It was Akram Khan’s day as he scored an unbeaten 68 to help Bangladesh win despite being four down with just 15 runs on the board.
4 April, 1997. 23 years ago on this day the Akram Khans, Aminul Islams and Naimur Rahmans helped plant the seed in Mayalsia's Kuala Lumpur from which Bangladesh cricket would flourish. Bangladesh ensured qualification to the ICC Trophy semi final by defeating the Netherlands.
It was Akram Khan's day as he scored an unbeaten 68 to help Bangladesh win despite being four down with just 15 runs on the board.
Not only that, but he also took two wickets during bowling and as soon as he remembered that day he said, "It was a Friday. It was a tough situation for us."
The current cricket operations chairman for the Bangladesh Cricket Board (BCB) spoke with The Business Standard (TBS) in-depth about that match in the ICC Trophy in an exclusive interview.
TBS: How does it feel when you think of that match in the ICC Trophy?
Akram Khan: We were favourites in '94 but we couldn't qualify. In 1997 when we had the opportunity to qualify for the World Cup, we tried accordingly. We knew that the top three teams would qualify for the World Cup and we were making good progress. In that game, if we lost or if it was a tie, we would not have qualified for the semis. They scored 170 odd and it was a relatively easy target in 50 overs. But when we lost top order wickets quickly - Atahar Ali, Naimur Rahman, Habibul Bashar and Sanowar Hossain - it was tough. After that it was a team performance, and I played a match-winning knock. It was an amazing match.
TBS: Before you made the match-winning contribution with the bat you also did well with the ball.
Akram Khan: Since we were playing on an astroturf pitch during the ICC Trophy matches, I used to bowl as well. Our bowling and fielding was good but our batting started off poorly, as I said. And then it rained too. The match got curtailed due to the rain and taking six runs per over was a big deal back then. It was difficult and we didn't have wickets in hand either. We were playing with six specialist batsmen out of which four were back in the hut so I have to say it was a very memorable innings from me.
TBS: The innings of 68 isn't part of your international career, but how do you rate it?
Akram Khan: We didn't get many opportunities to play back then. When we had form and age on our side, we didn't get to play many games. We played three Asia Cup matches in two years against Sri Lanka, India and Pakistan. We weren't in international cricket back then, and our aim was to qualify for international cricket. So we had to work very hard for that. Still, some innings' are very valuable and thinking of that one innings gives me a lot of pride. To have played such an innings to help our country and how we are now in a good position in international cricket gives me a lot of satisfaction.
TBS: Will that be among your top three innings? How important was that knock for Bangladesh cricket?
Akram Khan: Yes it will definitely be there in the top three. Not just because I batted well, but an innings like this was required for our cricket to kick-start our journey in the international arena. That match changed our cricket's landscape here. Today we have players like Shakib Al Hasan, Tamim Iqbal, Mushfiqur Rahim, and Mahmudullah Riyad. Bangladesh are playing well and defeating many teams. When I see that and I think of that innings I feel very good.
TBS: Leading from the front as captain and playing such a vital role, how did you feel after the game?
Akram Khan: That gave me a lot of joy after the match. As I already said, how important it was to win that game and after that we defeated Kenya in the final to win the tournament. Back then, they were a better team than us, so thinking of those memories makes me feel good.
TBS: In your time, you didn't get many opportunities. But now, Bangladesh cricket doesn't have these issues anymore. How do you see this transformation?
Akram Khan: Back then although we didn't have the facilities and the opportunities we have now, we had the hunger and desire to qualify. Back then, the top sport in our country was football. We didn't have a designated field to play but we still managed to win that tournament. After independence, this trophy was our greatest achievement. Everyone was extremely happy with our achievement back then. We still remember that win after so many years and that's our biggest gain from there.