February 20, 1998. Mohammad Aminul Islam, the former Bangladesh captain, remembers the day clearly. "I had got him out that day, but I didn't know it would be his last innings." Raman Lamba fielded later in the day - without a helmet - at forward short-leg and Mehrab Hossain hit him straight in the temple. The hit was so hard, the ball rebounded to Khaled Mashud, the wicketkeeper. "I was the new man in and asked Raman if he was okay. He said, 'Bulli [Islam's nickname is Bulbul] main to mar gaya' [I am dead, Bulli]. He was shaking." Mehrab was so shaken by the accident he doesn't even like to talk about it, the local journalists warn.
Lamba had got up after the blow and had made his way back to the dressing room unassisted, his last walk off a cricket field.
Bangladesh was nowhere on the cricket map then. Yet club cricket there had attracted some of the big names. The fateful game was played between Lamba's club Abahani and Mohammedan, a rivalry that Bangladesh sports journalists equate to the one between East Bengal and Mohun Bagan. Lamba always believed Bangladesh would make it big someday. "Bangladesh was his second home. He was always optimistic about our cricket and believed it would take off," Islam said. "He was one of our idols."
There are no official statistics for Lamba in Bangladesh. But he was a synonym for half-centuries and centuries there, pulling big crowds with his big-hitting. "He was very dear to us, and remains one of our best cricket friends. He did a lot for Bangladesh cricket. I wrote a column in a newspaper, on some memorable moments spent with Raman. And when I sat down to write it, I cried.
"Bangladesh loved Lamba, a stand in his name at the Bangabandhu Stadium was promised. But they don't even play cricket there now."
Bangladesh have made big leaps in international cricket now, and Islam added, "Had Raman been alive, he would have been proud to see how far Bangladesh cricket has come".