A day before Bangladesh kicked off their much-anticipated World Cup campaign, they were visited in the nets by two World Cup heroes, central characters from their two biggest wins in the global tournament. Aminul Islam was the captain when they shocked the world with a win over Pakistan at Trent Bridge in 1999, and Mashrafe Mortaza Man of the Match when they stunned India eight years later at Port-of-Spain.
Aminul, now a development officer with the Asian Cricket Council, looks just the same as he did all those years ago. Mashrafe, although hurting from a World Cup snub on fitness grounds, is the same childishly enthusiastic fellow from four years ago despite all those injuries, six surgeries on one knee, and the heartbreak and frustration that comes with it.
Talking to them, in a simplistic sort of way, charters Bangladesh's growth and history as a cricketing nation. Aminul remembers his side's win over Pakistan resulted in his first first-class flight. If Aminul's generation lit a flame in Bangladesh's heart, Mashrafe and friends had to keep it from dying after lukewarm years in between.
"It was the first World Cup for Bangladesh," Aminul says of 1999. "Our target was beat Scotland, and play better against other teams. In that regard, the start was very good.
"I remember a couple of journalists came to interview me before the match day. I said we will try to play better cricket, but never thought we were going to win. On that particular day we played great cricket, and were better in every department compared to Pakistan."
Coming slowly as it did, the win tested Bangladesh's nerves. After having Pakistan at 42 for 5 and 102 for 7, they have to wait anxiously, and persevere. The height of that examination was when the last wicket, a run-out, was referred to the third umpire. The supporters in the stands couldn't take it any more, and charged onto the field.
"If he [Saqlain Mushtaq, the last man] wouldn't have been given out, I don't know what would have happened. It would have taken a few hours to take the crowd out of the ground," Aminul says.
After the game, Aminul went to the Pakistan dressing room, and realised it was a mistake. "They [Pakistan] were never expecting to lose against Bangladesh, since they had won all the matches in the league stages," he says. "But I remember one thing, after winning I went to their dressing room, and I did not receive a very good welcome because they thought this was a disaster for them. Losing against a team like Bangladesh, they never took it well."
For Bangladesh, though, the win paved the way for their Test status, and also development of cricket in the country. In fact after the match, when the prime minister called to congratulate Aminul, he asked not for rewards but for more cricket grounds. Now they have a truly world-class international venue in Mirpur, plus four other international grounds. Aminul, however, wants more.
"It is wonderful that we have five international stadiums," Aminul says. "But I would have been happier if we had more cricket fields all around the country, for 150 million people and thousands and thousands of schools to play. We need better playing grounds for them, not stadiums."
He might not have had the benefits of the best playgrounds when he was growing up, but Mashrafe turned out to be one fine cricketer for Bangladesh. Man of the Match in both Bangladesh's wins over India, Mashrafe now has to sit out of the match the whole country is talking about. Still he can't keep himself from coming to the nets and training with the team. He wears his Abahani shirt to training, always.
"I am disappointed that I will not play a part tomorrow," he says. "The worst part is that I am fully fit now and even then I am out. But at the same time the boys who are playing are all very capable players. But I am practising hard so that I can be available if the team needs me.
"I am not hoping that any of our fast bowlers gets injured, but I am just staying ready if I am needed."
The man who used to jump off bridges onto moving vehicles, and was a sort of amateur stuntman with bikes, might have the same restless energy to him, but there is a wise head too. Talking about tomorrow's games, he says, "The main difference between the two teams is that for India if just two or three players perform, they can win against us. But for us to beat India we would need contributions from all our boys. You have to remember [Syed] Rasel, Shakib [Al Hasan], [Mohammad] Rafique all played very well in that match [that they won in 2007]. Tamim [Iqbal] performed beyond himself. Everybody chipped in and we would need a similar performance on Saturday. We cannot afford to bank on just Tamim and Shakib."
If 1999 earned Bangladesh Test status and recognition, the class of 2007 earned them respect. "All teams used to ignore us earlier. They would think, 'Bangladesh is coming; we will win easily.' It used to hurt a lot. Nowadays, they cannot afford to do this." Not in this World Cup for sure.