Cricket was hardly a household game back in the 1970s after Bangladesh’s liberation. Only a few, mainly from the financially sound community, pursued the sport and Jahangir Shah Badshah was one of them.
Born in 1949 in Kushtia, Badshah, like many others during that period, was involved with both professional cricket and football. His potential as a booter caught the attention of many big clubs back then and winning the top-flight title with Abahani Limited in 1974 as a left-wing back was one of the many feathers in his hat.
But Badshah’s ambition as a footballer had to end following a knee injury in 1974. Bangladesh, under the title Dhaka XI, played against a Russian club team and Badshah was struck with injury. This forced him to reserve his full attention for the game of cricket.
Bangladesh, at that point, might have lost out on a potential footballer but as far as cricket was concerned, it was about to welcome one of the best seamer-all-rounders.
Badshah made his international debut in February, 1978, and until his retirement in 1990, he was considered as the most reliable all-rounders of the side. He kept picking up vital wickets with his medium pacers. While with the willow, the right-hander was versatile as he could bat at just about anywhere – be it as a middle-order batter, nightwatchman or opener.
To add to that, many fans flocked to the grounds to see his bowling. Such accurate were his deliveries that one could not help but praise Badshah.
Back in the 80s, the age difference between the match officials and the cricketers was so slim that many were friends. During a game, Badshah was called for two no-balls in the same over. This irked the bowler and he ended up challenging the umpire, saying, “I do not bowl a no-ball; during practice sessions or even if I am blind-folded.”
The challenge was not countered, after all, Badshah during that time was one among few bowlers with precision. He was often seen doing spot-bowling, placing his cap on the wicket, a drill performed only by a few at that time.
Badshah’s domestic cricket career mostly involved playing for Azad Boys during the mid 70s. In the span of a decade, he had turned into a well-known cricketer for Bangladesh Biman, until he ended his career in 1990.
As far as playing for Bangladesh was concerned, Badshah was a genuine, big-occasion player who used to reserve his best performances for the important matches.
In 1985, Badshah troubled the touring Lankans throughout the entirety of a three-day game which eventually concluded in a draw. The right-arm medium pacer bowled brilliantly with the new ball and dismissed Sri Lanka openers Sidath Wettimuny and Amal Silva for six and nought respectively. Badshah went on to dismiss several established names, including Rohan Mendis and Roy Dias.
But perhaps for Badshah, his display for Bangladesh against an Imran Khan-led side in a three-day affair in January 1986 should be one of his most memorable. The seamer accounted for the scalps of Imran, Abdul Qadir and the side’s wicket-keeper Masood Iqbal.
This was followed by a heroic show with the bat as Badshah, along with Bangladesh captain Gazi Ashraf Hossain Lipu, stood firm after a fiery Pakistan attack had rumbled the top-order. Gazi was running out of partners but the veteran Badshah came to the rescue against a quality bowling attack. The 63-run stand for the seventh wicket stabilised Bangladesh's innings. Badshah top-scored with 46. His efforts were not enough to save the follow-on, nor did it save the match for the local side; but he received warm applause from the opposition captain.
Badshah continued his good form against Pakistan when Bangladesh played their first ever official one-day international in March at Morotuwa. Bangladesh managed only 94 runs on the board and the target was expected to be an easy chase for Pakistan.
But Badshah’s accurate bowling made things difficult for the opponent as he finished with 2/23 from his nine overs. Badshah never played a Test match for Bangladesh as his career ended around 10 years before the Tigers were granted the Test status.
But there is hardly any doubt with the fact that he would surely have led the Bangladesh attack in the maiden Test match if he had been around at that time.