In the lead-up to the 2019 World Cup, we take a look back on World Cups past through the eyes of Bangladesh's former World Cup stars. Minhajul Abedin featured in the Tigers' inaugural World Cup campaign in 1999 but only after an uproar from supporters forced the selectors to change their initial decision to exclude him from the squad. Minhajul, currently the chief selector of the Bangladesh Cricket Board, shared some of his cherished World Cup memories and also discussed the Tigers' chances in the upcoming edition of the flagship event in an exclusive interview with The Daily Star's Mazhar Uddin.
The Daily Star (TDS): After three ICC Champions Trophy defeats, finally Bangladesh won one in 1997 to qualify for the 1999 World Cup. Do you recall what it felt like when that period of struggle to ended?
Minhajul Abdein (MA): Obviously, it's the most memorable thing since we finally got a place in the World Cup. There were no such facilities and infrastructure for us at that time and despite all those shortcomings, we went on to win two games, which was remarkable. It helped us get Test status after and overall, I would say that among all the World Cups it was the most memorable one for us.
TDS: Initially, you excluded from the 1999 World Cup squad but you were eventually made a last minute inclusion. How did that feel?
MA: It was the biggest disappointment of my life, to not be included in the World Cup squad. Even though I scored runs in the triangular series ahead of the event, I was dropped. Still, I had hope that I would return to the team and sure enough, following the team's poor performance in the triangular series, I was recalled. Even after all that, I was able to perform, which was a big thing for me.
TDS: You were the player-of-the-match in Bangladesh's win against Scotland in the 1999 World Cup. Can you share some memories of that match?
MA: It is memorable because we managed to win the game after bouncing back from a very difficult situation. It was obviously a huge milestone for our country's cricket because if we had slipped in that game, our standing would go down again and we would have to work our way back up from the beginning. From that point of view, I was very lucky to remain on the front lines and help my team to victory. It was one of the most memorable wins for us.
TDS: What did it mean to Bangladesh's first World Cup squad to feature in the quadrennial mega event? What was the team's reaction to beating Pakistan in that edition?
MA: We were supposed to qualify for the World Cup earlier through the 1990 ICC Champions Trophy as we had one of our best team's at the time. Disappointingly though, we lost that tournament and the subsequent loss of the opportunity to play at the World Cup was even more so. We didn't play well in the 1994 ICC Champions Trophy either but we eventually won the 1997 edition. Our dream to play at the World Cup actually began from the 1990 ICC Champions Trophy. We eventually got a taste of what it is like to play at the World Cup after another nine years and everyone was pumped up to participate. Beating Pakistan in our maiden World Cup appearance was a huge thing. At that time, Pakistan had some of their all-time best cricketers on the side with the likes of Wasim Akram, Waqar Younis and others. So obviously that win, which was a tremendous confidence boost, will always remain as one of the turning points of Bangladesh's cricket journey.
TDS: As the current chief selector, what do you think Bangladesh's chances are in the upcoming World Cup realistically?
MA: This team is, I think, one of the most experienced Bangladesh sides to take part in the World Cup so far. We have a few players who have played more than 100 matches and that a huge plus point for us. And it won't be unrealistic if we believe that this team have the ability to be among the top four teams of the tournament this time, and I am hopeful for it.