Kolkata: When Virat Kohli shows enough faith on an unheralded allrounder from Bengal to come in at No.3 for Royal Challengers Bangalore, or hands over the ball to him in the 17th over in desperation for a breakthrough, it’s safe to assume that the Indian captain may have seen possibilities in him. Shahbaz Ahmed, the 26-year-old, did not disappoint the captain by wrecking havoc with the top order of Sunrisers Hyderabad in a magical over to turn the match on it’s head.
And suddenly, Shahbaz has become yet another case study of the Sanskrit saying which is inscribed on the glittering IPL trophy, which when translated means: ‘‘Where talent meets opportunity.’’
His story is very much akin to that of Mohammed Shami, one of the premier Indian fast bowlers, whose journey from one of the dusty Indian village of Sahaspur in Uttar Pardesh to stardom had been one of the most fascinating stories of Indian cricket in recent years. Shahbaz hails from a little heard suburban town of Mewat - about 100 kilometres from Gurgaon - who drifted to club cricket of Kolkata in search of a career.
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‘‘To me, Shahbaz is an allround package. Mind you, he still plays his club cricket in one of the smaller clubs Tapan Memorial where he picks up fivers every other day and keeping scoring the runs. He is an extremely positive cricketer and you will never hear him complaining about things like wicket or umpiring,’’ Arun Lal, former Indian opening batsman and head coach of Bengal, told Gulf News.
When Bengal finished as runners-up in Ranji Trophy in the 2019-20 season before Covid-19 struck, Ahmed had a wonderful season for the often under-achieving state by scoring 509 runs at No.7 position with the team often with their backs to the wall and claiming 35 wickets at an average of 16.80 with his mingy left-spin. ‘‘I was wondering when the BCCI would announce the award for the best performers of the domestic season as he would certainly be in the running for the best allrounder’s honours,’’ said Lal.
Chasing a modest target of 149 set by the RCB on Wednesday, Sunrisers were cruising till Ahmed came to bowl his second over, the 17th of the innings. Six balls later, he had removed dismissed the dangerous Jonny Bairstow, Manish Pandey and Abudus Samad of the first, second and sixth deliveries, all caught while trying to play against the spin - finishing with a haul of three for seven.
Bairstow was caught at short mid-wicket by wicketkeeper AB de Villiers, Pandey was caught at short third man by Harshal Patel while Samad was caught and bowled with Shahbaz taking a skier.
‘‘I think positive. Whatever will happen, will happen for good,’’ Shahbaz had said in an interview sometime back. The power of positive thinking seems to have started to yield the dividends from him.