Bangladesh head coach. Hathurusinghe is the only person in Bangladesh cricket who actually supports legpin.

Currently, there are only a few legspinners in the Bangladesh cricket ecosystem. Aminul Islam, who played ten T20Is between 2019 and 2021 as a bowler, generally plays domestic cricket as a batter these days. Wasi Siddiquee was an exciting prospect for a while last year but didn't play any games in the 2024 Under-19 World Cup in January. Mehedi Hasan Sohag and Jehadul Hoque made List A debuts this season, but they didn't bowl enough to make any impact.

Rishad is likely to play a few more international matches this season. He is in the limited-overs squad against Sri Lanka and will get a fair opportunity as long as Hathurusinghe is around. However, the wider question remains: will he be given chances to progress in domestic cricket, and is there a future for legspin in Bangladesh?