The then 17-year old kid, Nafees Iqbal, not only surprised the English team and media with a splendid hundred, but also raised eyebrows by terming the English spinners as “ordinary”, according to media reports
When England toured Bangladesh in 2003 for two Test matches and three ODIs, a 17-year old teenager surprised the English bowling attack with a sublime century during a warm-up game.
That 17-year old kid, Nafees Iqbal, not only surprised the English team and media with a splendid hundred, but also raised eyebrows by terming the English spinners as “ordinary”, according to media reports.
Nafees scored 118 off 168 with 14 fours and a six for Bangladesh A during that warp-up game against England XI on October 16, 2003.
After batting first, Bangladesh A were all out for 242 in 88.5 overs on day one at Bangladesh Krira Shikkha Protishthan.
As far as the English spin duo are concerned, Ashley Giles bowled 21 overs while Gareth batty bowled 17 on that day, taking one wicket apiece.
During the press conference after the end of the day’s play, Nafees told the press that the English spinners were ordinary compared to the pacers.
That comment was published in the English media the following day.
This is a quote from the Guardian newspaper on the October 17, 2003 issue:
Asked what Nafees thought about the England attack he stroked his chin like a precocious sage and said: "The fast bowlers are quite good, actually very good. But the spinners were very much ordinary. I expected them to turn the ball more than they did. I thought Giles might be more effective than he was."
Such a comment raised eyebrows in the cricketing world, particularly among the English supporters.
But did Nafees actually term the English spinners as ordinary that day?
Let’s hear it from the man himself.
“I did not mean that England spinners were ordinary. The question was, ‘How did you find England spinners compared to fast bowlers’ as they focused on their spinners heavily on that tour. Actually my meaning was England spinners were ordinary compared to the fast bowlers on that particular day,” Nafees said to Dhaka Tribune.
“I was a 17-year old kid back then. I did not face that much intense press conference before. I meant spinners were ordinary compared to the fast bowlers on that very day. But news came out in the next day that I called them ordinary (overall), which was not true.”
England were dismissed for 333 in their first innings.
Nafees also batted well in the second innings, scoring an impressive 31.
The former right-handed opening batsman remembered that memory when the English players got fired up against him in the second innings.
“I batted well in the second innings as well. I can remember England players did a lot of sledging towards me. It was interesting. At first I could not understand why they were going so hard on me, but later I realized probably due to that “ordinary” comment published in press. I also gave them some replies (smiles),” said Nafees.
“After the game we just shook hands and did not talk about the ‘ordinary claim’ topic either. But later it became an issue at that time. Anyways, if I had known that it will create that much hype, I might have gone to the England spinners and told them what I actually meant.”
Nevertheless, it was one of the finest innings Nafees has ever played in his entire career.
While recalling the memory, the former cricketer from Chittagong's famous Khan family informed that there was a 20-run innings prior to that match which gave him immense confidence to bat against world-class bowlers like Steve Harmison and Matthew Hoggard.
“The 118 against England at BKSP was one of the most courageous innings that I have ever played in my career. I can still remember some shots, some cover drives from that day. Definitely it was a special day in my career. It was the second warm-up game in that tour that I played against England. I also played the first warm-up game which was played at Bangabandhu National stadium. I did not score in the first innings but made 20 in the second innings. Actually that 20-run innings gave me a lot of confidence. After playing that innings, I realized that no bowler is unplayable,” said Nafees.
“If you look at the England fast-bowling lineup, there were Harmison, Hoggard as opening pair. Harmison was probably 6 ft 7 inch tall. In Bangladesh we never faced such a tall pacer and that of fast bowling. So naturally it was difficult to play against them as a top-order batsman. But that 20-run innings gave me realization that, it’s a game of cricket and it’s a matter of judging the merit of the ball, not the bowler. So that little 20-run knock, where I was timing well against Harmison-Hoggard, gave me so much confidence prior to the next game,” Nafees concluded.
Nafees made his Test debut against New Zealand a year later and went on to play 11 Tests and 16 ODIs for Bangladesh.
His only Test century came against Zimbabwe in Dhaka back in 2005 and with the help of that brilliant knock, Bangladesh drew the second match and won the series 1-0, their first ever Test series win in history.