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Athar Ali Khan: The man who masterminded Bangladesh’s first ever ODI win

Athar Ali Khan © AFP
Athar Ali Khan (second from right) © AFP

Athar Ali Khan, born on February 10, 1962, played 19 One-Day Internationals (ODIs) for Bangladesh. He is currently Bangladesh’s national selector and commentator. The head coach of Bangladesh Premier League franchise Duronto Rajshahi was once advised by former Indian cricketer Mohinder Amarnath to open batting for Bangladesh. He went on to score his highest ODI score in that position. Sudatta Mukherjee looks back at the short career of Athar Ali, who along with Mohammad Rafique, set up Bangladesh’s first ever ODI win.

 

Athar Ali Khan was born in Dhaka. He had studied public administration at the Dhaka University. In 1984-85 he was a part of the university team which went on to win the national cricket title.

In 1983, the first South-East Asian Cricket tournament was held in Dhaka. Bangladesh Tigers and Bangladesh played from the host country and teams from Singapore and Hong Kong joined them in the tournament. Athar Ali’s team could not qualify for the final and the national team went on to win the title and qualified for the 1986 Asia Cup in Sri Lanka.

A year later, Athar Ali got a chance to play a three-day match against visiting Sri Lankans at Dhaka. He picked up two wickets and scored seven and two in the match.

Athar Ali continued to play but couldn’t do much. He played for Bangladesh in the ICC Trophy 1986. Bangladesh seven matches out of which Athar Ali played in five matches. He scored 55 runs from the five matches he played.

Athar Ali Khan (batting in picture) made © AFP
Athar Ali Khan (batting in picture) played 19 ODIs and scored 282 runs at an average of 29.55 for Bangladesh © AFP

Four years later, he came back to play the South East-Asia tournament. In the first match that he played, he scored unbeaten 92 runs, helping his team to win against Hong Kong by seven wickets. The next match he scored another unbeaten 69, leading the team to beat Singapore by five wickets. In the final against Hong Kong, Athar Ali scored 64 and picked up two wickets. His team won the tournament, defeating Hong Kong by 51 runs. A good domestic season finally earned Athar Ali national team ODI call up for the Wills Asia Cup in 1988.

Athar Ali came to bat in at number four in the second match of the tournament. He scored 16 before he was bowled by Mohinder Amarnath. His first big score came in the fourth match that he played against India. He scored 44 runs before Venkatapathy Raju bowled him. Determined to perform better, Athar Ali came out in the next match to score an unbeaten 78 against Sri Lanka at Eden Gardens, Kolkata.

In the match against Sri Lanka, Athar Ali was the sole warrior for Bangladesh in the match. Sri Lanka had set a target of 250 for Bangladesh. Bangladesh were already three wickets down for a mere total of 46, when Athar Ali and the then captain Minhajul Abedin started building a partnership. However, Abedin was dismissed soon and the Bangladesh wickets fell like cards. Athar Ali was the only batsman unbeaten and he earned the Man of the Match award for his innings of 78.

It was at this time that Amarnath had advised Athar Ali to open the batting for his team. After returning from Wills Cup, Athar Ali started opening the batting for whichever team he played.

Athar Ali continued to play List A matches for Bangladesh in the early 90s. He played the SAARC Quadrangular, ICC Trophy, and the South-East Asia Cup among other tournaments.

He did not make much impact during these years. In 1994-95, he played three List A matches, scoring 88 runs. His highest was 52. At this point of time Amarnath was the coach of Bangladesh. Athar Ali was called back in the ODI team for the Pepsi Asia Cup. He scored 21 and took a wicket. Amarnath, who was the coach of the national side for a short time, was sacked after the team did not qualify for 1996 World Cup.

The right-handed batsman’s success came in the year 1997. The 1997 Asia Cup was a successful tournament for Athar Ali. He scored 82, 42 and 33. Even though Bangladesh did not qualify for the final, Athar Ali’s personal records were good. He had an average of 52.33. He was the top-scorer in the matches against Pakistan and India.

However, Athar couldn’t continue this form into the next season and scored only 164 in the next eight matches he played. The match against India in Mumbai in the triangular series marked the end of Athar Ali’s international career.

Athar Ali played three First-Class matches for Bangladesh in New Zealand in the Shell Conference. He scored only 48 runs from the three matches that he played.

After his cricketing career, he took up a new job behind the television microphone and went on to become the most famous commentator Bangladesh has produced. He has made a name for himself in Bangladesh as a commentator but there are some who dislike his commentary pointing at frequent gaffes. He also became the national selector of Bangladesh team.

In 2012, when Bangladesh Premier League (BPL) kicked off, Athar Ali became the batting coach of Duronto Rajshahi.

(Sudatta Mukherjee is a reporter with CricketCountry. Other than writing on cricket, she spends penning random thoughts on her blog and produces weekly posts on new food joints at Whopping Weekends. She played Table Tennis for University of Calcutta. When she is not writing, you will catch her at a movie theatre or watching some English serial on her laptop. Her Twitter id is @blackrosegal)

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