Hasibul Hossain Shanto was unbeaten on four runs when Bangladesh won the ICC Trophy final against Kenya at Kuala Lumpur. Seems insignificant, no?
Despite his four runs in the final, what provided Shanto with glory was a leg bye, which was not even added to his name. But that leg bye ensured that Bangladesh were the champions of the ICC Trophy, that Bangladesh were set to become an integral part of the forthcoming World Cups.
Talking to The Business Standard, Hasibul Hossain Shanto opened up about that final, which took two days due to the rain and being crowned champions in the evening.
TBS: It has been 23 years since that final. If you could tell us any of your sweet memories...
Hasibul Hossain Shanto: I need to talk about the match before the final against the Netherlands in the quarter-final. Because the final did not change the course of Bangladesh cricket, that match did. Akram (Khan) Bhai scored 68, I picked up a couple of wickets, Saiful (Islam) Bhai batted well. It started raining in that match. There was a situation when if one more delivery was bowled, we would lose. The rain came exactly then.
We the players, spectators, journalists worked to dry up the field after the rain stopped. Many took off their shirts and wiped the field. So to me, that game was more important. We beat Scotland in the semi-final but the Netherlands were stronger than the Scottish. If we had not won that match, our cricket would not have changed.
TBS: Which memory of the final is still vivid in your mind?
Hasibul Hossain Shanto: The final was played for two days. They scored 241-7 and we had to bat in the next day because of the rain. Our target was reduced to 166 off 25 overs because of rain. The way we started, we were confident that we could chase it down. (Mohammad) Rafique Bhai started the innings very well. Almost all of us had contributions to winning that match.
The way we had played earlier had boosted our confidence for the final. That is why we could win the match. That target might look an easy one now, but it was a huge thing to chase it down back then. I think we all had played very well that day.
TBS: If you could tell us the story of that glorious one run...
Hasibul Hossain Shanto: I went in to bat at the death and played the last over. (Khaled Masud) Pilot hit a six off the first delivery, which boosted our confidence even more. We needed 11 off the last over. Pilot missed the next ball but the ball after that was a wide. Then we took a run and I missed the first ball I faced. Everyone in the gallery, in the dressing room, was telling me to take a single. I pulled the next delivery cool-headedly and we took two runs. If it had not rained, it might have been four. We needed one run from there and we decided that whatever happens, we would not get out. By hook or crook, we will try to take a run. So, we took a run of the last ball and won the game.
TBS: Though it was a leg bye, do you feel that run to be your own?
Hasibul Hossain Shanto: To be honest, yes. We needed to take that run and it does not matter how we took it. It was a crucial run and however it came, it is important that it happened and a lot of things in our cricket changed.
TBS: Is that run the most enthralling or emotional moment of your career?
Hasibul Hossain Shanto: Yes, obviously. Nothing bigger than this can happen. That win ensured Bangladesh a place in the World Cup which was huge. What can be more precious than winning the match off the last delivery?
TBS: You must feel proud that you took that run?
Hasibul Hossain Shanto: Surely, it is a matter of pride. When you get the opportunity to change something for your country, it will make you proud. The Almighty gave me an opportunity and I am proud of it. I feel really good when I reminisce that moment. I am in people's hearts because of that run, it is a great matter of pride for me.
TBS: How confident were you about taking that run?
Hasibul Hossain Shanto: I was very tensed when I was in the dressing room but I felt normal once I stepped on to the field. I was confident about taking that run. I had the feeling that I can take this run.
TBS: What were you discussing with Khaled Masud at that time?
Hasibul Hossain Shanto: We were adamant that anyhow we had to take that run, we had just one thought that we can n0t get out. Pilot was telling me, "Do not get out. Wherever the ball goes, we will take that run." I was also confident about taking the run and decided that even if I do not hit it I would run.
TBS: You must still feel the moment when you were running with your bat lifted after winning the match...
Hasibul Hossain Shanto: Obviously I do. I can never forget that achievement, I will remember it till my death.
TBS: When you reminisce that match, what comes to your mind first?
Hasibul Hossain Shanto: I remember the moment after winning the match first when I ran towards the gallery with my bat uplifted and saw that people fainted in happiness. I will always remember that.
TBS: You had only a couple of wickets left. Khaled Masud being there must have given you some confidence...
Hasibul Hossain Shanto: I can not think of what would have happened if Pilot was not there. The way we were playing, everyone had performed. Maybe someone would have filled in for Pilot. All of us were confident and we had a great team spirit. From that, I think that anyone could have won us the match.
TBS: Did you ever watch the final match again?
Hasibul Hossain Shanto: Sometimes I watch some clips on Facebook. I do not get the opportunity to watch the whole match, all I see is me taking that run. Except that, nothing else of the match really circulates that much.
TBS: What was the message from the team management in that situation?
Hasibul Hossain Shanto: We had a revised target because of the rain and thus our plans were changed too. Rafique Bhai was not supposed to open but the batting order was changed by the team management. I was very young back then so when the team management took the decisions I really was not there. But I sensed that they were bringing in some changes.
TBS: It was a huge tournament for Bangladesh. Everyone had their plans and promises, how was yours?
Hasibul Hossain Shanto: I was new in the team then. I had only one commitment that we have to win.
TBS: You picked up 11 wickets in the tournament. Did you expect that?
Hasibul Hossain Shanto: I bowled and fielded well. Me and Saiful Bhai also batted a bit at the end. I guess my economy was the lowest.
TBS: Football was Bangladesh's biggest sport back then, cricketers were like the stepsons of the sporting arena. How difficult was it to take Bangladesh cricket to a certain level through that situation?
Hasibul Hossain Shanto: To be honest, it was very difficult. The situation was such that if we did not qualify for the World Cup in 1997, our cricket would have fallen into a bottomless pit. We did not think about football or hockey is ahead of us, we only thought about qualifying for the World Cup. The board was in a dire financial situation, it would have been very difficult if we had not qualified for the World Cup. The course of Bangladesh cricket changed after we qualified for the World Cup.
TBS: Back in your time, there was next to no facilities for cricket. But things have changed now. How do you view this change?
Hasibul Hossain Shanto: This is excellent. Professionalism has become more apparent, the careers of young players have been better. Earlier, cricket was not an occupation in Bangladesh but now it is. This is an enormous achievement. I believe, Bangladesh cricket will go many a mile.