Bowling Over Barriers

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Taskin Ahmed’s cricketing chronicle

Cricket in Bangladesh is not just a sport; it’s a pulsating vein of the nation’s cultural fabric, a source of national pride and a catalyst for communal unity. Since obtaining Test status in 2000, Bangladesh has gradually cemented its position on the world stage. Leading the National Cricket Team is Taskin Ahmed, who recently became the Vice-Captain.

Taskin’s journey into cricket is a testament to the dreams of many young aspiring cricketers in the country. From playing in narrow alleys and makeshift playgrounds, Taskin’s ascent into international cricket has been both rapid and inspiring. He made a striking entry into international cricket, debuting in a One Day International (ODI) against India during the 2014 Asia Cup, where his ability to bowl fast and swing the ball made an immediate impact and the rest is history.

Beyond his bowling, Taskin’s athletic fielding and capability with the bat in the lower order add valuable depth to the Bangladesh team. His tall stature and energetic presence on the field cannot help make him a noticeable figure in the cricketing arena.

MWB recently had the opportunity to sit down with the dynamic pace bowler, Taskin Ahmed, for an in-depth discussion on his cricketing journey and aspirations.

Can you tell us about your earliest memories of playing cricket? How did you initially get involved in the sport?

I have always wanted to be a cricketer. My earliest memories are rooted in the cricket-crazed streets of Dhaka, where every open space served as an impromptu pitch. Growing up, I saw cricket not just as a sport but as a community event – with everyone from young children to adults participating.

The sight of legends like Mashrafe Mortaza in action fuelled my aspirations to become a pace bowler. My parents played a vital role in my career. Their unwavering support and motivation were instrumental in helping me persevere through challenges and ultimately catch the eye of scouts and coaches at the Bangladesh Premier League (BPL). Their faith in my potential, coupled with intense personal dedication, set the foundation for my cricketing journey.

Even when things weren’t going my way, my parents always gave me the love and support to reach my goals.

Reflecting on your career so far, what do you consider your most memorable moment on the cricket field?

Reflecting on my career, every moment, whether triumphant or challenging, has shaped the player I am today. Rather than pinpoint a single event, I value the entire journey. The lows, particularly, taught me resilience and the importance of a comeback. Realising that my career’s legacy depends on my performance on the field, I learned to prioritise and channel my efforts towards personal and professional growth, making every comeback a proof of my dedication.

When I hit rock bottom, when it seems like the entire world is against me, I rely on those who care about me and always motivate me to stay strong.

The upcoming T20 World Cup in the USA is a significant event. What are your thoughts on playing in such a unique location for cricket? How are you preparing for it?

The T20 World Cup in the USA presents a unique set of challenges and opportunities given that only a handful of senior players from the national team have played in this part of the world. The novelty of the location, combined with the diverse conditions, adds an exciting layer to our preparation.

We understand that the USA is a new team and eager to do well on their home ground. This is a very important tournament for Team USA as well as for us. As a team, we are intensively training to adapt to the unfamiliar pitches and climate, mindful of the enthusiastic local crowd rooting for their home team. We aim to bring honour to our country by excelling in this tournament, respecting all competitors but fearing none.

Given the diverse conditions expected in the USA, how are you adjusting your training and tactics for the different pitches and climates?

Our preparation for the World Cup is comprehensive, emphasizing both physical readiness and tactical flexibility. Given the varying pitches and climates in the USA, our coaching staff has devised specialized training modules that include stamina building, skill adaptation, and strategy tweaks to accommodate different playing conditions.

Personally, I am following a recovery-centric training program to manage my injury, ensuring that I regain full fitness without risking further complications. This personalized attention to physical conditioning and strategic preparation aims to equip us with the versatility needed to tackle the diverse challenges of the tournament.

During your ban from international cricket in 2016, what was the toughest part of that period for you personally and professionally?

The 2016 ban was a profoundly isolating experience that tested my resolve and character. Beyond the professional setback, the personal repercussions were significant, affecting my family and close relationships due to public criticism.

This period forced me to confront my vulnerabilities and the ephemeral nature of sports acclaim. I spent countless hours in introspection and dedicated training, which was a period of transformation – redefining my approach to cricket and personal growth. This introspection was pivotal, as it led to a resurgence in my career, with a renewed focus on resilience and mental fortitude.

I understand that the fans are emotional but they also have to understand we are emotional beings too and sometimes words can hurt more than actions. My family has always been by my side and helped me stay focused and improve my game.

Can you share some insights into how you approached correcting your bowling action? What kind of support did you receive during this time?

The technical correction of my bowling action was a meticulous process, guided by expert coaches and biomechanical analysis. The focus was on fine-tuning my technique to ensure it met international standards while enhancing efficiency and reducing the risk of injury.

Support came from various quarters, including technical coaches, fellow players, and sports psychologists, who helped me navigate the psychological impact of altering a deeply ingrained skill. This period was about transformation, requiring patience, persistence, and a willingness to adapt, which was crucial for my professional evolution.

I have been blessed to have coaches like Alan Donald who have not only guided me to become a better version of myself but also to look at the game from a more mature perspective. I think with age and experience, you learn how to deal with difficult situations better and can take a step back and see the bigger picture.

I have been blessed to have coaches like Alan Donald who have guided me to become a better version of myself.

Overcoming such a major career hurdle must have required significant mental strength. What strategies or thoughts helped you maintain your focus and confidence during your suspension?

I think people somewhat tend to forget the power of the mind and how meditation and prayers help relax the mind as well as the body. Overcoming the suspension required not just physical training but significant mental conditioning for me.

I turned to meditation and spiritual introspection to maintain mental balance and focus. The support from former players, who shared their experiences and coping strategies, was invaluable. This period underscored the importance of mental resilience—understanding that physical prowess needs to be complemented with mental strength to overcome career obstacles effectively.

Life is all about balance and sports is no exception.

If you look at our previous generation of players like Shakib Bhai, Tamim Bhai, Mushfiqur Bhai, Riyad Bhai and Mashrafe Bhai, their mental toughness is what set them apart from everyone else and that’s why we still look unto them as role models.

Looking forward, what goals have you set for yourself in international cricket, particularly in T20s?

As I look forward to continuing my career in T20 internationals, my goals are multifaceted. I aim to contribute significantly to the team’s success, seeking to bring international accolades to Bangladesh.

I am also focusing on developing my role as a potential leader within the team, inspired by the captains I have played under. This leadership role is about more than on-field decisions; it’s about mentoring younger players and fostering a team environment that is conducive to collective and individual growth.

I’m focusing more on white-ball cricket so I can play and contribute longer to the national cricket team.

The BCB Board is slowly realising my potential as a team leader and entrusting me with more responsibility. I would also like to be able to mentor new players so we have a strong squad with options in the near future.

Finally, what advice would you give to young athletes facing similar challenges and setbacks in their careers?

Eat well and train well. Most importantly, you have to get the basics right. Focus on holistic development – physical, mental, and educational. Engaging with different cultures and environments as an international athlete requires more than just sports skills; it requires cultural empathy and intellectual engagement. Nurturing your body and mind, maintaining a positive outlook, and embracing continuous learning are vital. Remember, setbacks are not endpoints but waypoints in your journey.

If you focus your mind on achieving your goals and realize your dreams then anything is possible. Treat your body as a temple so you can maximize your true potential. Focus on the positives in life and brush aside any negativity around you. Be a responsible and caring human being first, the rest will follow – trust the process.

As someone who leads an active lifestyle, what advice do you have for individuals looking to incorporate fitness into their daily routines?

Maintaining an active lifestyle is essential, not just for professional athletes but for everyone. For those looking to get into fitness, my advice is to start by setting realistic goals and find activities that you genuinely enjoy, whether it’s jogging, cycling, swimming, or even playing a sport. Consistency is key, so try to incorporate at least 30 minutes of physical activity into your daily routine. Make fitness a habit just like brushing your teeth or having breakfast. It’s not about how intense the workout is, but about making regular physical activity a part of your life. Small, regular efforts really add up over time, and before you know it, staying active becomes a natural part of your day.

Fitness should be an integral part of daily life, not an isolated activity.

Integrating physical activity into your daily routine helps maintain not just physical health but also mental well-being, making it as essential as any other daily activity.

What role do you believe activewear plays in empowering individuals to lead healthier lifestyles?

Activewear plays an important role in enhancing the quality and effectiveness of physical activity, extending beyond mere functionality to include psychological and motivational benefits. The right activewear is crafted with a blend of comfort, support, and technology, all designed to improve performance and accommodate the rigours of various physical exercises.

Wearing properly fitted, purpose-specific gear can significantly affect how effectively you can perform an exercise, whether it’s the flexibility required for yoga, the endurance for long-distance running, or the support for weight training.

Moreover, the psychological impact of activewear should not be underestimated. Turaag Active, in particular, focuses on this holistic approach by creating high-quality activewear that combines the latest fabric technologies with trendy designs. Their apparel is engineered to handle sweat, regulate body temperature, and reduce friction and chafing, making physical activities more enjoyable and efficient.

The attention to detail in the design and functionality of Turaag Active’s gear means that wearers can enjoy prolonged workout sessions with greater comfort and reduced risk of injury.

You are the brand ambassador for Turaag Active; what values and ethos of Turaag Active do you resonate with the most?

I strongly resonate with Turaag Active’s commitment to promoting an active, healthy lifestyle. They believe in making physical activity an integral and seamless part of daily life which aligns perfectly with my own lifestyle and values. They prioritize both physical and mental health, empowering individuals to set realistic and sustainable fitness goals. This holistic approach to well-being, combining both mind and body, and inspiring people to lead healthier, more active lives is something I deeply connect with and am proud to represent. The brand’s focus on quality, comfort, and performance in their products also reflects my own belief in striving for excellence in everything we do.

Beyond fitness, how do you integrate Turaag Active’s pieces into your everyday fashion and style?

The adaptability of Turaag Active’s apparel is complemented by its aesthetic appeal. The brand ensures that each piece is not only functional but also on trend, incorporating contemporary designs and colour schemes that resonate with modern fashion standards.

This attention to detail means I can effortlessly mix and match their pieces to create outfits that are both practical and fashionable. Beyond the gym, I often pair their comfortable joggers and casual t-shirts for a relaxed, off-duty look as well as their hoodies that are great for travelling. 

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