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. Aminul Islam became the first player to score a hundred for Bangladesh when he struck 145 runs in the Tigers’ first ever Test match against India in 2000. He also captained Bangladesh in their inaugural World Cup campaign in 1999, the only time he featured at the quadrennial mega event. Aminul spoke of 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 captain Bangladesh in their first World Cup appearance in 1999?
Aminul Islam (AI): It was like a dream come true for me. We became a part of history by representing our country in its first ever World Cup campaign. However, this achievement came through a process. Before playing in the 1999 World Cup, we had to win the Champions Trophy in 1997 and then we got the chance to play in the 1999 World Cup. Before that, Bangladesh had played in several other Champions Trophies but could not succeed. So after many years, Bangladesh were able to do it and we finally played at the World Cup. So it came through a process and we were the lucky bunch of players who played in Bangladesh’s inaugural World Cup.
TDS: How did it feel to lead the side to that historic win against Pakistan in the 1999 World Cup?
AI: The win against Pakistan was a result of our day to day improvement ahead of the World Cup. We actually went to the United Kingdom exactly a month before the tournament started. We played some practice matches there and were improving gradually. We won against Essex and Middlesex and there was a very hard fought defeat for us against North Hampshire. We improved daily throughout the tour and were 100 per cent confident that it is possible to beat Pakistan. That win was very important and significant for a couple of reasons. At that time, we used to lose games after coming very close to victory. So it was very important for us to beat a full strength Pakistan and it was also the first time that we had beaten a Test playing nation. That made our appeal for Test status stronger. I always used to highlight Bangladesh’s success in order to get Test status and that win came at the right moment for us.
TDS: What is your best memory of the World Cup?
AI: There are actually many good memories of that World Cup for me. From stepping down for my first toss with New Zealand skipper Stephen Fleming to winning against Scotland -- our first win in the World Cup -- and again winning our last game against a strong team like Pakistan, everything was memorable.
TDS: As a batsman, what are your thoughts on how crucial batting will be for Bangladesh in the coming World Cup in England, where there are true wickets?
AI: In England, there will be true batting wickets. In the recent matches between England and Pakistan, we saw that the average run scored was 350 per innings. Planning is very important on these types of wickets. Earlier, the teams used to plan every five overs but now times have changed and they plan for each over. I am sure that Bangladesh will do the same and take it one over at a time.
TDS: In what ways do you think the team’s mentality has changed since 1999?
AI: In the first World Cup, we planned to win one or two games if possible. But Bangladesh is an experienced side now. There are players on this team who have played together for 10 to 12 years. In 1996, when Sri Lanka had won the World Cup, at that time, Sri Lanka were not a side that had been playing cricket for a very long time. But they managed to win the World Cup and now I think that it is Bangladesh’s time to do something good in this World Cup.
TDS: What do you think Bangladesh’s chances are in the upcoming World Cup? Can they reach the semifinals?
AI: It will be tough for Bangladesh to reach the semifinal this time because of the format. However, we have an experienced side and I think we can at least reach the top-five or six. I think our batting is strong but bowling could be a concern. In the bowling department, other than Mashrafe [Bin Mortaza], there are very few bowlers who are always consistent. Shakib [Al Hasan] is our only experienced spinner. Although we have [Mehedi Hasan] Miraz, I think it was a mistake to not pick either Elias Sunny or Taijul Islam. Bangladesh’s victory in the tri-series in Ireland was a very good thing but they should not be overconfident going into the World Cup. It is okay to be confident but they should not be overconfident.
TDS: Do you have a message for the players ahead of the tournament?
AI: My message would be to believe to in themselves. There is no such pressure that they will have to become champions this time. They just need to fire on all cylinders and I think that if Bangladesh can play as a team, then the result will be very good.