The 22-year-old cricketer Sakibul Gani recently made headlines across the world after he smashed a brilliant 341 off 405 balls in his debut Ranji Trophy match against Mizoram. With this Sakibul became the first cricketer in the world to score a triple ton on First Class debut and broke the previous world record of the highest individual score in a debut First Class match.
Sakibul’s elder brother Faisal and his parents – father Adnan Gani and mother Asma Khatoon – are busy attending to guests who are pouring in to congratulate them for their son’s incredible feat.
People in Agarwa are now eagerly waiting for Sakibul to return home so that they can give him a grand welcome.
“My parents are so happy and they are eagerly waiting for me to arrive home. I am really happy with my performance. But I left the joy behind when the match ended. I wanted to focus on the next match. I have worked hard and have a long way to go. I always try to focus on the basics. I have worked a lot on my batting. I like to take it one ball at a time. A triple century was not on my mind. All I wanted was to put up as many runs as possible for my team on the scoreboard. I wanted to play for a long time. I wasn’t aware of any records. When I came back to the dressing room, I found out about the records from my coaches and seniors,” Sakibul told TimesofIndia.com in an exclusive interview.
The 22-year-old batsman, who also bowls right arm medium fast, has always admired former India cricketer Virender Sehwag. Be it on his first class debut or in List A and T20 domestic cricket, Sakibul has always gone for the ‘see the ball, hit the ball’ approach, just like Sehwag used to do in his prime.
He is now waiting for an opportunity to meet his idol.
Sakibul eclipsed the previous world record of the highest score on First Class debut held by Madhya Pradesh’s Ajay Rohera (267 not out vs Hyderabad in 2018). His innings of 341 was studded with 56 fours and 2 sixes. His strike rate of 84.19 while playing the marathon knock was something that reminded many of trademark Sehwag knocks.
(Photo: TOI arrangement)
“I really admire Virender Sehwag sir. I have watched all his batting videos. Just like Sehwag sir, I also want to make a name for myself. I want to meet Sehwag sir and ask him a lot of questions about batting. I want to take a lot of tips from him. I would love to ask him about his Multan knock (Sehwag scored a magnificent 309 vs Pakistan in the first Test in Multan, 2004 – India won by an innings and 52 runs) as well,” Sakibul further told TimesofIndia.com.
FAISAL GANI – THE MAN AND THE BROTHER BEHIND SAKIBUL’S SUCCESS
Sakibul’s elder brother Faisal Gani is also a cricketer. Faisal, a bowling all-rounder, has played for Bihar in the Under-19 Cooch Behar Trophy and also led East Zone in the Vizzy Trophy (a university-level tournament).
Faisal has one regret – that he couldn’t make it to the Bihar Ranji team despite a number of impressive performances at the junior level.
Now, he is adamant to see his younger brother Sakibul achieve greater heights in the sport.
“In 2009, he (Sakibul) saw me playing a tournament, and then he came to me and said, he wants to be a cricketer. I used to take him to the cricket ground and make him sit and ask him to observe the game. I used to discuss the match at the end of the day with him. That’s how I developed an interest in pushing him to take up the sport. A fascination and passion for something is very important before you get into it. Ajay Ratra sir was the Under-23 coach of Bihar state in 2017. Sakibul’s game improved a lot under his guidance,” Faisal told TimesofIndia.com.
For Sakibul, playing higher-level cricket is in a way living his elder brother’s dream.
(Photo: TOI arrangement)
Before he made his first-class debut, Sakibul played 11 matches in the Syed Mushtaq Ali T20 trophy, scoring 192 runs at an average of 27.43. In the 14 Vijay Hazare Trophy appearances so far, Sakibul scored 114 runs at an average of 31.75.
He also put up dominating performances in the CK Nayudu Trophy and Men’s Under-23 One-Day Trophy. In 16 matches in the CK Nayudu Trophy, Sakibul has so far scored 1379 runs at an average of 57.46, including three centuries and as many fifties.
He also has a triple ton (306 not out vs Sikkim) in the CK Nayudu Trophy as well under his belt.
In the Men’s u-23 One-Day tournament, Sakibul has played 16 matches and scored 702 runs at an average of 54.00. He scored runs at a strike rate of 98.46.
“I fell in love with the sport because of my elder brother (Faisal). I used to see him play and that too very closely. I used to clap and cheer for his performances. One day, he asked me – ‘do you want to play cricket?’ I didn’t take time to answer and immediately said yes. After that his support and guidance is what has brought me here,” Sakibul recalled.
“My mom is a housewife and my father is a farmer. I didn’t get much support from my father. He wasn’t aware of the sport of cricket as such and he never showed any interest. It was my brother who fought for me and convinced my family to let me play cricket,” Skibul further shared with TimesofIndia.com.
PLAYING UNDER ‘BULB’ LIGHTS
Motihari doesn’t have a cricket academy. Playing at others’ farms was a routine that Sakibul followed. He was a clean hitter of the ball. Be it pulls, drives, or cuts, Sakibul seemed to have the art of sending the bowlers to the cleaners, without any fear from an early age.
Watching his determination and passion for the game, Faisal decided to collect money from his friends and relatives to construct a compound for Sakibul to practice, near their house.
(Photo: TOI arrangement)
“I am from a lower-middle-class family. We collected money and made a small compound near our house where I made Sakib practice. The advantage here was that Sakib could go and practice at any point of time there. During the lockdown, that compound helped Sakib a lot. While others were waiting for stadiums or academies to open, Sakib was already practicing without missing out on anything. He was prepared. I have installed some lights which help him practice at night also. My father feels very proud of all this now,” Faisal further told TimesofIndia.com.
Sakibul also shared how playing under bulb lights helped him focus and concentrate more.
“There were no facilities in Motihari. There was no academy. My brother used to prepare pitches on some farms and make a team. He used to send me as an opening batsman or sometimes one down or two down or three down as well. Sometimes, he asked me to play under lights. He used to install multiple bulbs and ask me to face deliveries at night. Whatever I am today, it is because of him. He is my senior; he is my coach and he is my mentor. I am living my brother’s dream,” Sakibul said.
“In the beginning, I broke many bats. For that, I needed money. Whenever I needed a bat or any cricketing gear, my brother bought it for me. He however never told me how he managed to arrange the equipment for me, but I always got everything. My brother now trains a number of youngsters. When I started playing and scoring runs and winning awards and prize money, then my father was finally happy that I was playing cricket. I wanted to perform for my family first and then myself. I wanted to gain their confidence,” an emotional Sakibul told TimesofIndia.com.
(Photo: TOI arrangement)
AN IPL CONTRACT ON THE HORIZON?
For many young cricketers who come from modest backgrounds, an IPL contract could literally be a life changer.
Sakibul went for a trial with the Delhi Capitals earlier this year but failed to impress the scouts. Faisal feels consistent domestic performances will perhaps put him on the radar of the IPL franchisees.
“Sakibul went for a trial at Delhi Capitals in January. He didn’t get selected. He was disappointed, but the very next day, he picked up his bat and started afresh. Maybe he can get an IPL contract next year. He is very strong from the inside,” Faisal signed off.