The long and winding road to Bangladeshi cricketing success

Rafiqul Ameer Roar Pro

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    Bangladesh will be no pushover for Australia. (Photo by Martin Hunter/Getty Images)

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    The Bangladesh-Aussie Test series ended with the Aussies levelling the series with a convincing victory at Chittagong.

    The Tigers however shouldn’t be disappointed, as a drawn series with the mighty Aussies would only enhance their reputation as an emerging Test power.

    Bangladesh cricket hasn’t reached this stage in one day. Instead it has been a long and hard process. The progress has been made step by step. Although Bangladesh became an associate member of ICC in the summer of 1977, the first important success for Bangladesh cricket came in early 1984 when they qualified for the Asia Cup by winning the first SEA cricket tournament.

    Here, I would like describe this success story.

    The first SEA cricket tournament was held in Bangladesh during 13-21 January 1984. Four teams: the Bangladesh national team, the second string Bangladesh team called ‘The Bangladesh Tigers’ plus the national teams from Hong-Kong and Singapore, participated in the event. There was a setback for the organisers as Malaysia withdrew in the final moment, but at the end the tournament proved to a success with some attractive cricket and close matches.

    There was the added incentive of qualifying for the second Asia Cup in SL in 1986 for the champions.

    The League matches
    First the four teams played against each other twice. The Bangladesh first team (led by veteran Raquibul Hasan) was too strong for all their rivals and they won all their matches easily. HK started badly losing their opening two fixtures, but then recovered well to reach the final.

    The Tigers, the second string Bangladesh team, performed well under the captaincy of Sadrul Anam; and they were unlucky to miss out on a final berth on the run rate count. However, it wouldn’t have looked nice to have a final between the two local teams. Singapore was the weakest team, and lost all their fixtures.

    The grand finale
    January 21st, a Saturday, dawned a bit hazy with the sun struggling to come out. So, the Bangladesh captain, after winning the toss had no hesitation in putting the opposition in.

    As we (me and my dad) reached the Dhaka Stadium (now called the Bangabandhu National Stadium), we saw Dipu Chowdhury, the new ball bowler, counting his run up. A left arm over the wicket bowler, Dipu generally kept it just short of length.

    He was more of a containing bowler, rather than a match winning one. I expected Sami, opening the bowling from the other end, to be more effective in these conditions.

    A natural swing bowler, his natural delivery left the right hander. And it came as a no surprise to anyone when he had HK opener Stearns out ct. behind for 1. But, it was Dipu, who gave us the bigger breakthrough, trapping in form Peter Wood LBW for 5.

    Bowling from the Paltan end; he got one to straighten to surprise the batsman. As Wood left, HK were reeling at 9/2. Skipper Peter Anderson Joined young Simon Myles at the wicket.

    Still a teenager, Myles, who would later play county cricket in England, had already made his mark in the event smashing 106* against Singapore at Mymensingh. But, here at Dhaka, he looked a bit shaky.

    His feet weren’t moving properly; and with the ball moving in the air, he was struggling to middle his shots. His ordeal ended when Badshah, coming first change, trapped him LBW for 15; HK at 27/3.

    Roughly 10 to 12 thousand crowd had come to the stadium; all expecting an easy victory for our boyz. And until this point things were going as expected. But as the weather improved, so did the HK batting.

    Broadhurst had joined his captain and together they started the rebuilding. The local bowling remained steady, but the early morning swing was no longer evident.

    Broadhurst seemed a batsman who cared little about the MCC coaching manuals. Taking his stance with his legs apart – he waited for the bowler. I had seen the Indian Krish Sirkkanth use similar stance relying entirely on his reflexes to hit the ball. Broadhurst didn’t possess the same reflexes or the same level of effortlessness.

    His innings was built around pushes and nudges; mostly for singles and twos. While he didn’t bring the crowd to their feet with his batting, he nevertheless managed to frustrate our bowlers.

    Bangladesh went in to this match with four seamers and no spinner. Rumy and Azhar, the two specialist spinners in the team, were both left out of the starting XI here. Lipu and Misha were in the team to do some part time off spin bowling apart from their batting duties.

    Here, Raquibul turned to Misha, and somewhat unexpectedly he broke the partnership, dismissing the HK skipper. After this the HK innings lost momentum. Broadhurst carried on for a while, top scoring with 33, before falling to Sami.

    All rounder Chris Collins tried to take the long handle; succeeded briefly before getting bowled for 19. HK was bowled out for 151 as Dipu and Badshah returned to take some late scalps. Faisal Hadier, the young WK had an off day, as we conceded 28 extras, the second highest contribution for the tourists.

    The hazy morning had turned in to a beautiful bright afternoon. We had a nice lunch; as did most people around us. We all reckoned a target of 152 from 45 overs against this team would be a formality. In fact some of us shifted our attention towards MCG, thanks to a transistor radio brought by a young man.

    There some impressive bowling by the leggie Qadir earlier in the morning had restricted the home side to 209. But, the Paks themselves were struggling in chasing with their brittle top order perishing cheaply. It all hinged on Javed Miandad, the young man informed us.

    Back to Dhaka, the action resumed with Yousuf Babu and Assaduzzaman Misha opening for the local side. Opening the bowling from the Paltan end was Chris Collins. With his mustache, and slightly bald head he resembled Dennis Lillee, the Aussie legend.

    He had a busy action, and while he didn’t generate the same pace like Lillee; he nevertheless had emerged as the fastest bowler in the event.

    He had been especially impressive with the new ball; and here he soon trapped Misha LBW. We were not too perturbed; Misha, though technically sound; was never the man for ODI cricket. Also, his dismissal brought the inform pair of Babu and Lipu in the wicket. Babu seemed especially aggressive; yet after scoring 20 (out of a team total of 25), he was bowled by Swan. Out of form skipper Raquibul perished without making any meaningful contribution.

    Future captain Lipu, in splendid form, carried the fight for a while; but when he returned after a well made 40, we were 82/4. For the first time in the tournament our main team was under pressure. Another couple of wickets and we would see a big upset. Our new young friend had already become upset, as Rodney Hogg had bowled Miandad to trigger a late order collapse.

    Here in Dhaka, Belal and Nehal were at the wicket. The good thing was that both were in excellent form with runs in the event. Nehal was initially tried as an opener, but failed. He was never an opener and here he seemed much more comfortable down the order. (For some unknown reasons our selectors in the 1980s were very fond of experimenting with the opening position. In more recent times their focus has shifted to the No.3 slot).

    Tall and handsome, a bit like Kim Hughes, Nehal liked to play of the front foot mostly, driving through Mid on and Mid off. Given his day, he was the most attractive Bangladeshi batsman of his time. And this was his day, as he struck couple of boundaries to wrest the initiative from the islanders.

    There was nothing flashy about the batting of Belal. Short and stocky, he reminded me of Duleep Mendis. A veteran in the side; he knew that this would be his last season in international cricket. With Lipu and Nehal already established; and Minhajul Nannu (now a national selector) and Atahar Ali Khan (a commentator) both waiting in the wings; his chances in the middle order would be limited. But he was determined to go out in style. While Nehal liked to score in the V; he preferred the extra cover/point region. Here he produced some fine square cuts piercing the strong offside field with consummate ease.

    Both the batsmen fell in their thirties, but by that time the fate of the match had been decided. There was a rare failure for Badshah – so two youngsters all rounder Suru and WK batsman Faisal took us home.

    So we were happy, with the Asia cup slot guaranteed. Raquibul proudly lifted the trophy. The HK lads seemed happy as well. They had produced their best performance in the final; and had carried the fight to their much stronger opponents. At the end they were some 20 runs short; one felt.

    The young man with the radio seemed the only unhappy person in the ground, still complaining about the Aussie umpiring. Two bad run out decisions had badly hampered the Pakistani progress, he informed us. (TV decision making was still a decade away).

    We started our half an hour journey towards the north of the city; fully satisfied. By that time, my focus had shifted to football as I wondered what Nottingham Forest would do later in the evening.

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