Vol. 5 Num 993 Sat. March 17, 2007  

A cruel Friday afternoon

Manzarul Islam Rana scored an unbeaten 89 and took two wickets for Boyra Tarun Club against Flying Pigeon Club to become man-of-the-match in the BCB Challenge Club Cup Cricket tournament at the Bir Shreshtha flight Lt Matur Rahman Stadium in Khulna yesterday.

It would have been better had the story finished here. But sorry to say, a new episode has to be written sooner than any one had thought on the ever-smiling cricketer who made the record books for all the wrong reasons -- as the youngest Test cricketer to die.

While returning from the ground a tragic road accident took him and fellow cricketer Sajjadul Islam Setu from us on a cruel Friday afternoon, a day after Rana had completed his last first-class game in Dhaka where he captured four wickets on the final day and travelled in the night to attend another cricket match in his hometown.

Although the whole country was gripped by the Tigers' first World Cup match against India, nobody in the sports fraternity could even think of anyone but Rana and his demise when the news broke late in the afternoon.

The reaction prompted by his death has shown how respected the left-arm spinner and a useful batter was as a cricketer, but more due to his demeanour as a human being. It is nobody's doubt that he was an exceptionally talented cricketer who had a whole life of magnificent cricket ahead of him. His effort to get back to the national side will serve as an example.

Everyone who have played cricket with this affable character from the south will tell you that he was the heart and soul of the team. Be it Bangladesh or a local club side, Manzar Rana has made sure every member of the side, young and old, was made to feel comfortable.

And it was understandable how distressed his teammates in the Caribbean were after hearing the tragic news early in the morning. For them, Rana was more than just a teammate. For the Tigers, he made life easy at the highest level of cricket, more so on tours where they all lived and ate together for months.

Camping at BKSP, he would make sure that the players understood the foreign coach's instructions properly if they struggled to comprehend the language.

Popularly known as 'bhabi' because of his amiable attitude towards others, he touched the hearts of everyone, regardless of age or status.

The people who knew him not just as a cricketer but also as a regular person, would miss his hearty and caring greetings and warm smile: 'Bhaijaan, kemon asen?' (Brother, how are you?).

Cricketers will come and go but his memory would stay fresh for generations to come. Leading a simple life, he was very loyal to his family and had a deep connection with local cricketers in Khulna and surrounding areas. Nobody would go back empty-handed or with an empty-stomach after they had returned from Rana bhai's house.

It would also be hard to believe that he would not return to play for his club Abahani, having seen them finish atop the Dhaka Premiership table at the end of the first leg. When the national cricketers would return from the World Cup to line up for the rest of that league, they will certainly miss the warmth he would have guaranteed.

Condoling the death, Bangladesh Cricket Board, his club Abahani, Kalabagan Krira Chakra, Young Pegasus, Bangladesh Sports Journalists Association, Bangladesh Sports Writers Association and Sammilito Krira Paribar expressed deep sympathy for the bereaved family and prayed for the salvation of the departed soul.

For any sports writer, it was heartbreaking to create a career compilation after a player who is just 22 years old had appeared six Tests and 25 one-day internationals.

The man was set to leave for Colombo on March 24 to play for his country once more, but destiny took him into eternal darkness.

LAST BOW OF A TIGER: After his brilliant all-round show that gave Bangladesh A their only victory against visiting England A on March 11, Manzarul Islam Rana (2nd L) leaves the ground in national colours for the last time at the Sher-e-Bangla National Stadium. PHOTO: Star File Photo