Reminiscence: My first match | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, April 08, 2020 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:00 AM, April 08, 2020

Reminiscence: My first match

In these times of social distancing, we must be safe while remembering that we do not get too used to the world being at a standstill. We were meant to go watch matches together, agree with a few of our neighbours and disagree with the rest. So, we are taking turns talking about our first live experience at a sports venue.

The fact it is now more than 26 years ago, makes me feel old. But cricket did get me early. Playing in the park or watching highlights on TV, I was hooked to the Australian yellow and the New Zealand cool. After carefully following Dean Jones and Martin Crowe, I decided that I wanted to be a batsman who wore a cap and not a helmet. They had to show my face on TV properly, I thought.

This nerdy madness about cricket obviously got stoked a little more when it came to following Dhaka Premier League scorecards in the newspapers, and hoping for a glimpse of it in the BTV news. It hardly happened. Around the time I was nine years old, I heard that Pakistan were coming to play two one-day matches in Dhaka. My life was about to get upside down.

I don't know if I begged my parents a lot but before I knew it, on the morning of January 23, 1994, I was on my way to the Dhaka Stadium. It was my first time at the stadium, and entering through Gate No 21, I acted as if I had done this a million times. I had heard so many stories from my uncles about this magical place, that I just couldn't imagine not knowing the place without even being there once before.

We were part of a large group, wearing caps, packed with my mother's sandwiches and a water flask. One of my cousins, who had just broken into a Dhaka Premier League side that season, accompanied us too. I don't remember if we sat on the wooden chairs that they had in weddings in Dhaka in the 1990s, or concrete, but I was in love with the place.

I couldn't peel my eyes off the pitch, and neither could the Pakistan openers Aamer Sohail and Saeed Anwar. I remember it took ages for Bangladesh to remove them, but the fall of the first wicket meant Inzamam-ul-Haq's torment was about to begin. Back then, due to his World Cup semifinal innings, my friends and I recognised him as the big threat. He could smash Enamul Haque Moni for straight sixes at will, we reckoned.

Lo and behold, Inzamam got stumped off Moni bhai for 11. Pakistan made 272 for four in 45 overs, to which Bangladesh replied with 210-5 in 45 overs. The fact that they were not bowled out by the world champions was a big deal. Everyone except Salim Shahed batted reasonably well.

Bangladesh lost the next day too, by seven wickets, but my life was about to get even better. Pakistan were doing this tour on their way to a big series in New Zealand, so the day after the second game, they were off to Auckland from Dhaka, via Singapore. My parents had decided to take me to Singapore too. Coincidentally, we were on the same flight.

My mother told everyone later that I walked around the business class the entire flight, collecting autographs and my father taking my photos with the likes of Sohail, Anwar, Younis and Mushtaq Ahmed. I even have a photo with a sleeping Saleem Malik.

Fast forward to 2015, when Younis was Pakistan's head coach. At the end of the tour, my colleague Umar Farooq introduced me to him, as I wanted to take a photo with him, at the age of 31. I had carried our photo from 1994 with me. Younis took it from me, as he wanted to show his wife a reminder of his handsome youth. My first memory of live cricket came a full circle.

Mohammad Isam is ESPNCricinfo's Bangladesh correspondent and a former sports reporter at The Daily Star.


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