Raqibul Hasan: 10 things to know about the only Bengali to play for Pakistan

Born, January 15, 1953, Raqibul Hasan is a former Bangladeshi cricketer and widely regarded as the one of the best batsman of the nation in his time. His cricket career and role in Bangladesh s struggle for freedom moved in parallel lines even when he was in his teens. His immense contribution to Bangladesh cricket played a significant role for them becoming a Test side in the long run. On his 64th birthday, Abhishek Kumar digs out 10 interesting things to know about the man who was issued a short-at-sight order.

1. The child prodigy of East Pakistan: At a very early age of 16, when he was in Class 10, Raqibul got the big break and was picked for East Pakistan to play in Quaid-e-Azam Trophy. Prior to cricket, he had already earned a bit name in other sports like table-tennis, athletics and basket ball. His achievement at a very young age made Osman Samiuddin called him a child prodigy of sports in The Unquiet Ones: A History of Pakistan Cricket.

2. Ticket to Pakistan U19 team: In the year 1967, he made his First-Class debut and scored an impactful half-century against East Pakistan Railways as an opening batsman. He continued his impactful run in that domestic season and was picked by Pakistan Under-19 team as they were looking for an opener.

3. His idol: In his young days, Raqibul used to idolize Hanif Mohammad, who is considered to be one of the best batsmen of Pakistan.

4. First Bengali cricketer to play for Pakistan: Following his moderate domestic success, he was included in Pakistan s XI when New Zealand toured the Pakistan in 1969-70. Raqibul did not have an impressive performance in that match but was included in the 12-man squad for the third Test at Dacca (now Dhaka), and was officially handed over the Pakistan cap in the dressing-room by Hanif, which he called that as the memorable day of his life. This also became the first Bengali cricketer of Pakistan cricket team.

5. The controversial sticker on his bat: As the revolution had begun in East Pakistan, Board of Control for Cricket in Pakistan (BCCP) wanted to use him as a poster-boy, and was given a Gray-Nicholls bat in which there was the symbol of Pakistan People s Party (PPP). But later, Raqibul covered that symbol with a sticker with the message Joy Bangla (Viva Bengal) before the match between BCCP XI and International XI.

When Raqibul walked out to bat at Dacca Stadium (later Bangabandhu), the whole crowd at the ground was roaring with the chant of Joy Bangla. He scored only 1 in each innings but it doesn t matter as the message was sent which he wanted to with the sticker on his bat.

6. Rendezvous with Zaheer Abbas: In the fourth day of the match between BCCP XI and International XI, terror spread in Dacca and riots broke out. Students attacked the stadium, setting fire to the marquees. The players had to flee without completing the match; both teams were rushed to a cantonment in a military vehicle, and from there to the hotel. Before they parted ways, a dramatic meeting took place between Raqibul and Zaheer Abbas. Zaheer bade farewell, assuring they would meet each other again in Karachi. There was a prompt witty response: Zaheer, the next time I come to Pakistan, I might have to come with a new passport .

7. Involvement in Bangladesh freedom fight: Raqibul also took active part in the movement of Bangladesh freedom along with his opening partner Abdul Haleem Chowdhury Jewel and soon a shoot-at-sight order was issued on his name. He lost Jewel, and his family escaped marginally to; Raqibul stayed back with his brother to join the revolution. After his friend, Raqibul lost six family members as well along with his cricket mentor Mushtaq, but he lived on. He earned the status of national hero, especially for cricketers.

8. The struggle after Independence: As the struggle for freedom came to an end and East Pakistan became Bangladesh he moved to Calcutta to help organise cricket in Bangladesh and applied to BCCI, but the offer was refused.

But he did not stop there. In five years he toured to Pakistan representing International XI. He also a played a match against Karachi which featured his old friend Zaheer, whom he had promised in his last meeting that he will come with new passport.

Meanwhile in 1976-77, MCC toured Bangladesh, and Raqibul created history as he became the first captain to lead the national side against an international cricket side. From there on, cricket in Bangladesh started progressing.

9. ICC Trophies: Bangladesh further became the Associate member of ICC, and were one of the 15 teams to take in the inaugural ICC Trophy in 1979. Bangladesh won two and lost two but failed to progress after the first round. Later, he was once again given the captaincy in 1984 and under him he led Bangladesh to victory in South-East Asian Cricket Conference Tournament ensured Bangladesh s qualification in Asia Cup of 1986.

10. Retirement: After a year, in 1985, Raqibul was replaced by Gazi Ashraf as the captain of the side and retired at the age of 32 after playing only two ODIs (the first two in the history of Bangladesh) in 1986.

(Abhishek Kumar is a cricket devotee currently staffing with Criclife.com. He can be followed at abhicricket.kumar and @abhishekkr2593)