It was the day Bangladesh had been waiting for. Its liberation from Pakistan, the Bengali Language Movement, a civil uprising for democracy, its first Nobel laureate economist Muhammad Yunus, and now cricket.
Saturday thus became the biggest day in Bangladesh’s sporting history.
The journey that began with the ICC Trophy victory in 1997 to qualify for the 1999 World Cup and the upset of Pakistan as debutants which led to their getting Test status culminated in Bangladesh hosting the first match of the 2011 World Cup. Former national skipper Aminul Islam Bulbul has seen it all in that journey.
“That was the first alarm bell to the cricket world that a young team was coming up with a force, and that helped us get Test status,” he said, referring to the victory over Pakistan in the 1999 Cup.
He was the captain of the side that beat Pakistan in the 1999 World Cup, scored a ton in their first Test against India at Bangabandhu Stadium in Dhaka in 2000.
Causing their first upset in the World Cup made Bangladesh to take their cricket seriously. “After we defeated Pakistan, our Prime Minister called me up to congratulate me. I told her we do not need any prize, we want cricket grounds,” Bulbul told HT.
It was then that plans of shifting cricket out of the Bangabandhu Stadium, which used to hold football matches as well, began.
Now Bangladesh has five international cricket venues. The Sher-e Bangla National Stadium, two in Chittagong, one in Narayanganj and one in Bogura. "I would have been happier if we had more cricket fields all around the country. With thousands of schools playing, we need better playing grounds for them, not just stadiums," he said.
Former wicketkeeper Khaled Mashud felt it was the people of Bangladesh who have helped cricket achieve the status it has now. “People have forgotten political boundaries and celebrated cricket in the streets. As a cricketer what more can you ask for?”