The 1998 match at the Lal Bahadur Shastri Stadium in Hyderabad is still vivid in the memory of Akram Khan. Bangladesh were already 12 years into international cricket and still searching for their maiden win. In familiar conditions against a side like Kenya, it was their best chance to get a breakthrough. But there were no guarantees of success as Kenya had a formidable side back then.
Manger Gazi Ashraf Hossain Lipu advised Akram to bring Mohammad Rafique back as an opener, to take on the role of a pinch-hitter, though a similar experiment with him had failed the previous year.
Akram duly obliged and the result became a part of Bangladesh cricket history.
Set a target of 237 runs, Rafique and Athar Ali Khan put 137 runs in the opening stand after which Bangladesh never looked back. Rafique scored 77 runs and the Tigers won the game by six wickets to bring home their first international win.
The journey that began at Hyderabad somewhat came a full circle in Chittagong on Sunday when Arafat Sunny bowled Zimbabwe leg-spinner Tafadzwa Kamungozi to bring Bangladesh its 100th international win.
Looking back at the journey, Akram, currently the cricket operations chief of Bangladesh Cricket Board, took some satisfaction in the fact that the Tigers are not very far away from where he had expected them to be.
‘It’s not an easy task to win 100 international matches,’ Akram told New Age on Monday. ‘We have a lot of limitations at home, yet we went on to win so many matches. I would say the team fulfilled about 80 per cent of my expectations.’
‘Moreover, 30 per cent of those wins came against bigger sides, which is not bad, though it could have been better,’ said Akram.
The Tigers have lost 305 matches in all formats so far.
Among Bangladesh’s wins, 31 came against top-8 opponents, which included 11 wins against West Indies, eight wins against New Zealand, four wins against Sri Lanka, three wins against India, two wins against England and one each against Australia, Pakistan and South Africa.
‘As fas as one-day internationals are concerned, I am happy with our success ratio,’ said Akram. But I think we should have won more Test matches over the period.
Bangladesh have won 82 ODIs, 11 Twenty20 Internationals and seven Test matches. Of the seven Test wins, only two came against a side ranked in top eight – against an under-strength West Indies team in 2009.
Akram’s team-mate in the first win, Minhajul Abedin, currently a selector, is also satisfied with Bangladesh’s success so far.
‘You can only win against oppositions you play with,’ said Minhajul. ‘So, I don’t see any problem in winning more matches against weaker opponents. That is also an indication that we are developing as cricket nation.’
‘Even these days we don’t get enough opportunity to play against stronger sides. The more we face them, I am sure we will win more matches against them,’ he said.
Gazi Ashraf Hossain, Bangladesh’s first ODI captain, also saw the 100th win as an important milestone.
‘We are lagging behind in rankings, so it’s natural we will win more matches against weaker sides,’ he said. ‘You cannot move ahead in one big jump.’
‘Yes, we have more wins against Zimbabwe than other sides. But once they were ahead of us and we managed reduce the gap.’
‘I think we can take inspiration from our 100th win and move ahead. For us, the most important thing is making winning a habit,’ he said.
-With New Age input