Jaker Ali keeps hitting out, and learning - on his journalist sister's beat

Jaker Ali brings out the innovations during Bangladesh's chase Bangladesh Cricket Board

Midway through the press conference after Sri Lanka's three-run win against Bangladesh in Sylhet, journalist Shakila Bobby asked Jaker Ali a question. The young batter had just come off a breathtaking 68 off 34 balls, which included a Bangladesh record of six sixes in the innings.

"You just played your first game at home in Sylhet. The crowd was chanting your name. What was that like?" Shakila asked from the back of the press-conference room.

"Apu [sister], I have always loved playing at this venue. I made my first-class debut at this ground. I know the wicket and atmosphere of this place. It was all good, but it would have been great had we won the game," Jaker responded.

Wait, sister? Few in the room knew beforehand that Jaker and Shakila were siblings. Most of the Dhaka-based journalists who had travelled to Sylhet had no idea. But now interest was piqued. Another journalist asked Jaker how it felt to take a question from his sister.

"She must be proud of me. She looks happy," Jaker responded, with a shy smile.

Shakila is the Sylhet correspondent for the Bangladesh daily Khoborer Kagoj. Her husband Mamun Hossain is a photographer with the same newspaper. They brought their toddler Saiyara Mahek along, and watched the game from the press box. The niece cheered a few times as Jaker was hitting his big sixes, the crowd going wild around her.

After the press conference, Jaker caught up with his sister's family. And then Shakila spoke to the other journalists. "It was my dream to ask Jaker a question in a press conference," she said, beaming. "I never knew that it would come true one day."

Shakila said the whole family is into sports. Shakila herself is a former captain of her district's cricket team. Their father, who died in 2017, was an athlete in the Bangladesh Army. They hail from Habiganj, a town 75km to the southwest of Sylhet.

Jaker plays his first-class cricket for Sylhet Division, which is why he felt so at ease at the Sylhet International Cricket Stadium, the team's home venue. Jaker struck five of his six sixes after Mahmudullah got out, having given his senior partner support when he was going all guns blazing.

Jaker took the game into the last over, but started if off strike, with No. 8 Rishad Hossain facing up. When Jaker got the strike, it was 10 needed off four balls. He could not get the job done, but expanded on all of it at the press conference. "[Mahmudullah] Riyad bhai told me to bat normally. I didn't have any extra plans. He was getting boundaries with calculative risks. It freed me up. It made life easier for me.

"[Later] I asked Rishad to give me the strike, but he got out. I was on strike when we needed 10 off the last four balls. I was confident that we could win the game. I was playing a good innings. But I didn't connect with the ball and it went to hand.

"When Riyad bhai was taking chances, my plan was to ensure that we would get 10 or 12 runs in the over. This was my role with Riyad bhai at the crease. I shifted my gear after he got out."

Jaker got into this Bangladesh T20I squad because Aliss Al Islam sustained a finger injury. He had done enough in this season's BPL to be in the reckoning (in fact, his Comilla Victorians coach Mohammad Salahuddin had blasted the outgoing chief selector Minhajul Abedin for not picking him in the first place). His exploits included unbeaten knocks of 40, 38 and 18, all featuring explosive hitting.

"My BPL form really helped me here," Jaker said. "We got here in Sylhet just two days after we finished the BPL in Dhaka. No changing in format was good for me. I also knew about this ground well, this being my home ground."

Jaker said captain Najmul Hossain Shanto had given him a heads-up about his call-up, which allowed him a bit of time to prepare mentally. Jaker had not got the job done in the BPL final against Fortune Barishal, which gnawed at him. He had lost a night's sleep, but then he had to prepare for his first home game for Bangladesh. Tonight was a bit of a repeat for him, but, importantly, he seemed keen to learn from these experiences.

"My face is telling you how I feel. Losing is always heart-breaking. I didn't sleep the night after losing the BPL final. I would have felt great if we could have won today," he said. "But I am planning for the next match already. We can take note of plenty of positives from today's game."