Bangladesh was still recovering following the liberation war when its cricket team made its first international visit.
The Bangladesh Cricket Control Board (now known as Bangladesh Cricket Board) had arranged a fitness camp in the months leading up to the competition and what awaited, was history.
In its pursuit of qualifying for the 1979 World Cup, Bangladesh started its ICC Trophy campaign in the same year with a win, against Fiji by 22 runs, largely owing to Syed Ashraful Huq’s off-spinners. In their tournament opener at Water Orton Cricket Club Ground near Birmingham, Ashraful was sensational, picking up seven wickets conceding 23 runs in 9.2 overs.
He spent most of his club career at Azad Boys Club while in national cricket, the right-handed batsman became the first player to score a double hundred, scoring 214 for Bangladesh Shipping Corporation in the 1981-82 season after which he retired from the game.
Ashraful’s contribution to Bangladesh cricket however, started years back as an organiser. Before Bangladesh had even become an Associate Member of the International Cricket Council, Ashraful, who was living in London at that time, had played a vital role in making the MCC (Marylebone Cricket Club) visit Dhaka in 1976. Communication between countries was a huge challenge back then but Ashraful, given that he was living in London, had made the job easy for Bangladesh to communicate with the MCC.
As time wore on, Ashraful developed himself as one of the finest organisers in Bangladesh cricket. Following his retirement, Ashraful turned into one of the members of the board and under his capacity as the general secretary, Bangladesh’s domestic cricket experienced some crucial changes.
The introduction of Nirman School Cricket, the decision to divide the Dhaka first division teams and establishing the Premier Division League were among the ground-breaking decisions which lifted Bangladesh cricket in the years to come.
Despite such feats, Ashraful had to face criticism from a group who said he doesn’t do much for domestic cricket. But then again, his international connections instead made him a better organiser of global events and this ability of his was key behind Bangladesh emerging as one of the Test-playing nations.
Bangladesh’s existence in world cricket probably got most highlighted in 1988 when the country hosted the Asia Cup. Ashraful, who was an high-up in the BCCB, was displaying his skill and efficient organisers around him meant achieving ambitions were easy.
Political unrest between India and Pakistan had often seen one among the two miss the tournament but that year, Bangladesh hosted all the three Asian teams – India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. The matches were played in Dhaka and Chittagong.
The 1990s was unprecedented for Bangladesh cricket in that there were several achievements for Ashraful, along with his colleagues. Bangladesh had just won the ICC Trophy in 1997 and was waiting to make its maiden World Cup appearance in 1999.
But with Ashraful as the general secretary of the board, Bangladesh went on to host the Independence Cup in 1998, followed by the ICC Knockout Trophy, that was later dubbed the Mini World Cup considering that all the Full Members of the ICC participated in the tournament.
A year later, Bangladesh also hosted the Asian Test Championship final between Pakistan and Sri Lanka. Bangladesh was not part of the tournament as it had still not achieved the Test status. This was the first instance in world cricket of a Test match being played at a neutral venue.
A few months later, Bangladesh appeared in their first World Cup and the 62-run win against Pakistan in the group stage showed a glimpse of what the country is capable of.
This event had also portrayed how passionate Bangladesh is as a cricket playing nation and the board back then, which had Ashraful as one of its protagonists, made full use of the occasion.
Bangladesh then applied for Test status to the ICC. Ashraful knew well the ways to be followed and things to be done in order to claim the status. Thus, the former cricketer, supported by a good team of organisers, as well as the government, worked as a well oiled machine.
Soon the country, in the year 2000, joined the main fleet of cricket playing nations and played its first Test against India in Dhaka.