Akram Khan - A true leader
After a player retires, fans sit down to create an account of the positives he has given to the game and his country, what he could have given, and the negatives. In the case of Akram Khan, the first list seems to be quite longer than the other two. In fact, even the strongest critiques would agree that Bangladesh cricket stands where it is today largely because of the contributions of this big but shy-in-nature batsman.
Akram Khan grew up in Chittagong, the second biggest city in Bangladesh. He seems to have sports in his blood - his brothers were well known sportsmen in the local leagues, and his nephew, Nafis Iqbal, is now a national cricketer.
Many believe that Akram Khan is the best captain that the Bangladesh cricket team has ever had. He captained the side in ACC and ICC Trophy outings, winning both. However, it was his captaincy in the ICC Trophy that led him to the hall of fame of Bangladesh cricket. He led the team from the front during the whole length of this tournament. With his excellent ability to win the hearts of even the most junior players in the side, he united the team into a single thread, and in the process, he united the whole nation into one - something that was never achieved since its birth in 1971.
His outstanding inning of 69* in the match against Holland secured us a place in the semi finals of the competition, and eventually, in the world cup for the first time in history. The way he brought the team out of nowhere to beat the Dutch was simply extraordinary.
The final result of his efforts was an ICC Trophy win, which to many Bangladeshis is still the happiest moment since the victory in the independece war (along with the victory over Pakistan in the 1999 world cup).
The Bangladesh national cricket team presented a stunning display of patriotism and unity in the ICC Trophy held in 1996. Although the whole team deserves the credit, this could not have been achieved without the leadership qualities of the big man.
Not only did Akram win hearts with his captaincy, but also with his big hitting abilities. His huge hauls all over the ground and into the stands in every direction of the field were very entertaining. Even among the pack of international cricketers (the likes of which included Wasim Akram, Sanath Jayasuriya and Neil Fairbrother), Akram would rule the Dhaka league with his outstanding run scoring abilities. There were many times when he got his club Abahani out of hopeless positions to win the season title. This was also an area where he led by example, captaining the side and also leading it to victory with his batting.
His story is not merely one of dominating club teams and associate members of the ICC; instead, it also continues on to describe how harshly he had treated world class bowlers in ODI matches. The most dazzling example is a match against India where he scored sixty odd runs. He was simply unstoppable as the Bangladesh inning reached the 50 over mark. He hit bowlers like Agit Agarkar mercilessly, and scored 23 runs off a single over off the bowling of the Indian captain, Saurav Ganguly.
Akram Khan served the country for more than a decade. During this period, he was by far one of the best players produced by Bangladesh. He was a true leader, and an exceptional batter.