What is the difference between a win and a defeat? Hasibul Hossain Shanto would say, just a leg bye. Just a leg bye can effervescent the distinction between win and defeat, and Shanto's former teammates Akram Khan, Aminul Islam Bulbul, Naimur Rahman Durjoy, Mohammad Rafique would surely agree to that. Not just them, the whole cricket-frenzy nation of Bangladesh would agree to what Shanto said. Because it was just a leg bye which had changed the course of Bangladesh cricket.
It was that leg bye which crowned Bangladesh champions of the ICC Trophy at Kuala Lumpur, it was what ensured that Bangladesh would become a World Cup regular.
It was 23 years ago today (April 13, 1997) when Bangladesh beat Kenya in the final of the ICC Trophy to become champions. The Tigers had already ensured a spot in the World Cup in England after they reached the final but they were eyeing the trophy.
But they had one problem as it was Kenya who stood in the way between Bangladesh and the trophy. Kenya might be a pushover for Bangladesh now but it was exactly the opposite back then. But that day was different as the Tigers did not budge at anything thrown at them.
The whole match was full of ups and downs. Winning the toss, Bangladesh skipper Akram Khan opted to field first. But as time passed by, everyone started to realise it was a mistake. Steve Tikolo paved the way for Kenya with his brilliant 147-run innings as the African side reached 241-7.
The Kenyan innings ended on April 12 but by the end of their innings, rain played spoilsport and the match had to move to the reserve day on April 13. But the rain had to barge in there too and the target for Bangladesh was reset to 166 from 25 overs.
As quick runs were needed, Bangladesh put Rafique to open along with Naimur Rahman. Naimur went back early but Minhajul Abedin and Rafique took Bangladesh past 50.
After that, 37 from Bulbul and contributions from Akram and Saiful Islam took Bangladesh to 155-8 after 24 overs, with Khaled Masud and Shanto at the crease.
With 11 to defend, Kenyan seamer Martin Suji came in to bowl and was instantly hit for a six by Khaled Masud. The equation soon trickled down to a single run from the last ball and that is when that leg bye came in to play.
Shanto took a run from that leg bye and that was it. Bangladesh were in the record books, Bangladesh were the champions of the ICC Trophy.
But the final was not the only hurdle Bangladesh had to cross to kiss the trophy. Their match against the Netherlands in the quarter-final was tricky but it was their skipper Akram Khan who rescued the side. He made a brilliant 68 to guide Bangladesh to victory and reach the semis.
"If we had lost or tied that game, we would not have reached the semi-finals. We would have to return home from there. The situation went south. They had scored only 171, which was a relatively easy target in 50-over cricket but we lost four wickets for just 15 runs. Atahar (Ali Khan), Naimur, Bulbul and Sanwar (Hossain) were out early. From there on, it was a team performance. My innings guided the side to victory. It was a great match," Akram reminisced that match against the Netherlands.
The semi-final against Scotland was a team effort. Khaled Masud's 70 and 57 from Bulbul took Bangladesh t0 243-7 and then spin reigned supreme. Enamul Haque picked up three whereas Rafique caused havoc as he picked up four wickets for only 25 runs to send Scotland packing.
Rafique still remembers that match clearly. He said about the match, "That match was the turning point of Bangladesh cricket. Because we would have ended up being fourth if we had not won. And if we finished on fourth, we would not have qualified for the World Cup. We qualified for the World Cup after winning that match."
And then came the final and then that marvelous leg bye. It has been 23 years since and Bangladesh cricket has only gone upwards since then. The Tigers are a force to be reckoned with in the international arena and surely, the seed for all these was planted 23 years back, on a rainy day at Kuala Lumpur