BanglaCricket.com: Article


Friday, October 24, 2014
Updated: Thursday, August 11, 2005
A tribute to the trail-blazers

Shameem Hassan
 

While watching and participating in a lively chat in a BanglaCricket forum, I realized I am from a different era, trying to keep up with the younger generation. The idea of writing this piece came to my mind when someone asked me ?How was cricket then??, by which the questioner meant cricket in the late seventies.

Yes, there was cricket in the seventies. And in the sixties and fifties. This will be a piece saluting all the heroes (whom I knew or can still remember) who made cricket possible in Bangladesh.

I will switch back and forth between Dhaka and Mymensingh as I talk about cricket in the late sixties and seventies. Why Mymensingh? First, my introduction to the cricket world started in Mymensingh in 1965, when my father was transferred from Dhaka to Mymensingh. Also, for those who don?t know, Mymensingh is the birthplace of many fine cricketers. In the early seventies, when Dhaka cricket league was in a shambles, Mymensingh was running a first class cricket league with eighteen teams. Some of the teams even had B-teams playing in a minor league. Even before the separation of 1947, the Pandit Para Athletic Club?s cricket team was well known beyond Bengal.

Cricket in Mymensingh during that era belied the societal norms. Cricket was supposed to be the game of the upper middle class people, who spoke English rather than Bengali. But surprisingly, cricket in Mymensingh was a proletariat act. Common people from all strata used to play the game.

Cricket in Bangladesh in the sixties

Dhaka used to have first and second division leagues in the sixties. Also, every year, East Pakistan XI (A and B) teams (Bangladesh then used to be East Pakistan, a province of Pakistan) used to tour West Pakistan for inter-province matches. Pakistan always used to play one Test match in Dhaka. The Dhaka stadium was specifically built for cricket and we were lucky to watch some fine Pakistani players along with players from other countries.

Latif (I have forgotten his full name) was the perennial captain of the East Pakistan XI that participated in the inter-province games in Pakistan. I believe he also received a Test cap for Pakistan. I am sure he was in the squad, but am not sure whether he played or not (he was the twelfth man in one of the matches). He was a superb captain and a dashing batsman.

No history of Bangladesh cricket is complete without Daulat (Daulatzamman). He was a fast bowler and used to run from the boundary for his delivery. He was tall, powerful and awesome. He continued playing until the mid-seventies. He passed away recently.

Niaz was a medium fast bowler who actually played a test for Pakistan against England (in England) in 1969. He a permanent fixture in the Mymensingh League playing for the ?District Council? team.

And there was Nizam Ahmed (Nizam Bhai). He was from a cricket-enthusiast family that produced three Test cricketers, all of whom were wicketkeepers. Nizam Bhai was called for the Pakistan Test squad, but I believe he did not make the final cut. At that time the Bengali speaking players were subjected to discrimination. He went on teaching Chemistry and now teaches in Brunei. Both of his younger brothers, Monju and Nasu, played for the Bangladesh national team as wicket keepers. Nasu is the current team statistician for the Bangladesh national team and I met him after twenty-two years in St. Lucia last year.

Raquib Bhai (Raquibul Alam) was undoubtedly the best batsman Bangladesh produced in decades. Coming out of St. Gregory School, he went on to study History at the University of Dhaka rather than going for Engineering or Medicine so that he could continue playing cricket. When he was at his peak, Bangladesh was going through political upheavals. We were clamoring for autonomy (and ultimately independence). In such a charged political atmosphere, he went to play for Pakistan (Against MCC XI, or was it New Zealand?) with ?Joy Bangla? written on his pads.

Iraz Bakth was also a superb, not to mention the most well-groomed, player of that time. He always played in crisp white and batted with his full-sleeved shirt buttoned tight. His stroke play was fun to watch.

Cricket in Mymensingh in the sixties

During that time (late sixties), Dipak Kanti Das, Dulal bhai and Ratan Da were household names in Mymensingh. Ratan Da is still active and played a crucial role in cricket, in the youth movement, in education, and finally in the national stage as a politician in Mymensingh. He was active in both soccer and cricket. His other cricket-playing brother is the retired General Amin Ahmed Choudhury.

Some older cricketers in Mymensingh made their names known in the all-India arena and later turned to coaching and churned out numerous cricketers. Fakar Uddin (Fakkar Da) and Mofizuddin (everybody?s Mofiz Bhai)'s names come to mind. Fakkar Da was the ultimate teacher to whom all cricketers from all ages are indebted.

My guru was Sadeq bhai, a wicketkeeper for Pandit Para club. He was young, handsome, dashing and stylish. Cricket was his love and he did not pursue anything else but cricket. Unfortunately, he never left Mymensingh so nobody knows his name. His most well-known disciple was Azhar, who played for the Bangladesh national team and also for Biman, a well-known club in Dhaka, until the late 70s. Azhar was a great leg spinner and a fine batsman.

During that time, Mymensingh produced two noteworhty batsmen: Sadrul and Belal. Both of them played for the Bangladesh national team. Belal was a perennial wicketkeeper for both Abahani and Mohammedan (the two giants in the Dhaka club cricket scene) and toured England and India with the Bangladesh Team. Sadrul is the most gifted batsman I have ever seen. He was born in the wrong era. If he were playing now, he would have been well known over the world. I know I am throwing superlatives here but that?s the truth. You can call him the Mohammed Ashraful of his time.

The late sixties and the early seventies: A teaser

I grew up in this period and had the good luck of staying very close to cricket and cricket organizations throughout this time period until I came to the United States as a graduate student in 1983.

The pre-liberation period produced a crop of players who later played a crucial role in setting up cricket in Bangladesh. First and foremost there was Syed Ashraful Haque (a spin bowler and a superb batsman), the current Asian Cricket Council chief executive. We can undoubtedly call him the architect of modern Bangladesh cricket.

to be continued...