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Aminul Islam: Torch-bearer of Bangladesh cricket during their early days

Animul Islam © Getty Images
Aminul Islam essayed a century in the very first Test match Bangladesh played © Getty Images

Aminul Islam, born on February 2, 1968, was a former Bangladesh batsman. He captained his national side in their first ever World Cup appearance in 1999. He was one of Bangladesh’s better players during the 1990s and played in their very first Test scoring an epic century. His international career spanned out over 13 years and he retired in 2002. Shrikant Shankar details the career of a man nicknamed as ‘Bulbul’.

Bangladesh are still not a force to be reckoned with in the international arena. Their highs have come few and far between and most of them have come in the recent past. But there was a long build-up before they started making some serious noises in internationals. Many players were an integral part of the initial phase of Bangladesh’s cricket in the international arena. Aminul Islam was one of them.

He was born in Dacca (now Dhaka). Aminul played football in the early part of his life for Mohammedan Sporting Club in the Dhaka Premier League (DPL). But he soon decided to focus attention on cricket. He represented the ICC Associates Young Cricketers’ squad in the first-ever Youth World Cup in 1988, which was held in Australia. While his team lost all seven of their matches and finished last in the eight-team tournament, Aminul didn’t do too bad with the ball. He took six wickets with his off-spin in the tournament. From those, two would be cherished as the years came by. He dismissed two future legends of the game in Sanath Jayasuriya of Sri Lanka and West Indies’ Brian Lara.

Aminul made his One-Day International (ODI) debut in the same year against India on October 27 at Chittagong. This was during the Asia Cup held in Bangladesh. He only managed 10 and was not called onto bowl. At the time, Bangladesh were not a full member of the International Cricket Council (ICC), so, international cricket was few and far between for them. After the Asia Cup, Aminul got a chance to represent his country only two years later in the Austral-Asia Cup at Sharjah in 1990. In both of Bangladesh’s matches he did exceedingly well with the bat.

He scored an unbeaten 30 off 56 deliveries against New Zealand to ensure Bangladesh did not get bowled out, despite losing by a massive 161-run margin. In the second match against Australia, he scored another unbeaten knock. His 41 came off 76 deliveries against the likes of Merv Hughes and Steve Waugh. Australia won the match by seven wickets. His next two matches were in the Asia Cup in late 1990 in India. His next ODI came in April 1995 against India. He scored 30 and against Pakistan later in the tournament, he scored 42. Aminul was a good player of spin bowling, but struggled against the faster bowlers.

As expected, his next international assignment came in the Asia Cup only in 1997 in Sri Lanka. He failed to impress this time around. Later that year, Bangladesh played in a tournament featuring Kenya and Zimbabwe. The tournament was held in Nairobi, Kenya. Bangladesh lost all their four matches. Aminul did, however, take his first wickets in international cricket. In the second match against Zimbabwe on October 11, Aminul dismissed Grant Flower, Craig Evans and Andy Flower to get his best bowling figures in ODIs of three for 57.

He scored his first half-century in ODIs against India on January 10, 1998 at Dhaka. His innings of 69 not out came off 96 deliveries. India only managed to win the match by four wickets with 10 balls remaining. His next half-century came after two matches, also against India. This time, he captained the side in a tri-series also featuring Kenya in India. He scored 70 off 126 deliveries, but India won the match by five wickets at Mohali on May 14, 1998.

By this time Bangladesh were starting to play more regularly and the captaincy shifted from Akram Khan to Aminul. He led Bangladesh to their very first World Cup in 1999 held in England, Ireland and the Netherlands. On a personal level, the tournament was a forgettable one. He barely scored runs, despite playing in the higher middle-order. Bangladesh beat Scotland in a Group B match in Edinburgh on May 24, 1999. Aminul was out for a first-ball duck. Playing in the tournament itself was an achievement, but it got better as Bangladesh beat tournament favourites Pakistan on May 31 in Northampton.

Aminul scored his tournament-high 15 as Bangladesh posted 223 for nine in their 50 overs. Akram Khan scored 42 and Shahriar Hossain scored 39. Pakistan, though, gave away an unimaginable 40 extras. The bowling line-up included Waqar Younis, Shoaib Akhtar, Wasim Akram, Saqlain Mushtaq, Shahid Afridi and Azhar Mahmood. In reply, Pakistan were bowled out for 161, handing Bangladesh a 62-run win. There were some strange run-outs in the Pakistan innings that helped Bangladesh achieve a monumental victory. At the fall of the last wicket, delirium struck. Bangladesh players celebrated as if they had won the World Cup. Aminul was emotional during the post-math presentation.

This victory eventually led Bangladesh to get their Test status. But before that Bangladesh played a few more ODIs. Aminul scored his third and final half-century against West Indies at Dhaka on October 9, 1999. He scored 66 off 89 deliveries. After 11 years, Lara would get his revenge and dismissed Aminul in the match. He scored another important knock against India in the Asia Cup in May 2000 at Dhaka. His innings of 47 came off 72 deliveries as Bangladesh posted a competitive 249 for six in their 50 overs. But Sourav Ganguly’s unbeaten 135 with six fours and seven sixes helped India win comfortably by eight wickets.

Then came the inaugural Test for Bangladesh played against India in November 2000 at Dhaka. By this time, Aminul was no longer captain, as Bangladesh were led by Naimur Rahman. But Aminul gave Bangladesh a great memory to cherish as he scored 145 runs off 380 deliveries as Bangladesh posted a total of 400. His innings was eight hours and 55 minutes long. He struck 17 fours in his innings. He was eventually dismissed by Ajit Agarkar. In scoring a century, Aminul joined a unique set of cricketers to have done so in their country’s debut in Test cricket. Only Australia’s Charles Bannerman and Zimbabwe’s Dave Houghton had scored a century in their country’s debut Test match. He scored only six runs in the second innings.

The match, however, did not turn out to be a complete dream as India won by nine wickets. Aminul only played two ODIs for Bangladesh — one in April 2001 against Zimbabwe at Harare and the final against Pakistan in January 2002 at Dhaka. But he played a few more Tests for Bangladesh from thereon. In his second Test, Aminul scored 84 runs off 200 deliveries in the first innings, but Zimbabwe cruised to victory at Bulawayo in April 2001.

In September 2001, he scored his second half-century in Test cricket. In Bangladesh’s second innings against Sri Lanka in Colombo, Aminul scored 56 runs off 152 deliveries. His innings helped Mohammad Ashraful to score 114 runs on debut. His performances then began to drop and with that his career was coming to an end. His last Test match was against West Indies in December 2002 at Dhaka. Aminul scored five and 12 in his final match for Bangladesh. West Indies won the match by an innings and 310 runs.

Aminul, who was nicknamed ‘Bulbul’, played in 13 Tests for Bangladesh and scored 530 runs at an average of 21.20. He scored one century and two half-centuries. He also played 39 ODIs for Bangladesh. Aminul scored 794 runs at an average of 23.35. He struck three half-century. He took one wicket in Tests and seven in ODIs. Numbers and statistics will not reveal how important Aminul was for Bangladesh in their formative years. His contributions will always be remembered in Bangladesh. Aminul then moved into coaching and then took charge of developing cricket in China.

(Shrikant Shankar is a writer/reporter at CricketCountry.com. Previously he has done audio commentary for various matches involving India, Indian Premier League and Champions League Twenty20 for ESPNSTAR.com. You can follow him on Twitter @Shrikant_23)

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