Meet the only Bengali to have played for Pakistan

Sankhya Krishnan

July 1, 2000

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Former Bangladesh captain Roquibul Hassan's diminutive figure and hawk like eyes, gleaming from behind a pair of glasses, conceal a unique distinction. That of being the only Bengali cricketer selected to play for Pakistan in the pre-liberation days. An opening batsman, Roquibul was 12th man in a Test match against New Zealand at Dhaka in 1969-70. Barely sixteen at the time, he seemed sure to have a lengthy Test career ahead of him. But the winds of political change were blowing too strongly and when Bangladesh broke away into an independent nation in 1971, Roquibul had to put his cricketing ambitions on the shelf.

Even as he played for Pakistan in an unofficial Test against a visiting Commonwealth team in Dhaka in February 1971, demonstrations erupted all over the city and the match had to be abandoned on the fourth day. An inevitable period of reconstruction followed in the fledgling nation but cricket soon returned into focus. Roquibul played against the touring MCC team in 1976-77 and went on to lead his country. After playing two one-day internationals in the second Asia Cup in 1986, he hung up his boots at the relatively early age of 32. He talked to CricInfo a short while ago about many precious memories from the past. Here are some excerpts.

On grabbing the eye of the national selectors

When I grew up, if I precisely remember, I was just promoted to Class 10, that was the time I got the big break when I was picked to play for East Pakistan in the Quaid-e-Azam Trophy. East Pakistan used to travel to Karachi and Lahore and play against different provincial teams in the West. It was in 1967-68. In the very first match I got a lot of runs against Karachi. It was a star studded side. About eight Pakistan Test players were playing for Karachi led by my idol, Hanif Mohammed. I played very well against Hyderabad and in other matches. That very year I was called for a trial. I was an opening batsman and Pakistan were looking for some openers at the time. After that the English schoolboys team came and I was picked in the squad for the Pakistan U-19 team.

On his brief flirtation with Test cricket

It was in 1971. On February 26 the match started at Dhaka in the Bangabandhu Stadium. It was a four day match against the Commonwealth side. The full Pakistan team was playing and I was picked to play for Pakistan. But we couldn't have the match finished on the last day, March 1. During that time we were having some political problems. After lunch the student processions came, there were lot of bonfires, and the stadium was invaded. But before that in 1969 I was picked in the twelve for an official Test vs New Zealand in Dhaka. I was 12th man and didn't play but that was a memorable day for me because I was officially handed over the Pakistan cap in the dressing room by the captain Hanif Mohammed. I still remember that day.

On the absence of players from the East in Pakistani sides

There were some players who were based in West Pakistan but because of their jobs and other business commitments, they were in this part of the country. There was Niaz Ahmed who went on the England tour in 1967. Mahmud-ul-Hasan was there. Nasim-ul-Ghani, the Pakistan Test player played local cricket here in those days and even played for East Pakistan in domestic cricket. So in this part of the world we used to have a lot of quality players from the West playing. Somehow or other they used to dominate cricket in this part and very few of us used to get an opportunity because to be frank they were good players. Many of us had to fight our way into the side. We didn't get exposure, that could have been one of the reasons.

On his involvement with the game in free Bangladesh

In 1971 I was a first year student of political science at Dhaka University. I was only 17 years old. I knew it was the end of my Test cricket career. During that period I was involved in freedom fighting. I was called by the Bangladesh government in exile to form a cricket team like the soccer team we had playing all over India and creating awareness for our cause. We didn't know we would get independence in nine months time. Otherwise definitely there would have been a Bangladesh cricket team playing all over India.

After independence for the first two years the whole nation was rebuilding. We had a shortage of cricket gear and infrastructure. It was only from 1973 we started to have our cricket rolling. Our first international match was against the visiting MCC in December 1976. It was a two day match held in Rajshahi. There was a lot of interest and enthusiasm among the public. It showed that cricket had its own culture here in this part. I kept on playing for the national team regularly and I was made captain also. I retired ultimately from international cricket in 1986 after playing the third ICC Championship in England and am now involved in cricket administration in my own humble way.

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