Mohammad Saifuddin's ODI career is only 13 matches old, but he may be one of the hidden assets for Bangladesh heading into the World Cup. Not long ago, in October 2017, Saifuddin was being tonked for five sixes in an over by South Africa's David Miller in Potchefstroom, and then followed a Bangladesh Premier League campaign where he was susceptible to similar punishment. It speaks to his eagerness to learn and resistance to being cowed by setbacks that he is now one of Bangladesh's go-to bowlers in the death overs.
The right-arm paceman excelled in Bangladesh's triumphant tri-series campaign in Ireland earlier this month, conceding runs at just 4.95 runs an over in three matches despite having to bowl at the death. "Maybe at the beginning it [bowling at the death] was not to up to the mark," said Saifuddin on the eve of the Tigers' final warm-up game against India in Cardiff today. "But day by day, starting from the BPL, I am doing well in that department. I will try to prove myself in a big event like the World Cup. There will be bigger teams and better batsmen playing in the death overs, so it will be a good opportunity."
While the Ireland series, which concluded on May 17 with Bangladesh's first ODI multi-team silverware, has ensured that the Tigers are primed for big-match action, Saifuddin placed high value on playing India today, saying it will have implications on their World Cup campaign.
"Maybe in recent matches [against India] we lost at the end after going close. I haven't played those; if I play this time it will be my first match against India. I am really excited; it has been my childhood dream to play against India. The most important thing is that we have a match with them at the end of the World Cup, so if we can do well, it will help us in that match."
There is another aspect to the 22-year-old cricketer that makes him crucial to team balance. He is a useful batsman and with an average of 29.16, can be defined as an all-rounder. More importantly, while his maiden ODI 50 was a struggle against Zimbabwe on a slow Mirpur wicket last year, a couple of accomplished 40-plus innings in February suggested that he is more at home on truer, faster wickets. Along with fellow all-rounder Mehedi Hasan Miraz, Saifuddin may be needed at number eight to give the team some death-overs impetus.
"If we are batting after the 40th over, we will have to face pacers. We talk to [batting consultant] Neil McKenzie, and we bat against the sidearm as the ball comes on a little quicker, so we are adjusting to that.
"Yes, the wickets are batting-friendly here as we have seen in recent series. Batting is easier here," said Saifuddin when asked whether he enjoys batting on truer wickets.