Saifuddin's focus

Changes, not speed, are Saifuddin’s main concern

Mohammad Saifuddin, an all-rounder with fast bowling for Bangladesh, made his T20I comeback one and a half years after leaving. After a protracted injury break, he returned to playing competitive cricket with the recently finished BPL. He discussed his time spent in the jungle and the new slingy action he is attempting to adopt after studying Nuwan Thusara in an exclusive interview with Cricbuzz.

These are the quotes.

Considering that you returned to playing competitive cricket, how did the BPL go?

Thank God, it went well. My modest contributions helped the team win, and I’m grateful for that.

In the BPL, did you constantly glance at the gallery after taking a wicket? Was there a rationale for it?

I had to climb steps in the gallery while practicing strength training and rehabilitation in Mirpur at the time, and after one or two sets, I would get exhausted. The physiotherapist told me that when I got wickets in the BPL, I should gaze at the stairs in the gallery and feel proud of myself since I had worked so hard to get here. At that time, I was unable to move my legs. Although the gallery is empty right now, the stadium will be packed with fans when you play, and I saw this firsthand when I bowled in the semifinal and championship games. It was a true boost.

How challenging was the recuperation phase?

Honestly, I don’t want to recall it (laughs). This was a mentally taxing expedition that took a long time to complete.

You opted to extend your recuperation period after travelling to Qatar for treatment?

After administering a painkilling injection in Qatar, the medical staff wanted to begin my rehabilitation. They advised me to begin light stress training and gym exercises after four weeks to get ready for the BCL. I decided to extend my rehabilitation process for two or three months after our rehabilitation manager, Kieron Thomas, advised me to do so at that moment because playing sports could cause me to be in and out of the game. I believe that was a wise choice because I didn’t rush anything and he told me that it wouldn’t matter if I missed half of the BPL because everyone would still recognise me if I gave it my all in two or three games. I didn’t want to rush into anything, for that reason.

Did you actually practise using your bat during the recovery period?

My bowling was limited because I began bowling at the end of December, but I was able to work on my batting from September to October. I’m receiving the results now.

How do you approach the batting position in Twenty20 cricket?

When I have three or four overs remaining, I try to see if I can see one or two balls and try to bat according to the situation. For example, if I need 25 runs from 10 balls, I can’t take one or two balls to get set; instead, I have to hit from the first ball. If I only get four balls, I will try to whack them all.

In the past, you bowled slower, yorker, and bouncer, but these days, you bowl a few deliveries with a slingy action akin to Lasith Malinga.

To be honest, I don’t enjoy bowling in the nets too much because I’m constantly reviewing my game and watching other bowlers’ deliveries on YouTube. Nuwan Thusara, a slingy action bowler from Sri Lanka who picked wickets against Bangladesh, was someone I saw a few days ago. He doesn’t bowl with a lot of pace; instead, he delivers deliveries of 130 to 135 plus. After seeing him, I thought, “Let me try this,” as in T20 cricket, the more variations you have, the better. Since the T20 World Cup is quickly approaching, I’m also observing that 140+ bowling is easy to bat unless there are variations. For this reason, during the BPL, I attempted to incorporate new bowling techniques. I feel that if I manage my variations and swing at my pace of 130 or 132, I can survive because I am prone to injuries and cannot pick up speed.

So, are you content to maintain your current pace or are you concentrating primarily on variations?

I am not a fast bowler; rather, I am a medium fast bowler. Because I am bowling the 18th or 20th over in BPL franchise cricket, I need to control my bowling. By varying my tempo, I can survive, particularly in international cricket. Since we play frequently in Mirpur, the environment is well-known and many things go smoothly there. However, to be honest, we don’t play frequently overseas, and since we haven’t played outside of Bangladesh, we don’t always get the desired outcome. I attempt to learn from the games I watch on YouTube being played in various settings.

What kind of attitude do you have when you go to bowl the 18th or 20th over in a Twenty20 match?

I have two schemes in mind. One is to try to finish my overs fast by bowling dot balls, and if there is a new batter, I just try to get rid of him as soon as possible. If there is a set batter, I want to give him a single and take him to the non-striker end. When I am bowling in the longer side and the side that is being hit for a boundary, I try to bowl a wide yorker; if the leg side is bigger, I go for a straight yorker or slow bouncer. All of this depends on my opponents and the direction of the wind. If I am hit for a boundary in the first ball, I concentrate on finishing the over and giving away 12 to 13 runs because if I try to bowl dot in that case it might misfire. Nothing is pre-planned in those overs; instead, the plan is adjusted based on how the wicket reacts, such as whether the cutter is gripping or the ball is carrying.

Do you give fast bowlers’ competition much thought?

While I am having fun in the competition, I am not considering… All I have to do is work, and the team will choose the best performer. My performance suffered if I felt like there was too much competition and other factors, but I choose not to dwell on it because I firmly believe that if I put in my all, nobody can surpass me. Without challenges, something is not worth doing, and ever since I began my profession, I have been driven by challenges. There is no charm in life if there is no stress.

Numerous rumours surfaced about you, implying that you are hesitant to take on formidable opponents. Do you give those things any thought?

Look, a lot of things have been said about me since David Miller smashed me for five sixes in 2019 or when it was revealed that I play with hidden injuries or that I am frightened to play against strong teams. I’m not too concerned with what happens off the pitch right now; instead, I’m focused on doing well on the pitch and leading the life I want. Nothing is bothering me right now. Because it is detrimental to my physical and mental health rather than beneficial. I’m aware that I’ll get compliments and criticism depending on how well I perform, but there’s no use in losing sleep over it.