There were tear gas shells fired by the police at the Bangabandhu National Stadium during the Dhaka Premier League (DPL) game between archrivals Mohammedan Sporting Club and Abahani Limited after the supporters of the two clubs engaged in a battle in the stands back in 1998.
Being witness to that incident more than two decades ago as a keen follower of the Mohammdean-Abahani clash, the contrast could not have been more stark yesterday at the Sher-e-Bangla National Stadium in Mirpur. It seemed like any other day at the Bangladesh Cricket Board (BCB) headquarters, where hardly anyone would have realised that the latest chapter of Bangladesh domestic sport's most storied rivalry was playing out yesterday.
The weather itself was not conducive as it was a hot day in Dhaka and much like the last few years, it was Abahani once again who registered a comprehensive six-wicket win over Mohammedan in a dull match that marked the giants' first clash of this season of the DPL.
Chasing a modest target of 249, Jahurul Islam missed out on his hundred by just four runs, but his 131-ball 96 led Abahani past the target with 15 balls to spare. Soumya Sarkar scored 43 off 54 balls as he along with Jahurul added 105 runs for the opening stand, which laid the platform of an easy win.
Abahani remained on top of the points table with five wins from six games, while Mohammedan faced their third defeat in six games.
The home of cricket resembled a deserted arena with hardly 70 people in the stadium to watch the game. Of those 70 supporters a majority were Abahani faithfuls, and they briefly tried to create some noise but the volume paled in comparison to the glory days.
BCB's media committee chairman Jalal Younus looked outside his office window overlooking the playing area and said in a low voice: “There are no more than fifty spectators in the stadium. I feel really bad as during our time the stands used to jam-packed for a Abahani-Mohammedan.”
There were times when the intensity surrounding an Abahani-Mohammedan game gathered even as early as the eve of the game with club officials and supporters creating a lot of excitement and buzz among the players in the club tents.
Over the years that culture has faded and even the cricketers do not feel the hype of a battle between the most famous archrivals in Dhaka cricket.
Going back to the game, after being asked to bat first Mohammedan posted 248 for seven in fifty overs despite at one stage being 155 for two in 37 overs. Openers Liton Das (27) and Abdul Mazid (26) provided a steady start before Irfan Shukkur and skipper Raqibul Hasan added 68 runs for the third wicket.
But both Irfan and Raqibul departed after scoring fifties as Mohammedan lost their way, losing a few quick wickets. Mohammedan's Sri Lankan recruit Chaturanga De Silva scored a quick 32 off 24 balls and Sohag Gazi added 27 at the end to take them to a fighting total.
Medium-pacer Mohammad Saifuddin and left-arm spinner Nazmul Islam were the pick of the bowlers for Abahani, picking up three wickets each.