It was during the squad selection camp for CK Nayudu Trophy that Ratra — then Bihar’s U-23 coach — spotted Gani at Moin-ul-Haq Stadium in Patna.
“What caught my eye was his fearless strokeplay. He was a class apart among the lot. I immediately checked his scores in the local circuit. He can bat anywhere in the top 6,” Ratra, currently coaching the Assam Ranji team, told The Indian Express.
🚨 RECORD ALERT 🚨
A snippet from that landmark knock 🎥 🔽 pic.twitter.com/LXK7F0yA2N
— BCCI Domestic (@BCCIdomestic) February 18, 2022
Gani delivered on the promise, amassing 685 runs at an average of 57.08, including two centuries, with the highest score of 282. He was the top scorer for the Bihar Under-23 team in the 2018-19 season.
“He could have scored at least 1,000 runs in that season, but he has this tendency to throw away his wickets after scoring a crisp 30 or 40. My only advice for him was to stay at the crease, and you will score runs. But you know, the exuberance of youth,” said Ratra.
“We are still in touch, and I am very happy to see the feat he has achieved. You will hear more of him in the near future,” said Ratra, who played 6 Tests and 12 ODIs for India.
After the breakout season, Gani mustered 694 runs in the 2019-20 CK Nayudu and 498 in the Under-23 One Day Trophy. He earned the call up to the Bihar senior team as well.
On Friday, the 22-year-old, who was unbeaten on 136 overnight, toyed with the Mizoram attack to race to the score of 341. The highest score on first-class debut previously belonged to Madhya Pradesh’s Ajay Rothera – 267 against Hyderabad in 2018.
If Ratra provided Sakibul with the platform to showcase his talent, his elder brother Faisal Gani went against his father’s will and trained him for fifteen years.
“I am a cricketer myself. I played Cooch Behar (Under-19) Trophy with the Bihar Associate team in 2009-10. Thereafter, I captained the East Zone in the Vizzy Trophy, but I quit cricket because it had no future in Bihar,” said the 29-year-old, who runs a sports shop in Motihari. “Even when I stopped playing cricket, I made sure Sakib would not skip a single training session. I had decided that I would send him to Ranchi so that he can play for Jharkhand.”
Sakibul’s father Mohammed Manan Gani is a farmer who was always against his sons taking up cricket.
“We have got small farmland, and our father wanted us to either study or help him in farming. But he had his reasons. After all, when was the last time one heard any Bihar cricketer doing well,” Faisal recollected.
Sakibul, fourth among the four brothers — all of them have played cricket at some level — had an impressive Vijay Hazare Trophy earlier this season. The right-handed batter was Bihar’s top run-getter, with 231 runs in five matches, including a century and a fifty. His performances caught the eye of the Delhi Capitals, and the IPL franchise called him for the trials held in Mumbai.
“His name was not in the auction, but he was very happy with the way he batted during the trials. It was a great learning curve for him, and it has helped him a lot. After coming back from the trials, I have seen him watch videos of his batting carefully. Now, he is constantly in touch with the team’s video analyst, which is a new phenomenon even for me,” said Faisal, who represents Motihari in the Hayman Trophy, Bihar’s Inter-district tournament.
“We owe this to Ajay Ratra sir. He took a personal interest in him and made a few changes in his batting. Since then, he has scored bucketloads of runs,” he signed off.