Vol. 5 Num 923 Sun. December 31, 2006  

A forgettable year save cricket

Cricket stood out like a beacon in an altogether miserable year for sports in the country. Be it football or participation in any of the three international and regional events, Bangladesh lost it completely both on and off the field in 2006.

The essence of 2006 was tainted on Monday, October 2 when champion shooter Asif Hossain Khan along with his coach Shoebu-zzaman and several others were severely beaten up by the police for reasons that are still absent. The young shooter suffered a broken arm, multiple injuries in his foot and his back.

To add insult to the injury, the then home minister issued a careless statement disregarding the magnitude of the incident, the shooting federation was slow to act and worst of all, the then president of the body didn't even condemn the heinous act.

Thankfully, Asif and the rest have recovered after being treated in hospitals in Dhaka and abroad, and the young shooter from Pabna participated in this year's Asian Games held in Doha. But the scar shall remain with Asif, who won silver at this year's Commonwealth Games, for the rest of his life.

Police barbarism was nothing new in this year. Earlier in April, sports journalists were beaten up mercilessly by police in Chittagong, during the second Test between Bangladesh and Australia, and to make matters worse, it was beamed on television all over the world.

The local media completely shunned coverage of the Test match and as usual, nothing was done to the perpetrators.

But it was a different year altogether for the Tigers. Tagged as the worst Test playing nation, they beat regional powerhouse Sri Lanka in a one-day international to set up a year that will surely be remembered for all the right reasons.

Then the Tigers dominated the first Test against world champions Australia entirely but only for a last ditch effort from skipper Ricky Ponting which gave them a win by three wickets.

This performance went a long way in building confidence for Habibul Bashar's men, who although suffered a blip in Zimbabwe in August, went on to post their first win in the ICC Champions Trophy also against their South African counterparts. There were more good performances as they won all their home matches against Zimbabwe and Scotland in the latter part of 2006.

Paceman Mashrafee-bin-Mortuza became the top wicket-taker in one-day international in a calendar year when he took 49 wickets, with the best of 6 for 23 against Kenya.

His new-ball partner Shahadat Hossain also had a sunshine moment becoming the first Bangladeshi to take a hattrick in ODIs in the ill-fated third match against Zimbabwe in Harare where a different Mashrafee conceded 17 runs off the final over to lose the match.

Opening batsman Shahriar Nafees had a wonderful year scoring 1033 runs in a calendar year in the limited-overs game, the first Bangladeshi to do so. He hit three centuries, all against Zimbabwe and a superb 138 against Australia in the first Test at Fatullah in April. His skipper Habibul Bashar had a year filled with wins as apart from the international victories under his belt, the experienced campaigner lifted the Corporate League with Acme and the Twenty20 trophy with Mohammedan. Mohammad Ashraful had a quiet year but sprung to life when he was overlooked for a few one-dayers, hitting three hundreds including a national record of 263 against Chittagong in the in the National League in November.

But that was all the cheer that sports had this year, at least on the field. There was no domestic football but unbelievably, the national team played the most number of international matches. Bangladesh Football Federation (BFF) hit an all-time low when they shifted the date of the proposed professional football league more than ten times.

But surprisingly, Bangladesh hosted the first-ever AFC Challenge Cup in April, a tournament of Asian minnows. The meet was inaugurated by FIFA president Sepp Blatter himself who was on his first visit to the country but it did little to the football here.

Rather, the BFF failed to pursue the local clubs to comply for the domestic competition and in a bizarre twist of events, irked management committee of the national team (NTMC) into resignation. Led by legendary footballer Kazi Salahuddin, NTMC paid the salary of ex-coach Diego Cruciani for months but were treated poorly by BFF president, who was deemed a liar by Salahuddin.

B.League still has no schedule fixed yet and it seemed the trouble with football, so heavily celebrated during the World Cup in June-July, will be in a quagmire for months to come in the new year.

One bright spot for football in Bangladesh this year was the surprise visit of French legend Zinedine Zidane in November. The mercurial footballer was embraced heartily during his brief stay at the capital.

Invited by Nobel Peace Prize winner Dr Muhammad Yunus, Zidane participated in an exhibition match where, amusingly, he had little to show for! The show ended when the great man suddenly left unscheduled on the evening of November 8.

On a serious note, Bangladesh lost a dear friend when South African legend and former Tigers coach Eddie Barlow passed away at the dawn of 2006. He was much loved by the local cricket fraternity.

At the South Asian Games in Colombo, Bangladesh finished one place beneath lightweights Afghanistan. Three gold medals -- Mahfuzur Rahman in athletics, Shahjahan Ali in swimming and Mizanur Rahman in taekwondo -- were all they mustered but at the Asian Games, only a single bronze medal came through kabaddi. A dismal year, to say the least.

Off the field, the cricket board (BCB) had a year to match the Tigers' on-field performances.

Winning the right to co-host the 2011 Cricket World Cup along with India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka and striking the 56.88 million dollar worth television deal with Nimbus made this a marquee year for cricket in Bangladesh.

It could have been the Tigers or the visit of Zidane but 2006 will only relate to October 2. The spirit of all sportsmen suffered at the hands of a heinous act and why? Only because the lady didn't get a good parking spot.

(Top L-R) Tigers celebrate their first victory against Sri Lanka at Bogra on February 22; FIFA president Sepp Blatter inaugurates the AFC Challenge Cup on April 1 during his visit to Dhaka; Cops ruthlessly beat up sports journalists during the Bangladesh-Australia Test in Chittagong on April 16. (Bottom L-R) Mizanur Rahman relishes his well-earned gold medal in the SA Games on August 25; French football legend Zinedine Zidane celebrates a goal at Itahata in Gazipur during his three-day visit in November; National shooters Asif Hossain Khan and Shoebuzzaman bleeding profusely after being beaten up by police on October 2. PHOTOs: STAR file