Bangladesh tour of South Africa, 2022: Khaled Ahmed's journey from tape tennis cricket to record figures in Durban

When Bangladesh skipper Mominul Haque handed the second new ball to Khaled Ahmed ahead of Taskin Ahmed and Ebadat Hossain there were murmurs in Kingsmead’s commentary box in Durban on Friday (April 1). After all, the lanky fast bowler from Sylhet Division was a last-minute inclusion in the playing XI, owing to first-choice Shoriful Islam’s back pain.

Khaled managed to repay the faith of his skipper by picking two wickets in successive deliveries in his second over of the day when he trapped Kyle Verreynne lbw and had Wiaan Mulder caught at gully. He followed that up with four fiery overs. Khaled, who had picked Dean Elgar on the opening day, finished the first innings with figures of 4-92 – the best bowling figures by a Bangladeshi pacer in a Test match against South Africa in their own backyard.

The right-arm fast bowler so far has played four Tests since making his debut against Zimbabwe in 2018, and in the present context is considered to be a back-up option in the national set-up rather than anything else. “Khaled really bowled well and I think he really deserved five wickets. Earlier he could not pick up wickets but today he bowled in the right areas and the fielding unit really supported him well,” Mehidy Hasan said after the game on Friday (April 1).

More than his bowling record, and after coming into the side at the very last minute, what was noteworthy was the way Khaled carried himself, looking threatening more often than not. He was unlucky with an unexpected knee injury that required a surgery in 2019, which took a big toll on his career as he was really shaping up well to seal a spot in the Test XI.

His childhood mentor AKM Mahmud Emon, who first spotted him in tape tennis cricket in his home town in Sylhet, told Cricbuzz that Khaled spent the toughest period of his life following the surgery. “He was in good shape when that accident occurred and all of a sudden he was nowhere,” said Emon.

“He used to work alone in the Sylhet Stadium and naturally it was draining mentally considering his teammates were playing and he was thinking like ‘what am I doing here alone’,” he said. “At that point keeping him motivated was my biggest challenge and he knew that he have to work very hard to make a comeback and fortunately his hard work paid off,” he added.

Emon, who is known to provide a platform for grooming pacers in Sylhet, also revealed that Khaled had sacrificed a lot to be a cricketer, including giving up his most favourite thing – tape tennis cricket. “He was very fond of tape tennis cricket and that literally was having a toll on his red-ball cricket as it was affecting his run-up to great extent. One day he was hurrying up in the practice session and when I asked him what is the problem, and he told me that he has some work to do, not telling me that he is hired to play a final in a tape tennis cricket tournament.

“I was a guest in the tournament and going there I saw him playing. I was very upset with the whole affair considering it was affecting his red-ball cricket and he promised not to play tape tennis cricket anymore and to my utter surprise, he did not feature in any tape tennis cricket any further,” he said.

Khaled’s decision to leave tape tennis cricket was a life changing one as he put all his effort in honing his skills in cricket and his determination eventually paid off, despite a long wait.

Updated: April 2, 2022 — 3:56 pm

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