As the name of Ebadot Hossain resonates in the cricket world after his magnificent 6/46 helped Bangladesh clinch their maiden Test victory on New Zealand soil, it feels more and more incredible to think that the skiddy right-arm pacer could easily have been lost to volleyball.
While the passion and desire to play cricket for Bangladesh was always brewing inside the Sylhet-born speedster, his initial tryst with volleyball is a story worth telling in itself.
Ebadot Hossain had joined the Bangladesh Air Force as a volleyball player back in 2012 to try and sustain his livelihood with a safe and secured job that also allowed him to stay in touch with the sporting world.
But cricket was always the first love for the 27-year-old, who turned to it via a pacer’s hunt in the country known for left-arm spinners at all levels, led by the world’s premier all-rounder Shakib Al Hasan.
“Joining the Air Force wasn’t my dream, neither was playing volleyball,” Ebadot had told ESPNcricinfo in an interview back in 2016. “I loved cricket from childhood, so I always tried to pursue the game in whichever way possible.”
“I needed a job but the Air Force has always been very good to me. But after all of these things happened in the past few months, my squadron officer told me that no matter how big a cricketer you become, you will always be with the Air Force.”
Nearly four years after giving volleyball a go, Ebadot came to learn of a fast-bowling hunt organised by the Bangladesh Cricket Board (BCB), the best and the brightest were to be selected for the High-Performance Programme.
Recognising it for what it was, a life-changing opportunity, Ebadot bowled his heart out for two balls that each of the 14,611 quicks candidates involved got the chance to deliver. Initially looking to register from the Dhaka leg of the competition, Ebadot moved to southwest Dhaka in Faridapur where the breakthrough came.
After catching the eyes of various coaches, part of the hunt in the national capital, Ebadot was brought into Bangladesh’s HP squad, where the quicker he bowled, the higher he climbed up the ladder.
“Sarwar Imran Sir told me to bowl six deliveries,” reflecting a sense of awe that he inspired, standing out from the rest of the pack despite having only played a handful of Dhaka First Division Cricket League 2014-15 one-day games in his competitive career till then. “With one of those, I clocked 133 kph. I made it to the final 30 and then the top 10. In the final round in Dhaka, I hit 139.9 kph with one of those deliveries.”
Who is Ebadot Hossain, Bangladesh fast-bowling sensation
As part of their pace talent hunt, BCB also invited former Pakistan fast-bowler Aqib Javed to work with the youngsters. Over those four days, Ebadot Hossain felt overawed by the stalwart-turned-coach but learnt a great deal. Having watched that pack of pacers operate, Aqib further filtered the list of notable probables down to four. Ebadot was one of those pacers.
“Aaqib Javed worked with our pace and run-up on the first day,” Ebadot said during the then interview. “He explained to us how to increase our pace. Then he taught us swing, variation and reverse swing on the last day. He couldn’t gauge my pace by seeing my body structure. He said that I lack physical strength but I can increase my pace by proper muscle build-up.”
But as he had no other means to keep the food on the table for himself and his family, Ebadot could still have been forced to continue his volleyball career with the Air Force if not for the opportunities that came his way at the domestic level.
Ebadot made his first-class debut for Sylhet Division against Rajshahi Division in a National Cricket League Tier 2 fixture in September 2016. He bowled spells of 1/42 and 2/12 in a drawn encounter and never looked back.
Bowling on unresponsive tracks, the pacer couldn’t warm up to the first-class game or sharpen up his skills as early as youngsters in other parts of the world do. But the sheer pace at which he bowled was enough during those initial days to make heads turn and conjure up timely breakthroughs. Ebadot has now played 40 first-class games with 108 wickets at 31.69 – a mighty fine record in the context of Bangladesh cricket and the way it is set for pace talents to flourish (or not).
New Zealand has been a place for two of Ebadot’s most special outings for Bangladesh. The second one is now well-renowned but the first one was no less special as he made his Test debut in Hamilton on Bangladesh’s previous Test tour in 2019.
Back then, in a disappointing innings defeat for Bangladesh, Ebadot had toiled for 27 overs with a solitary wicket at the cost of 107 runs. But so often in cricket, it is not so much the glory days that define you, but how you fight your way out of adversities and failures to create them.
Ebadot came back to New Zealand a bowler more matured, upskilled and disciplined to deliver the finest spell of his career and earned Bangladesh cricket one of its greatest days in Test history.
The success as the Bay Oval hero will never be lost in memories, but perhaps the battle to sustain livelihood with volleyball while yearning for cricketing chance, the difficult journey, the hard yards that Ebadot Hossain walked to earn this day, will always define him and pave way for more glory days in years to come.