If Deepak Chahar had not turned the tables on Bangladesh in the series decider on Sunday, 20-year-old Bangladesh opener Mohammad Naim probably would not have slipped under the radar. On an evening that would be remembered for Chahar's record returns of 6 for 7, Naim played his breakthrough knock in only his third international innings.
Naim's 48-ball 81 should not be too far away in the overall analysis, though. Bangladesh were in the game as long as he was at the crease, which in itself is an important contribution from a newcomer who is on his first international assignment. While the rest of the Bangladesh batsmen struggled against Yuzvendra Chahal, Naim dominated the legspinner, welcoming him with three consecutive fours in the sixth over, and finishing with 29 off 11 balls against him. It is a small success for Bangladesh as they look to find a new batch of young cricketers to take them forward.
Two tactical changes made by Naim made his innings that much more impressive. Both his previous innings in the series, in Delhi and Rajkot, had ended with top-edged slog sweeps. This time, he didn't go aerial with the shot at all, and instead milked ones and twos through midwicket even when the lengths were enticing enough for the shot.
He also played the patience game at the start. Two quick wickets in the third over meant he could not look to dominate the Indian bowlers in the powerplay. But as soon as Chahal came on to bowl, Naim went on the offensive. He reduced the effect of Chahal's length by driving him straight and over long-on, before the legspinner went a bit short, which Naim countered with a square cut. The straight drive and late-cut off Shivam Dube too stood out during his innings, as did his inside-out shot over cover off Chahal.
Naim will also learn quickly that he cannot take his eyes off the ball, quite literally, against top oppositions. When he charged Dube without checking the bowler's arm extension, the yorker snuck through to hit the off stump.
It has been a rapid rise for Naim, still an unknown figure on the international stage. He was born, raised and learned his cricket in Faridpur, a district located 129kms west of Dhaka, more famous for being a hockey hotbed. Naim made it to the Under-19 side after coming up through the age-group structure. He was a student of Mokhlesur Rahman, a senior coach from his district, and even took help from coach Tanvir Ahmed Rajeb.
Just over two years ago, Naim made his Bangladesh Under-19 debut in Dhaka, and only played eight matches at that level, including last year's Under-19 World Cup in New Zealand.
In the Dhaka Premier League draft, he was a ninth-round pick by Legends of Rupganj, who were looking for a back-up opener. The Rupganj officials had only heard of him as an Under-19 cricketer. They only picked him after their regular openers, including Pakistani recruit Sami Aslam, didn't deliver in the first four matches.
Naim ended his first DPL season with 556 runs at an average of 46.33, an impressive feat in a competition where team officials are not always keen to try young batsmen as openers. After low scores in first-class and T20 competitions, he bounced back for Rupganj in last season's DPL when he finished as the second-highest scorer with 807 runs at 53.80. He was just seven runs behind top run-getter Saif Hassan.
Then came a century against Afghanistan A in July, and two fifties in the series win over Sri Lanka A in October, which was enough for the selectors to earmark him for the higher levels.
It is easy to draw comparisons with the man he effectively replaced in the team. Tamim Iqbal, who opted out of the India tour, had famously made a half-century against India 12 years ago in the 2007 World Cup, which is still talked about today.
It's too early to compare, but Naim is here to stay if he can dedicate himself to the cause of becoming a top batsman like Tamim has over the years.