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Cricket news - Tweaked my backlift to improve hitting skills - Saif Hassan

"I have really worked hard on my batting" - Saif Hassan

In 2016, Saif Hassan, one of the promising batsmen coming through the stables of Bangladesh cricket, couldn't make an impact in the Under 19 World Cup, notching up just 78 runs. He was also criticised for his defensive approach, capsulised by his strike rate of just around 40.

Subsequently, his defensive approach cost him a place in the Abahani Limited squad in the Dhaka Premier League. He was also snubbed by the Bangladesh Premier League franchises.

Fast forward to 2019, and the right-handed batsman has paddled through tough times to emerge as a top contender to take over one of the the opening slots in the national set-up in the near future. The 20-year-old composed 814 runs at a strike rate of around 80 for the Prime Dholeshar Club in the DPL 2018-19. Saif encapsulated the point that hard work pays rich dividends as he improved his game by tweaking his backlift to score quicker.

Saif spoke at length with Cricbuzz regarding his recent exploits in domestic cricket.

How do you evaluate your performance in the DPL?

I have really worked hard on my batting. Last season, I played well but couldn't become the highest run-scorer. So before the season started, I tried to prepare myself, so that I could touch the milestone. I played all the matches for the Prime Dholeshar Club and my overall preparation was good. I worked hard with the coach Mizanur Rahman Babul. I believe, overall, the result was good.

This season, most of the wickets were difficult to bat. So you must be pleased with your efforts.

Scoring runs in Mirpur was difficult. I scored a century against the Gazi group in Mirpur and then I scored one in BKSP [Bangladesh Kriria Shikkha Protisthan] The Fatullah wicket was also difficult, but I scored runs there too. Babul sir told me that if you stick to your basics, runs will come and he worked with me a lot. He has seen me from the Under 19 days and from there we started to work together on my basics. From the beginning, he told me if you have the right basics, then you will develop.

After the 2017-18 DPL, Abahani Limited had opted to leave you out on the basis of your slow strike rate. So you had a lot to prove going into this season's tournament.

I scored a century and three fifties last year. But this time, I tried to play big innings at a good strike rate. I tried to rotate the strike, keeping strike rate in mind. I tried to play according to the team plan.

You didn't get a chance to play in the BPL during the 2018-19 season and that must have played on your mind?

Yes, it was on my mind that I wasn't [picked] in the last season's BPL. There was a T20 tournament before this premier league and I was the second highest run-getter there. I thought if everything goes right, it will be a head start for the BPL.

The thing is if I score with a slow strike rate, getting into a team [BPL] will be tough. I tried to do my part by scoring quickly. It was in my head that I have to score at a good strike rate.

What were the different aspects you looked at to improve your big-hitting skills?

Hitting requires preparation. The most important thing is bravery. Courage is very important and fitness is important too. Look to convert singles into twos. This helps you to cover-up [for] the dot balls. Fitness is important to rotate the strike. And then gym is also very important. To get the strength to play big shots, exercising is necessary. last year, when I was with Abahani, I gained some weight. I worked a lot on this. I tried to be fit, worked a lot in the off season. I have changed my diet. If you do exercise, but do not change your diet, it won't help you. I think this helped me a lot.

You seemed to be using different backlifts while playing pace and spin during the DPL?

Yes, I used two different kinds of backlifts while playing pace and spin. I worked hard to develop it during the pre-season with my coaches. Usually, I have a high backlift, but somehow I was getting locked while playing spinners. I did not find any problem facing the pace bowlers with a high backlift because it gives you time to play your shots.

But, somehow that was not the case when I was facing spinners, so decided to change while playing slow bowlers. If I have a low backlift, it is easier to negotiate the spinners as the bat swing comes much easier with it and more importantly, you can pick up the singles. I have got a few more shots against spin due to this short backlift, but when it comes to pace, I would prefer a high backlift as that gives me the time to play my shots. Suppose, if a slow bowler is bowling on your legs, it is difficult to work him out with a high backlift as I cannot use the pace of the bowler. But, when you are playing with a short backlift, you can always nudge a bowler for ones and twos. I noticed that my bat swing is better against spin this season, while I have also developed my sweep and slog sweep due to the shorter backlift.

How do you look at your future? Playing for the national team would be a dream come true...

Of course, every player dreams about playing for the national team. I have thought that the upcoming tournaments are going be very challenging for me. I have to play well in the longer version. The upcoming games are really important and challenging. I have to do well in those games for others to take notice of me.

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