Bangladesh’s Mahedi Hasan seems to be a perfect package for T20 cricket. The off-spinner has already shown great potential to be an all-round prospect and made valuable contributions to help his team earn a spot in the Super 12s of the ongoing T20 World Cup.
In an exclusive interview with Cricbuzz, Mahedi opens up on his cricketing philosophy, receiving guidance and mental assurance from Shakib al Hassan and more. Excerpts:
Since you opened for Dhaka Platoon in the Bangladesh Premier League in 2019 your batting had improved drastically. Can you tell us how you improved your batting skills?
I think everything goes with a flow, like batting against new ball or bowling with the new ball and if it (batting or bowling) is flowing in the right direction then it brings confidence. Like say someone took a punt on me and I just managed to deliver. But you cannot say that I have achieved anything yet.
I think batting-wise I improved a lot during the last BPL and was in a good shape but after that there was a huge gap due to Corona where maximum of us players felt we went back a few steps, not only me. It took some time to recover but now I feel I am in good shape again but there is lot of areas to improve and it can only be achieved by doing well on foreign soil. I am not sure whether we can improve a lot playing at home but what I feel is that if batter shows performances abroad then we can assess the improvement of his skillset. We can get more ideas about our improvement while playing in different conditions, in different countries and on different wickets.
There is no specific batting position for you in the national team – sometimes you’re in at No. 4 and then sometimes at seven or eight. What kind of mental adjustment is needed while adapting to such different roles?
Look, in a family of five brothers everyone has a certain role but there are times when someone has to fulfill a different role even if he is not mentally prepared and at that point he needs to be mentally strong to fulfill his responsibility because there is no place for losers. For me it’s the same as I try to make the mental shift required to fulfill the responsibility entrusted upon me by the team management. If you don’t take it positively chances are high you are going to fail. So, I always take it with both hands and with a positive mindset.
You must be used to batting at different positions then?
Yes, probably. And it’s not only in the national team but also in domestic cricket that I have batted at different positions so you can say I am used to it.
What’s your mindset when it comes to batting in T20 cricket?
Certainly I target a bowler because you can only hit a bowler whom you can handle comfortably otherwise it becomes difficult. Isn’t it? There are certain bowlers whom you will have to target because you can only hit every bowler once you are set but you cannot hit instantly in international cricket because loose balls are not that frequent. So after playing couple of deliveries I can understand whether I can target him or not. For me, if I can hit anyone and if it is in the powerplay, I aim to hit all of his six deliveries.
As a batsman what areas do you feel you need to improve?
What I feel is that even if I score less than ball I can cover it up if I can stay at the wicket but now I have to get the batting mentality of taking some time in the middle. But having said that, you have to play according to match situation and for me that is most important than any other thing.
Now let’s get into your bowling – you can bowl a yorker and a wide yorker with the new ball and now you have developed a new delivery that moves away from the right-hander after hitting the seam. How you have developed it, because you are bowling with good pace?
Without practice nothing is possible and I work on those skills regularly. T20 is a short-format game and you have only four overs to bowl and so you need to think a lot before bowling those 24 deliveries. No matter how good bowler you are it is always difficult to stop the flow of runs in T20 unless you are bowling in a bad wicket and so my only focus remains on bowling dot balls. I try to bowl on my strong zone. Look I am not a wrist spinner rather I am a finger spinner and in T20 fingers spinners are not as successful as wrist spinners if you look at the rankings. Probably 70 percent are wrist spinners who are in the top 10 of the latest T20 rankings. Probably Shakib bhai and another one is there who is finger spinner and despite being finger spinner their skill is very high and they are very experienced as well. So I need to make sure that I have the skill set required to do well here in T20.
Coaches and selectors feel that your biggest strength as bowler is your aggression. How do you look at it?
I cannot say this but everyone says that I am one personality when on the field and a completely different one when off it. Probably I am a changed person when I get on to the field. Perhaps this came from my early days when I used to play cricket in the locality because I am carrying the same mindset till now. Everybody who saw me grow as a cricketer says that I was never ready to take defeat at any level.
You are not a turner, so would you say your main weapon is varying pace and your length?
Look you have to bowl in one way with new ball and you need to bowl differently when the ball is old. In powerplay I have to keep a lot of focus and I don’t want right-handed batters against me in the powerplays and I always want the left-handed to bat against me. I am ready to give a single to a right-hander so that I can get a left-hander on strike, who I can then dominate. It’s difficult two to three overs in the powerplays and in my short career I had bowled mostly in the powerplay. Probably bowled in powerplay in 70 percent of matches I have played so far. I have learnt a lot in the last one year and I am learning every moment from Shakib bhai.
How have your interactions been with Shakib?
When Shakib bhai is around in the field you don’t need anyone else. The best thing about him is that he understands what needs to be done very quickly. He always suggests how I should operate and even if I am bowling badly he provides the mental support and that in itself is huge, to say the least. In the field, Shakib bhai acts as a coach totally.
Shakib’s mentor Salahuddin also played a big part in your development…
He understands me very well and knows how to bring the best out of me considering we both understand each other well, and that helps to develop a cricket career. But the biggest problem is that you cannot satisfy him easily. I feel it only helps me to raise my standards.
You had few age-level teammates like Liton Das, Mosaddek Hossain and Taskin Ahmed in the dressing room already. They must have made it easier for you…
When I came to the national dressing room I was quite puzzled as there were lots of senior cricketers in the squad. Now it’s a different case because I have been around for a while and learnt the language of the dressing room. I am much more comfortable now.
How was your preparation for the World T20? What will be your major challenge because the wicket will be different from where you have played?
Actually I don’t look for wickets. Rather, my only focus is bowling three to four dot balls in an over in the powerplay. That’ll help my team and, more importantly, it will give me confidence.
You must be aiming to establish yourself as an all-rounder in the World T20?
It is tough to say because it depends on my performance. Time will say everything. I am just trying.