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Opinion

The top families in Bangladesh cricket

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Roar Guru
5th June, 2020
6

Whenever people talk about the early days of Pakistan cricket, the name of the Mohammad brothers would always come in to the discussion.

Hanif made his debut at Delhi in 1952, and barring some short breaks, at least one member of the family represented the Pakistan Test team until the early 1990s.

Then there were the Hadlees in New Zealand and the Edriches of England. It’s not uncommon even to see different members of the same family represent different countries. There were the Reid cousins in the 1980s: Bruce playing for Australia, John for NZ. Sam Curran’s father represented Zimbabwe in two World Cups.

Coming to Bangladesh, family connections were much more common in Bangla cricket in the last century. In the current team, Mahmudullah and Mushfiqur are in-laws. But their relationship is based on marrying the sisters so I will ignore them and start with Tamim Iqbal’s family from Chittagong.

An attractive left-hander, Tamim has already scored more than 4000 Test runs and 7000 ODI runs. I find a bit of Caribbean touch in his batting, especially while driving through the off side.

Tamim Iqbal vs Australia

(AP Photo/A.M. Ahad)

His older brother Nafees played 11 Tests and 16 ODIs for the Tigers. In Dhaka against Zimbabwe in 2005, Nafees scored a match-saving ton, his only Test hundred. He batted for almost eight hours to score 121.

Earlier in 2001, Nafees was the captain of the Bangladesh under-19 team that also included Mashrafe Mortaza and Mohammad Ashraful.

Akran Khan, the paternal uncle of the Iqbal brothers, had a long and distinguished career with the Tigers, lasting 15 years between 1988 and 2003. He captained the national team from 1994 to 1998.

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Even before establishing himself in the national team he was known in Chittagong as the big hitter. The name was appropriate in more than one sense. Despite his heavy build, he was extremely nimble in his foot work and this made him a fine player of spin bowling.

The most memorable moment in his cricket career came in the 1997 ICC Trophy in Malaysia. The Tigers, under his captaincy, became the champions, thus qualifying for the 1999 World Cup. In the virtual quarter-final match against the Netherlands, the Tigers slumped to 4-15 chasing 172 for victory. But Akram’s patient 68 not out from 92 balls helped Bangladesh reach their revised target in the rain-affected match, losing seven wickets.

He was also the captain of the team that recorded Bangladesh’s first ever success in an official ODI against Kenya in Hyderabad, India, in 1998.

First-class cricket in Dhaka started in the 1950s after the end of the British Raj. At that time East Pakistan cricket was dominated by the Urdu-speaking players mostly from Northern India. Atiquzzaman was among the few Bengali cricketers to represent East Pakistan at the time.

Two of his sons, Asaduzzaman Misha and Tariquzzaman Munir, both played for Bangladesh in the 1980s. Unfortunately, they took cricket as their pastime, it was never their profession. So they were not always available for national team duties. I must add that it wasn’t easy to take cricket as your profession here at that time.

Misha was a solid right-hand opening bat. He first came to prominence in the early 1980s, as he formed a successful opening partnership for Abahani in the Dhaka League with Nazim Shiraji – more about Nazim later.

After Nazim left for the USA in 1983, Munir – Misha’s brother – became his opening partner. Misha established himself in the national team with his fine performance on the tour to Kenya early in 1984, and remained a regular (whenever available) until 1988.

(Wiki Creative Commons, CC BY-SA 3.0)

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Munir came to national team reckoning in early 1985. Playing for Dhaka University in the semi-final of the national cricket tournament against the Dhaka district team, he became the first triple century-maker in Bangladesh cricket. He scored 308 and shared a fourth-wicket stand of 447 with Athar Ali Khan (155). Athar is now very distinguished cricket commentator.

Munir scored a ton in the final as DU won the title. A week later he was called in the national team, and he scored a defiant 39 against the full-strength Sri Lanka team led by Duleep Mendis.

No Bengali cricketer represented Pakistan in an official Test. Raqibul Hasan, an opening bat in the Hanif Mohammad mold, perhaps came closest. He was the 12th man for the Dhaka Test against New Zealand in 1969-70.

Raqibul was expected to make the Pakistan team to tour England in 1971. But as East Pakistan declared independence in March, he had to flee to Calcutta to save his life. After returning to Bangladesh, he played a major part in developing the cricket structure of the new country. He played two ODIs for Bangladesh in 1986.

He retired from international cricket pretty early, mainly because his game was suited to the longer versions of the game, but at the time the Tigers were focusing more on the limited-overs game.

His son Sajid Hasan was also an opening bat. He played for the A team in 1995, but couldn’t break in to the main team. He too was a batsman whose game suited the longer versions more.

In the 1994-95 season, Raqibul and Sajid played together for the Victoria SC in the Dhaka League.

Nasir Ahmed Nasu from Mymensingh emerged as the best wicketkeeper in the country in the mid 1980s. He remained a regular in the national team until 1994. In fact, he eventually lost his place not due to his keeping abilities, but because of his poor batting record.

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A statistics graduate of Dhaka University, he served the BCB as a data analyst for a period.

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His older brother, the late Manjur Ahmed, known commonly as Manju, was also a wicketkeeper and a very capable top-order, left-handed bat. In the 1980-81 season he batted with great determination against a strong MCC attack in front of his home crowd at Mymensingh.

After graduating with an engineering degree from the top university in the country, he completed his MBA degree from a top business school. In short, he was a corporate man for whom cricket was just a hobby.

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In his debut match for Bangladesh against the MCC in 1977, Yousuf Rahman Babu played as the third seamer and batted at number eight. He ended his international career in 1984 as an opening batsman and a part-time bowler.

In the early ’80s the Tigers were still learning the pros and cons of the limited-overs game. Yousuf was one batsman whose game was ideally suited to this version. In the 1982 ICC Trophy, in the third-place decider against Papua New Guinea, he smashed a fine 115. Along with teenager Nazim Shiraji, he put on 172 for the first wicket. Nazim scored 52.

Interestingly, both were dismissed just before lunch – this was a 60-over game, and the Tigers were bowled out for 224 and lost the match by three wickets.

Yousuf’s younger brother Saiur Rahman Sami was a right-arm medium-pacer. A natural swing bowler, he was unlucky not to make the ICC Trophy team in 1979, but still played in the 1982 and 1986 events in England. He also played two ODIs.

The Dhaka League in the 1980s was highly competitive. There were many players from Chittagong who featured prominently in the Dhaka League at the time. Chittagong mostly produced fine batsmen at the time, and none were better than the Abedin brothers.

Dacca Stadium

(Photo credit: Stu Forster/Allsport)

Minhajul, the younger brother, made his international debut in 1985 against Sri Lanka, and played until the 1999 World Cup. It was mostly the media pressure that helped him get a place in the World Cup team, but he fully justified his inclusion with his man-of-the-match effort against Scotland.

Despite showing fine form in the domestic arena, he was overlooked for the Test team in 2000.

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Like his broher, Nurul Abedin was a fine attacking batsman. Unfortunately he was an opening bat. Back in the 1980s, our national selectors were very fond of making unnecessary experiments in the opening slot, and Nurul often became the victim of such experiments.

So while Minhajul played four ICC Trophy events and a World Cup, Nurul only played in the 1990 ICC Trophy in the Netherlands. However, he made the most of this opportunity, playing match-winning knocks of 85 against Denmark and 105 against Canada. He topped the batting averages (47.00), followed by two more players from Chittagong, Akram Khan and Minhajul Abedin.

He had the honour of partnering Raqibul as an opener in Bangladesh’s first ever official ODI against Pakistan. Unfortunately he was dismissed for a duck by the Pakistan skipper Imran Khan. His four ODI innings yielded only 15 runs. No surprise that Cricinfo describes him as a big fish in the smaller pond.

Both Azhar Hossain and his nephew Mehrab Hossain Opi were opening bats. Azhar was an orthodox one, Mehrab was more of a dasher. In Sharjah against NZ in 1990, Azhar became the first Bangladeshi batsman to score an ODI 50. In 1999 in Dhaka, Mehrab scored the first ODI hundred for his country against Zimbabwe. Both efforts, however, came for losing causes.

Finally, I have come to my favourite cricket family in Bangladesh. Jahangir Shah Badshah, his bothers Munna Shaha and Nadir Shah, and their maternal cousin Nazim Shiraji all played international cricket with Badshah being a regular for more than a decade. Interestingly Badshah’s mother was from Iran. So this family can be considered cricket’s Iran connection.

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Badshah was a right-arm medium-pacer and a useful lower-order bat. He wasn’t very quick but had the ability to swing the ball prodigiously, mostly away from the right-handers. In Dhaka, he mostly bowled from the Paltan end – the north-western breeze would help his out-swingers perfectly.

But he was at his best in English conditions. He represented Bangladesh in three ICC Trophy events. His 4-17 off 12 overs against Canada at Lichfield in 1979 was a superb display of seam and swing bowling. Sadly, the inexperience of the Bangladesh batters in English conditions cost us the match. It was an opportunity missed, as Canada eventually finished runners-up, thus qualifying for the second World Cup.

Badshah also played five ODIs for Bangladesh.

Nadir Shah was an attacking-minded batsman who enjoyed lofting the ball over mid-on and midwicket. He was a great crowd favourite and he was an ideal cricketer for limited-overs games. He was also a useful medium-pacer. While his brother mainly depended on his out-swingers, his main weapon was the leg-cutter.

After his playing days were over, Nadir Shah became an umpire. Unfortunately, his career as an international umpire ended amid match-fixing scandals.

Munna Shah was an opening batsman who never showed his best in international fixtures. Azim Shah was a batsman who played club cricket in Dhaka.

Nazim Shirazi was a teen prodigy who sadly ended his time with the national team rather prematurely. After making his mark as an opener in the Dhaka League with Abahani KC, he was assigned the difficult task of batting at number three against a strong Deccan Blues attack in 1982. He was only 17 at the time.

While all the top-order batsmen struggled against the leg spin of Rakesh Shukla, he showed excellent technique and temperament beyond his age. Nazim (56) and Badshah (40) saved the match for us.

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Then he played in the ICC Trophy and scored a fine half century against PNG.

The following spring he showed excellent technique against the West Bengal skipper Dilip Doshi. Badshah, Nadir Shah and Nazim played together in the 45-over-a-side match against WB in Dhaka in March 1983.

Sadly, soon Nazim and his family moved to the USA on a permanent basis, thus ending his cricket career with the Tigers.