Towhid Hridoy's dream run of 2023 continued into his ODI debut in Sylhet. His 92 in the first ODI against Ireland is a Bangladeshi debutant's highest score in this format. There was an air of inevitability about his innings, firstly complementing in the 135-run stand with Shakib Al Hasan, and then cutting loose in the 80-run quickfire stand with his idol Mushfiqur Rahim.
The soft-spoken Hridoy said that he wanted to maintain his aggressive intent, a mantra he developed since the disastrous BPL campaign from 2022. Hridoy said that he tried to learn from Shakib during their partnership, but his main focus was on himself.
"I wanted to have the right intent," Hridoy said after the game. "I didn't try to bat to get settled at the crease. I tried to play each ball to its merit. It was a great feeling batting with Shakib bhai. He is such an experienced batter. I was learning constantly from him. I really enjoyed it. He was giving me advice at times. When I thought I needed to something, I asked him. He was encouraging me, telling to bat as deep as possible."
Hridoy said that it was a great moment from him to bat with Mushfiqur in the latter part of the Bangladesh innings, since it was a moment from the wicketkeeper-batter's career, 16 years ago, that inspired Hridoy in the first place.
"In 2007 when Mushfiq bhai won us the game against India in the World Cup, he took a stump from that game. When I saw that stump in person during a programme in Bogra, I was really inspired by it. I was very little. I dreamed from that day that I want to play for the national team. Today he said some inspiring words, like he wants me to serve Bangladesh cricket for a long time," said Hridoy.
He said that there's no regret about not reaching the three-figure mark, when he could have been the first from Bangladesh to do so on ODI debut. "I give all praise to Allah. I could have been out early. I am happy with what I got. I always thank Allah. I got what I was in my Rizq (provision). Hopefully I will do better next time. I have no regrets. I hope those making their debuts later, hope they can do even better," he said.
Hridoy is one of the rare products of the BPL, a tournament that is known for organizing and administrative faults. He made 403 runs in this season's BPL, batting in an aggressive way that no one expected him to. His batting was on the reasons Sylhet Strikers reached the tournament final this year.
It was also Hridoy's failure in the 2022 BPL that motivated him. Hridoy was on strike in the last ball of last year's BPL final. He was having a woeful time with the bat, scoring runs at 97.84 strike-rate, averaging only 17. Against Comilla Victorians' Shohidul Islam, Hridoy hit a half-volley to cover, just running a single as Fortune Barishal fell short by one run.
"[My aggressive intent and fearless batting] started after playing badly in the 2022 BPL. I thought I should change myself since that tournament. I tried everything including changing my mentality. As much as possible. It was a bad season for me. I tried to get as far away from it.
"I was in the HP (high performance) camp and played domestic cricket in the last 12 months. I spoke to [Khaled Mahmud] Sujon sir regularly. He knew me from my childhood. Shohel Islam sir was always there for me. I have spent the most time talking to him," he said.
Hridoy has had more heartbreak in his life. When he was only 12 years old, a man swindled him of a lot of money when he had come to Dhaka for the first time. It turned out that the academy he had intended to join didn't exist at all. He nearly gave up the game before Mahmud, the former national captain and current BCB director, kept him in the straight and narrow to continue playing in the age-group levels.
"I lost a lot when I went to that academy. I didn't want to continue playing cricket. My father never supported me to play cricket. My parents don't understand the game but whenever I used to be adamant with my mother, she would relent.
"Around that time when I wanted to stop playing, Sujon sir really supported me. This is from my U16 days. He always gave me opportunities from playing in the Dhaka First Division league," he said.
Hridoy said that his parents were delighted with his inclusion in the Bangladesh team, particularly his mother who would often go around his father's back to help Hridoy pursue his dream. "My parents are very happy, especially my mother. She always supported me. I was always pressured about my studies, but I didn't really pursue it. I was focused on my cricket," he said.