In 2018, Bangladesh cricket fans wait to celebrate series wins against other top-ranked sides and deep runs in international tournaments. But fans of a slightly older vintage remember when it all began, with expectations much lower and celebrations more spirited. Younger fans look back upon the time as the genesis of the successes they now enjoy. So it is no surprise that the fan community as a whole jump at the opportunity to reminisce upon the 1997 ICC Trophy win, a tournament during which Bangladesh qualified for the 1999 World Cup, which in turn paved the way to the granting of Test status in 2000.
Yesterday at The Daily Star Centre, fan group Bangladesh Cricket Supporters Association made use of such an opportunity by organising a function in honour of Gordon Greenidge, the coach at the helm during Bangladesh's most important step up. Greenidge is a genuine legend as he formed a vital cog of the supremely dominant West Indies lineups of the 1980s and it was a treat to hear him fondly remember the time when, under his guidance, Bangladesh qualified for the tournament that he had twice won as a player.
The programme started with clips of that famous win over Kenya in Kuala Lumpur, and Greenidge started his short speech with a joke about the then Bangladesh Cricket Board (BCB) president.
“As you saw in the clip, it was the first time that our president Saber Hossain Chowdhury moved so quickly,” the 67-year-old, looking like he would still happily murder the world's best bowlers, said with a wry smile. “As a matter of fact we once thought he was going to get on the field and play the shot himself to get the runs.
“But the occasion was a grand one for Bangladesh and we all know what happened after that. Bangladesh has taken new flight. It's just a pity that I could not have been with you for that time as well.”
Greenidge identified the players' belief in their own abilities, and not a sudden uptick in skill, as the turning point that delivered that seminal success.
“I am happy to be part of an association that I suppose at the time was sceptical and hesitant about their own ability. But I think the players themselves knew they had qualities that only needed to be exposed and this was done in Kuala Lumpur,” Greenidge told a captivated audience.
“A good bunch of guys,” Greenidge started saying, and then a glint of mischief flashed in his eyes as he saw an opportunity to poke fun at his former charges.
“Some not so good. Personally, they were good at playing but their behaviour wasn't good,” he said to general laughter. “But we managed to pull through.”
After the programme Greenidge, having relived the 21-year-old success, was kind enough to pose for selfies and answer a few questions. Just before getting into the car to get to Mirpur to speak to the current generation of Bangladesh cricketers who he hoped would continue to capitalise on 1997, the Barbadian showed that his heart still beats to the West Indian rhythm.
“In one term, it's very disappointing,” he said when asked about West Indies cricket's current decline and added with a rueful smile. “If I had the remedy, I wouldn't be here; I would be there.”