Mahaboob
Mahaboob Alam, with 7 for 3, routed Myanmar for 10 that day (file photo) © Getty Images

August 20, 2006. Myanmar had put up a fight against in the Asian Cricket Council (ACC) Trophy encounter against Kuwait, but were utterly humiliated by Hong Kong and Bhutan in the encounters that followed. However, worse was to follow in the match at Kelab Aman, Kuala Lumpur, when they met Nepal — easily the best team of Group C — and the inevitable followed. Abhishek Mukherjee looks back at one of the most one-sided encounters in international cricket.

Make no mistake: Burmese cricket is not a recent affair. A province of British India, Burma even hosted Arthur Gilligan’s MCC when they toured India in 1926-27. They had fought hard against Maurice Tate, no less, and avoided an innings defeat in what remains the only First-Class match played on Burmese soil.

Burma and her mysteries had lured the British for ages. Rudyard Kipling was so smitten by a Burmese woman that he apparently took no notice of the famous Moulmein Pagoda he has immortalised in Mandalay. He had written at lengths about Burmese women and their exemplary beauty; George Orwell penned down Burmese Days; one can go on, but this is not a place for that.

Burma also formed a part of Indian culture, with Indians, especially from Calcutta, relocating to Burma for professional reasons. Several Bengali novels of the early 20th century involved characters moving to or returning from Burma.

In 1949, after Independence of both countries, Harnam Singh Rawail made Patanga, famous for C Ramachandra’s compositions. The most famous number was the duet mere piya gaye Rangoon (“my beloved is in Rangoon”), which included the lines main Burma ki galiyon mein, aur tum ho Dehra Dun (I walk in the aisles of Burma as you languish in Dehra Dun). As late as in 1979 D Narayana Rao made Rangoon Rowdy, shot in Myanmar.

Irrelevant trivia: Yangon-born Sandar Win (screen name: Laila Khan), of Burmese-Arabic descent, has made her way into Indian cinema in the previous decade. Kipling would have been happy.

Unfortunately, though Burma made appearances in Indian culture, the converse was not true. As Indo-Burmese relationship faded away following Burmese Independence in 1948, the popularity of cricket in Myanmar waned over time. Towards the end of the 20th century, little or no cricket was played in the country.

Revival

The resurgence of Myanmar cricket is attributed to two people of extremely varied origins: Myanmar action movie actor Nyunt Win, who, at 65, put up an effort to revive the sport he had played at an age of 9; and former Bengal First-Class cricketer Naresh Kumar.

Some Australian expats joined the initiative as well (who can, after all, resist cricket?). A 13-over tournament took off. ICC representatives visited Myanmar in 2004. By 2006 Myanmar were an affiliate nation, and were playing ACC 2006.

ACC 2006 involved 17 teams. It was obvious that there would be several genuine minnows, even in the absence of the big guns India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, and (to a lesser degree) Bangladesh. There were strong teams, like UAE and Hong Kong, both ODI sides by then; hosts Malaysia, a competitive side; and Afghanistan and Nepal, both on their ascent. On the other hand, there were Brunei, Maldives, and Bhutan — where the word ‘cricket’ is probably synonymous to an insect of family Gryllidae.

And then, there was Myanmar.

There were four groups, and there being 17 teams, Group C had five — Nepal, Hong Kong, Kuwait, Bhutan, and Myanmar. Nepal started well, beating Kuwait by 6 wickets. They scored 317 for 8 against Bhutan before bowling them out for 36. And Hong Kong went down by an 87-run margin.

Myanmar on the other hand, batted out 45 overs against Kuwait, scoring 133 for 9 (though Kuwait chased down in 10 overs). Then came the first thrashing: Hong Kong scored 442 for 3 — three men scored hundreds —before bowling out Myanmar for a mere 20 in 12.3 overs. And finally, they were bowled out for 76, even against Bhutan, who reached the target in a mere 6.5 overs.

In short, Nepal had won all three matches. Myanmar had lost all three, all of them by humiliating margins. What was in store in they met in their last group match?

The Alam-Das show

Binod Das put Myanmar in. Das usually took second over, giving the first to Mahaboob Alam — a man whose name would be permanently etched in the annals of the sport, but more of that later.

By the time Das got a bowl, Alam had taken out wicketkeeper Omer (first ball) and Mohammed. Alam had two more wickets (Abdul Rahman and Sharjeel) in his second over, leaving Myanmar reeling at 4 for 4 after 3 overs.

Some sanity was restored after Zakariya (the other opener) and Ye Myo Tun put up a stand that lasted a whopping 21 balls. However, Alam struck again, removing Ye Myo Tun and captain Tin Mg Aye, both bowled, in the space of 3 balls.

Then came the big blow: Das rapped Zakariya on the pads; the opener, who had batted for 38 minutes, eventually returned for a resilient 20-ball 1.

There was another big partnership, this time worth 13 balls, between Zin Min Swe and Yusuf, both of whom scored a run each. Das bowled Zin Min Swe, but Aye Min Than hung around to take the score to 10.

When Das removed Yusuf (the fifth batsman to be dismissed on 1), the score read 10 for 9. Alam rounded things off with the wicket of Aye Min Than the following over, leaving Sai Sai Wunna stranded without scoring.

Myanmar were bowled out for 10 in 12.1 overs (is it not ironic that they are known for teakwood, a product almost synonymous to solidity?). This included 2 wides (both bowled by Das) and 3 leg-byes. Six men were bowled, and two leg-before. The other two were caught by Raju Basnet and Akash Gupta.

Das finished with 6-2-4-3 (including 2 wides, if I may remind you), but Alam, with 6.1-3-3-7, stole the show. It was as emphatic a performance as any.

The two-ball chase

How comprehensively would Nepal beat them? Kuwait had needed 10 overs; Bhutan, 6.5; surely Nepal could not take that long? Aye Min Than ran in to bowl to Nepal gloveman Mahesh Chhetri, who took three off the first ball.

Dheeraj Chand was on strike now. He swung, and managed three more. They needed another five. How many balls would they need? Could they finish it in Aye Min Than’s over?

Aye Min Than answered all questions. It probably hurt his ego to be thrashed around for threes (come to think of it, how many bowlers have been hit for two threes in the first two balls of an innings?).

Aye Min Than bowled three wides, one of which Omer missed. The batsmen ran two extra (which meant all five remaining runs came in wides), which meant that the target was achieved in two balls.

Could it get any more demeaning?

Note: Nepal cricket website mentions “The match was finished so early that umpires made him [Aye Min Than] bowl one more ball — a dot one.” Exactly why the umpires (Amish Saheba and Sarika Prasad) did this is not very clear, but even if the ball was bowled, it was not recorded in the scorebooks.

What followed?

– Nepal scored 200 for 9 in the quarter-final, beating Bahrain by 25 runs. Unfortunately, they were bowled out for 103 in the semi-final and lost to UAE by 9 wickets. They lost the third-place decider against Afghanistan as well, by 64 runs following the Duckworth-Lewis method.

– Alam finished the tournament with 13 wickets at 8.36. The leading wicket-takers (four of them) had 14 each, one of them being Binod Das.

– Nearly two years after this match, Alam finished with 7.5-1-12-10 to skittle Mozambique for 19, etching his name in the Guinness Book of World Records for good. He was, after all, “the earliest bowler to take all 10 wickets in an ICC international cricket match.”

Brief scores:

Myanmar 10 in 12.1 overs (Mahaboob Alam 7 for 3, Binod Das 3 for 4) lost to Nepal 11 for no loss in 0.2 overs by 10 wickets with 298 balls to spare.

Man of the Match: Mahaboob Alam.

(Abhishek Mukherjee is the Chief Editor at CricketCountry and CricLife. He blogs here and can be followed on Twitter here.)