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. Hannan Sarkar played 17 Tests and 20 ODIs for Bangladesh while the only time he featured for the country at the World Cup was in the 2003 edition. The former opener shared some of his World Cup memories and more in an interview with The Daily Star's Nabid Yeasin.
The Daily Star (TDS): How did it feel to play in the 2003 World Cup -- your only World Cup -- for Bangladesh?
Hannan Sarkar (HS): Actually every player dreams of playing an international game for their country, be it an ODI or Test. It is an even bigger dream for any player to play in a World Cup for their country. I always dreamt of playing the first ball for Bangladesh in a World Cup game and that came true when I was handed the first ball of the match against Canada in our 2003 edition opener.
TDS: What is your best World Cup memory?
HS: In the 2003 World Cup we lost all the matches and there were really not many positives that I can remember about that edition. Still, I can recall one thing, it was Eid-ul-Adha the day after our game against Canada. We had actually planned to celebrate Eid by saying our prayers that morning and also had contributed a lump sum amount of money to the Muslim community in South Africa in order to arrange sacrifices and celebrate Eid as we normally do in our country. But as we lost the game, we did not even see each other's faces the next day and nothing went as planned. So it was a very bad day for us and I think none of us had ever spent such an Eid day in our life. Actually, we had no such positive memory of that World Cup but this one negative is something that I will always recall.
TDS: Do you have any interesting or funny incidents of that World Cup that you still remember?
HS: One thing I can remember is that the day after we lost to Canada, a team meeting was called in the evening. In that meeting, where there were many BCB high ups present, we were shown a huge piece of paper where many fans of Bangladesh had signed and also wrote some messages and good wishes for us. It was shown to us to give us inspiration but unfortunately we could not win a single game in that World Cup. We had hoped to win the last game against Kenya but that also did not happen and we returned without winning even a single game.
TDS: What do you think will be the biggest challenge for Bangladesh in the coming World Cup in England?
HS: We have to play nine games, although we all hope to play more than that as we all want Bangladesh to reach the semifinals. It will be tough but if all the players can stay fit throughout the tournament then I think we can play in the semifinals. I think in this World Cup it will be a big challenge for the players to stay fit. There were some injury concerns going into the World Cup but I hope that all the players stay fit as it will be tough to play so many competitive matches in such a short period. I am not worried about any other thing as all the players are very capable and have abilities, but I am concerned about the players maintaining their fitness, which will be a big challenge.
TDS: Who do you think is the best opening partner for Tamim Iqbal?
HS: Tamim now plays an anchor role in the opening slot where he is expected to hold the wicket at one end and play a long innings. And we know that Soumya [Sarkar] actually likes to play attacking cricket. Actually both Liton [Das] and Soumya play attacking cricket but currently Soumya has been in good form and connecting the ball better with his bat. Starting from the last two Dhaka Premier League games to the matches in Ireland, Soumya had connected the ball better. So initially I think that Soumya is a better choice right now but it is a long tournament and there's an issue of adjusting to the wicket and conditions but the positive is that both of them are in really good form.
TDS: In order to reach the semifinals, Bangladesh need to beat at least five teams. Who do you think those five teams could be?
HS: I think there will still remain some calculations even after beating five teams and so, only by beating six teams can the spot in the semifinal be surely confirmed. But we need to first beat five teams and then think about the sixth. I think at this moment Bangladesh need to beat Afghanistan, Sri Lanka, Pakistan and West Indies. Although we defeated West Indies in the tri-series, their batting will be a lot stronger with the inclusion of the likes of [Chris] Gayle, [Nicholas] Pooran and Andre Russell but the bowling line up remains more or less the same. We actually must beat these four teams. After that it can any of the other five teams that we can defeat. It could be anyone and I cannot actually mention any names because all the other five teams -- India, Australia, England, South Africa and New Zealand -- are very balanced sides. It could be any one of them and it depends on how we play on the day or how badly the other teams play.