Sunday, March 26, 2023
Updated: Tuesday, May 15, 2007
“A big man with a big heart” – An exclusive interview with Akram Khan

Khondaker Mirazur Rahman

Akram Khan was the the first Bangladesh captain to taste victory in One Day Internationals for Bangladesh when Bangladesh defeated Kenya in the Coca-Cola triangular series in Hyderabad in 1998. He played a monumental innings defying all odds in the semi-final place deciding group match of the 1997 ICC Trophy against Holland and propelled Bangladesh to World Cup qualification for the first time. Through that win, he laid the foundation of current Bangladesh team, who are progressing after every series and just recently qualified for the super eights stage of the 2007 World Cup.

Akram Khan was the third captain of the Bangladesh team in the pre-Test era and captained Bangladesh in 15 ODIs. In his 15 years of international cricket, he played 44 ODIs and 8 Test matches. He was well known for his big hitting abilities and played a vital knock of 42 in Bangladesh’s historic World Cup win over Pakistan in 1999. He retired from International Cricket in 2004 after being continuously ignored by the selectors. After his retirement, he briefly worked as the manager of the Bangladesh national team.

Akram Khan, “A big man with a big heart”, is still playing domestic cricket as a captain of the current premiership champion Old DOHS. Recently, Bangladesh Cricket Board have appointed him as a national selector in recognition of his 27 years of service to Bangladesh cricket. He announced his retirement from all forms of cricket with effect from May 14, 007 and will take the office of selector from June 1, 2007. In his interview with BanglaCricket editor Khondaker Mirazur Rahman, he expressed his vision about Bangladesh Cricket, selection policy and domestic cricket.

BanglaCricket : Congratulations on your appointment as a national selector. Your feelings right at the moment.

Akram Khan : Thank you. I am very happy to get the opportunity to serve Bangladesh cricket as a selector of the national team. Selection is a tough job. I will try to use my experience to serve the country in the best possible way.

BanglaCricket : You are the first Test player from Bangladesh to act as a selector for the national team. Do you think it will be an added benefit to your duty compared to others?

Akram Khan : I don’t see it as a benefit. Team selection is a collective process. I will share my experience as a former Test player in the selection meeting which might bring some new insights into the overall selection process.

BanglaCricket : You retired from international cricket at a time when Bangladesh were struggling as a cricket team after the 2003 World Cup. Your comparison between that Bangladesh side with the current one.

Akram Khan : During our time, we approached international cricket with a completely different mindset. We found international cricket a very tough arena to survive. We tried our best within our limited resources but lacked the confidence which I find in the current bunch of players. Now, Bangladesh play to win matches and our young players have won sufficient matches which helped them in believing in themselves. In my opinion, self-confidence and fearless attitude are the main differences.

BanglaCricket : Bangladesh team’s average age is only 22 and apart from Bashar and Rafique most of the players are very young. Do you think it is a perfect situation for a team like Bangladesh?

Akram Khan : It’s true we do not have enough senior players in the team, but these young players earned their position in the team and are winning matches for Bangladesh. In my eyes, performance is key factor not experience. If experienced players can perform, they will certainly get opportunity to serve Bangladesh.

BanglaCricket : We have got a feeling that we are giving the national cap to players in their early teens and in that process we are losing some promising players. Talha Jubair can be one example. Is this the right approach for team selection?

Akram Khan : It is difficult to comment on this. Selectors have definitely tried their best to select the best possible squad for Bangladesh team. In some cases it appeared that the “national cap” is quite easy to get. I might be wrong but everyone has their own vision.

BanglaCricket : Your vision about the overall selection process.

Akram Khan : When I will take the responsibility of a national selector (the interview was taken on May 5, 2007) from 1st June, I will try doing justice to everyone in the best possible way. I believe that the national cap should be a tough one for everyone. A player must perform consistently for 2-3 years before getting a national call. There might be exceptions but I will try to follow a consistent policy. At the same time, if a player is selected for the national team, he should get sufficient opportunities to prove his worth. Throwing someone out after couple of bad performances is not right. If that happens, he should not have been selected for the national team in the first place. I will make the selection process tough for the up-coming players.

BanglaCricket : The current Bangladesh captain Habibul Bashar and veteran Mohammad Rafique are approaching ODI retirement. After their retirement, Bangladesh will be a more youth oriented team.

Akram Khan : Yes, that’s true. Too many young players is not a good sign for a developing team like Bangladesh. Having said that, I must admit that these young players are the heart of Bangladesh team. They have placed Bangladesh at a respectable position in world cricket. They need proper guidance over the next few years. If we can assure that, Bangladesh will become a top team within a short span of time.

BanglaCricket : Are we doing enough to groom youngsters for the future?

Akram Khan : I think we are in a crucial phase of Bangladesh cricket. Most of our domestic performers are young and we have to select the team from them. After the establishment of the National Academy, we have now got a platform to groom youngsters for the future. We are now following the Australian model for developing the standard of game in our country. I believe we are in the right track. We drafted many young players into the national team before their proper grooming. Probably because we had no other better options. We must revisit our policy for the better interest of the young players and the country.

BanglaCricket : What will be your policy to for the youngsters who are performing consistently?

Akram Khan : Consistency will be the key. If our current players who are representing national team perform consistently, I do not find any reason to replace them unless someone performs extra-ordinarily in the domestic circuit, with A team and/or the National Academy.

BanglaCricket : There are calls from different quarters to include more experienced players like Khaled Mashud in the team. Your thoughts on this.

Akram Khan : I do not want to mention any name. If senior players who have lost their place in the national team performs to earn their recall, they will get their opportunity. No one should be considered as “out of probability” zone.

BanglaCricket : You have openly criticized current selectors for ignoring Khaled Mashud for the world cup and you later apologized through media.

Akram Khan : I preferred Khaled Mashud over Mushfiqur Rahim due to his wicket keeping ability. I always believed that Mushfiqur Rahim is one of the brightest prospects of Bangladesh cricket, and I wanted to give him some more time before drafting him into the world stage. Selectors took a brave decision and that has paid off.

BanglaCricket : Our domestic performers are not performing well when given opportunity at the national level. Faisal Hossain and Ehsanul Haque are few examples. Any explanations for that?

Akram Khan : There is a huge difference between the standard of our domestic cricket and international cricket. We must reduce the gap for the better interest of Bangladesh cricket.

BanglaCricket : How can we reduce the gap?

Akram Khan : It’s difficult to raise the standard overnight. We should adopt a long term policy to develop domestic cricket. I have got some proposals and I will try to submit them to the BCB in due time. As a first step, we must improve the cricket infrastructure of our first class venues including the pitches.

BanglaCricket : You are taking the responsibility at a time when our ODI captaincy is going to be changed due to Bashar’s retirement. Do you think Ashraful is the right choice for the job?

Akram Khan : Yes, I think Mohammad Ashraful is the right man for the job. We initially thought about Shahriar Nafees, but he failed to live up to expectations especially against top teams and he must work with his techniques and temperaments. On the other hand, Ashraful is an experienced campaigner and is a core player of the team. He also has domestic captaincy experience. I think captaincy will add more responsibility to Ashraful’s batting and he will come of age.

BanglaCricket : Bangladesh has done pretty well in ODIs in recent past with a young team. We haven’t played Test matches for a while. Do you think young players like Tamim Iqbal, Sakib Al Hasan and Mushfiqur Rahim should be included in the Test side?

Akram Khan : Anyone who is performing well should be included in the Test side. At the same time, Test cricket is a different ball game; we should take sensible decisions before picking too many youngsters for the Test team. All the players you mentioned have bright future ahead and they will certainly make it to the Test squad in near future.

BanglaCricket : In that case do you prefer two separate teams for Tests and ODI?

Akram Khan : Not really. There will be changes of two or three players for both forms of the game. We do not have sufficient players to make completely two different teams and that is not required.

BanglaCricket : Do you think Bangladesh is on the right track to become a top cricket playing country before the next World Cup?

Akram Khan : Bangladesh have progressed over the last few years. Current coach Dav Whatmore has played some role in that development. Development has no defined limit. He could have done better but at least he managed to win a good number of matches. Now we must work on the laid platform to develop it further. We need specialist coaches to work with the technique of our players and the Academy can play a key role in this regard. I am very much hopeful about the future of Bangladesh cricket.

BanglaCricket : You are representing a cricketing family. One of your nephew Tamim Iqbal is currently playing in the national team and his elder brother Nafis Iqbal played for Bangladesh in the last couple of years. Do you think it will make your job as a selector difficult?

Akram Khan : Absolutely not. I have served Bangladesh cricket for a long time. I have always maintained dignity throughout my cricket career and placed national interests above personal interests. I will maintain the same standard as a selector.

BanglaCricket : Have you heard about BanglaCricket or ever visited the site?

Akram Khan : Yes, off course. I often visit the site and I am well aware of the forum.

BanglaCricket : Your words for the cricket fans.

Akram Khan : I am very grateful to all Bangladeshi fans home and abroad for supporting me throughout my career. Selection is a thankless job, you will be always under criticism for almost every decision you make. I have taken the job for developing Bangladesh cricket to a new level. I seek co-operation from everyone. I hope with the blessings of the Almighty Allah, I will be successful in my mission.

BanglaCricket : We are really grateful for your valuable time. Many thanks for this interview within your busy schedule.

Akram Khan : Thank you.