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. Mehrab Hossain, became the first Bangladeshi player to score a century in a one-day international when he struck 101 runs against Zimbabwe. A month later, he featured in the Tigers’ maiden ICC World Cup campaign in the United Kingdom in 1999 and became Bangladesh’s first batsman to strike a 50 at the showpiece event. With this edition of the ICC World Cup knocking on the door, Mehrab took a look back on the golden days of Bangladesh cricket and his World Cup exploits in an exclusive interview with
The Daily Star’s Nabid Yeasin.
The Daily Star (TDS): How did it feel to represent the country in their maiden ICC World Cup in 1999?
Mehrab Hossain (MH): A lot of emotions took over at that time since the World Cup is the absolute top-flight of cricket events in the world. Obviously there was excitement but at the same time, there was no fear at all for me regardless of which opponent we faced or any other aspect. Overall, I think I was in a trance as everything just happened. To be honest, I never set any target that I have to score a hundred in the World Cup. I just wanted to play my natural game and be confident.
TDS: What is your best World Cup memory?
MH: I struck a fifty against West Indies in that World Cup. I was lucky enough that it was also the first fifty hit by a Bangladeshi batsman at the World Cup too. I had planned before to somehow perform well against West Indies ahead of the World Cup as my father was a huge fan of theirs. He had told me ‘son you must do well against West Indies’.
TDS: Any interesting World Cup incidents you would like to share?
MH: I remember one incident during the game against Pakistan, which we won. Wasim Akram and Shoaib Akhtar opened the innings before Waqar Younis came on as the one change. I opened the innings with Shahriar Hossain, who smashed three boundaries off Waqar in his first over. When Shahriar struck the third boundary of the over he suddenly came up to me and asked, ‘who is this ordinary bowler?’ I was very surprised to hear that since he had no idea who Waqar Younis was. It was very funny.
TDS: What do you think will be Bangladesh’s biggest challenge in England?
MH: I think the biggest challenge will be to keep strong nerves. The environment of World Cup cricket is totally different. England is the birthplace of cricket and the World Cup being held in England itself is a huge thing. I think we have to play the type of cricket we normally do but at the same time we have to keep our nerves strong seeing as whoever is able to do so will likely enjoy more success.
TDS: As a former opener, who do you think would be the best opening partner for Tamim Iqbal?
MH: At the moment two of the best openers in the country are in the team. Soumya Sarkar is in very good touch and I think the type of wickets in England are perfect for Soumya to adapt. He likes to play on the rise shots as the wicket will offer true bounce there. Pitches in ICC tournaments have remained batting friendly over the past few years and so I think the combination of Soumya and Tamim will be good.
TDS: Realistically, what do you think Bangladesh’s chances are in the upcoming World Cup?
MH: Well, expectations are sky high but I think we also need to be realistic. Considering the type of cricket we are playing at the moment, I think the other teams are playing even better cricket than us. To give a tough fight we have to click in all departments consistently, only then we can hope to reach the semifinals. However, if you want to reach the semifinals, you have to win a minimum of six games. It will be important for the senior players to work on their fitness since it’s a long tournament and that could prove crucial for Bangladesh.