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Win over Pakistan remains most significant

Wisden India logo Wisden India 24-01-2015 Aminul Islam

Since its independence in 1971, Bangladesh wanted to play in the ICC Cricket World Cup. Bangladesh competed in the 1979, 1982, 1990 and 1994 ICC Trophies and not only improved every time, but got closer to qualification to the pinnacle event.

My One-Day International debut was in 1988 and I played in the ICC Trophy in 1990, 1994 and 1997, with the last event earning us qualification to the ICC Cricket World Cup 1999. The Bangladesh cricket team was under tremendous pressure to qualify for the ICC Cricket World Cup 1999 in 1997 as it had narrowly missed the opportunity in Holland in 1990 and in Kenya in 1994. In Malaysia in 1997, Bangladesh had an experienced, mature side that had prepared well.

The experience of playing the ACC Trophy in Malaysia in 1996 was a major advantage. Bangladesh not only won that tournament, they also took away the coach of Malaysia at that time, Gordon Greenidge. Domestic cricket in Bangladesh at the time was very competitive and rich. Wasim Akram, Arjuna Ranatunga, Sanath Jayasuriya and Neil Fairbrother were just a few among the many foreign players in the Bangladesh domestic league.

Doing well alongside and against these international stars gave tremendous encouragement and experience to the local players.

Bangladesh qualified for the ICC Cricket World Cup 1999 very comfortably and that triggered celebrations as if we had won the tournament proper. In 26 years as a nation, this victory gave an international standing and recognition to the people. The nation celebrated and enjoyed this victory wholeheartedly. A special jet carried the cricket heroes back to Bangladesh and the Prime Minister gave a massive reception in the parliament.

The ICC Cricket World Cup 1999 side had very few changes from the side that had won the ICC Trophy two years ago. Each and every member was moved by the fact that he was representing 120 million people’s hopes and dreams. Cricket is still the one and only sport in which Bangladesh has played a World Cup. This was not a pressure, rather a responsibility and we were confident and fully capable.

In 1999, the dream came true and we went to England one month before the World Cup with the best wishes from the people of Bangladesh. As the captain, I was thrilled to have the captains’ photo with all my fellow captains, many of whom I admired from long ago for their skill, courage and character. I was also thrilled when we went to meet the Queen at the Buckingham Palace.

Cold as we were in the ICC Cricket World Cup 1999, we performed better and better with each match.

Our last match in the tournament was against Pakistan in Northamptonshire. The night before, we came to know that Greenidge, who had been with us in the most memorable journey from 1997 to 1999, had been dismissed. Next day, he still came to the ground and gave me an inspirational lecture.

We dominated the match against Pakistan and with everyone contributing evenly, we emerged winners by 62 runs. Immediately after the match, I received a personal call from Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina.

That win against Pakistan remains up to now Bangladesh’s most significant cricket victory. That win gave us the confidence to really start believing in ourselves and that we could beat Test-playing countries. With this victory, we started dreaming for Test status. Our World Cup mission was a grand success.

The crowd at Northampton had a large number of fans of Bangladeshi origin. After we won, they invaded the field and lifted us on their shoulders. We were their superheroes. That evening, we received a grand celebration from the team management and Bangladeshis who came from all parts of Europe. The next day, the celebration was in East London, popularly known as Banglatown in London. We could only imagine the grand reception waiting for us in Bangladesh …

The day we landed at the Dhaka airport, we experienced the highest of honours from the people of Bangladesh. We went directly to the national parade square. The Prime Minster and the cabinet gave us a heroic reception. We players were all touched by their love and gratitude. For the next few days, we had receptions given by various organisations.

From 1997 to 1999, all players in and out of the team worked together for this mission. I consider myself exceptionally lucky to be a part of such team. From 1997 to 2000, these three years, our overwhelmingly brilliant achievements – ICC Trophy, World Cup and Test status – put Bangladesh permanently in the elite league.

2015 © ICC Development (International) Limited

Aminul Islam, who scored the first century for Bangladesh in what was their inaugural Test match, also captained his team in the 1999 World Cup – Bangladesh’s first – leading them to wins over Scotland and Pakistan.

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