On Sunday, Bangladesh celebrated the fifth anniversary of their first Test victory. Led by their most successful skipper, Habibul Bashar, Bangladesh had defeated Zimbabwe convincingly at Chittagong. The day is all the more special for the people here because it coincides with the return to liberated Bangladesh of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman.
After waiting for four years for their maiden win that boosted the expectation of fans, Bangladesh's Test campaign did not take off. A draw once in a while and a win against a severely depleted West Indies are all they have achieved.
“The bowling has been upsetting,” Bashar, who has returned to the mainstream after a stint with the Indian Cricket League, said. “(Mashrafe) Murtaza is injured. The performance of the rest of the medium-pacers has been disappointing. To make matters worse, Shahadat (Hossain) not in form. To win a Test, we need our bowlers to take 20 wickets. That has not happened till date. So, unless Bangladesh finds quality bowlers, that is not going to happen against good sides,” said Bashar.
The former skipper, who went out of reckoning due to lack of form before he joined the ICL, now plays first-class cricket for Surya Tarun, a middle-rung club in the Bangladesh's national league.
“The way the game is changing with the new powerplay rules and T20, the approach of batsmen to Test cricket is also changing. So, bowlers have to keep pace with the developments. That has not happened here,” he said.
When Bashar came into cricket, Bangladesh's top sport was football. So, the middle-order batsman says he grew up admiring football stars. “Now budding cricketers have homegrown stars to emulate. I grew up star-worshipping (Monem) Munna. Though I always supported Mohammedan Sporting, I admired Munna's character,” Bashar said.
Late footballer still a star
Hailing from Kushtia district some 70km from Dhaka, Bashar did not get many opportunities to witness Mohammedan Sporting-Abahani matches in the city.
“We used to follow the games through newspapers. Mohammedan Sporting-Abahani matches used to be a Munna (Mohammad Abdul Monem) -Kaiser Hamid bhai duel. Munna, to me, was the last star Bangladesh football produced,” Bashar said.
Munna was one of the best defenders Bangladesh produced and besides leading the nation and Abahani, he played with distinction for East Bengal in the Calcutta Football League in the 1990s. He died in 2005 at the age of 39 after a kidney ailment. With exactly a month left for his fifth death anniversary on February 12, his family feels neglected.
“After his death, a lot of promises were made by his club and the football federation. They said my children's education would be taken care of. But nothing happened. The club (Abahani), for which he gave 12 years as a player and then served as manager, has forgotten him,” Surobhi, his widow, said.
His 12-year-old son, Azman Salid, has a knack for football and even goes to the Abahani ground to play on holidays. But there is no junior development programme to help him take up football seriously.