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amar11432
February 27, 2010, 04:44 AM
Bangladesh's warm embrace
Posted by Andrew Miller <a href="http://blogs.cricinfo.com/tourdiaries/archives/2010/02/bangladeshs_war.php" class="subTtl">21 hours, 31 minutes ago</a>
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Graeme Swann issues his own peculiar greeting to the crowd at Fatullah
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It’s been six long years since I set foot in Bangladesh, but after 48 hours, it feels as though I’ve never been away. In my experience, which includes journeys to all parts of the cricket-playing world, as well as seven months’ hitchhiking through Africa, I have never known a land with an embrace that’s so unrelenting. For better or for worse – for reasons of hospitality on the one hand, and raw survival instinct on the other – the Bangladeshi welcome is the most genuine and vivid imaginable.

It’s a welcome that pervades the senses to an extent that no other country can match. First there’s the heat, an oppressive and clammy blanket of humidity that sets you up for the smothering that’s to come. Then there’s the 24-hour cacophony that plays out like a looped techno track; the bass rumble of a million motors mixed with the spiky treble of as many car horns, and embellished by the intermittent wail of the Azan and the aggressive bark of the loudhailer, as another political rally springs up on a street corner, and then melts away into the crowd.

It’s a welcome that not even the most churlish of tourists could hope to avoid. The staggering stagnation of Dhaka’s choked arteries sees to that. No city on earth can be closer to gridlock, and a 5km journey can take upwards of an hour as air-conditioned coaches compete for road-space with grimy local buses, pea-green tuk-tuks, and the wonderfully ornate bicycle rickshaws that are the city’s signature mode of transport. Even if you wished to close your eyes to the destitution on display, the glacial progress means it’s not an option. There are too many faces at the windows, and too many piles of rags in the gutters, for anything other than the brutal truth to hit home.

It is a welcome that is passionate, and sometimes frightening – not because of any implied threat from the people one encounters, far from it – but because of the burden of expectation that every new encounter brings. The only way to travel in Dhaka is by tuk-tuk. They are the scurrying ants of the city, with the speed and agility to pick the rare gaps in the traffic and inch you that much closer to your goal. But every journey begins inevitably with a squabble, as a one-on-one transaction between passenger and driver descends into a frenzy of competing offers from fixers and rivals alike, while dispossessed hangers-on take advantage of the melee to put in their pleas for “baksheesh”.

Animosity is a rarity, but that in itself is unsettling. It implies a people with too much experience of disappointment to let another set-back get them down.

Against this backdrop, England’s cricket tour is just getting underway, and anyone who questions why Bangladesh continue to under-achieve on the world stage, almost ten years after their ascent to Test status, should take a trip to Dhaka, and see for themselves the mayhem from which the country must first emerge.

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The stadium at Fatullah is only accessible via a dirt track, and has not been used for top-level cricket since 2006 <nobr><font class="magDate">© Getty Images</font></nobr>
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On my last trip to Bangladesh in 2003, the team seemed primed to make that leap from underdogs to contenders. In Dav Whatmore they had a patriarch for a coach who had just guided them to within one wicket of a maiden Test victory against Pakistan in Multan, and while their young team remained fragile, the raw materials were in place for them to grow into something formidable.


In Javed Omar, Habibul Bashar, Khaled Mashud and Mohammad Rafique, the team possessed a slender backbone of experience, while no fewer than four teenagers took the field for the second Test at Chittagong – and that number did not even include the greatest prospect of all, Mohammad Ashraful, whose form and focus was suffering (not for the last time) from the mountainous expectations of 150 million people. Since then, however, Rajin Saleh, Alok Kapali and Enamul Haque Jr have drifted in and out of contention, and only Mashrafe Mortaza has forged anything resembling a regular career – albeit his potential has been stymied by a glut of chronic knee injuries.

Sri Lanka had Arjuna Ranatunga, Zimbabwe had the Flower brothers – young stars who soaked up the experience of playing in their country’s early Tests, and had hardened to granite by the time their turn came to lead. For whatever reason, the Bangladeshi experience has lacked such a character until now, although Shakib Al Hasan is doing his utmost to make up for lost time.

But until you’ve seen Dhaka, you can’t appreciate the pressures attached to those who achieve, or appreciate the temptations to relax once you’ve made it to the top. In a revealing interview in the <i>Wisden Cricketer</i>, Bangladesh’s latest sensation, Tamim Iqbal, was asked what was the best thing about playing cricket for a living. “It’s a great way of life, and fame and money comes as a package,” he responded. You can’t fault him for honesty, but the ambition is not that of a man aching to push for the summit. Merely escaping the daily grind is enough of an achievement.

The same might also be said of the country’s facilities. The extraordinary outpost of Fatullah played host to one of the nearest misses in Bangladesh’s Test history, in April 2006, when a culture-shocked Australia scraped home by three wickets thanks to the indomitable spirit of Ricky Ponting and Adam Gilchrist. It is unlikely ever to host another match of such high-profile, and having witnessed England’s warm-ups at the ground this past week, it is not hard to see why.

The ground is a grim, grey concrete bunker, accessible only via a long and bumpy dirt-track road that cuts across a swathe of paddy-fields. In March 2006, it received ICC approval to become the country’s fifth international standard venue, but by April, its purpose at the highest level had been completed. The only constant, four years on, was the unwaveringly enthusiastic support that turned out for England’s visits, with upwards of 5000 gleeful fans rolling through the gates each day.

And so, the question that was posed in 2003 remains the same to this day. Can the Bangladesh cricket team rise above its extenuating circumstances, and become the team its supporters long for it to be? It’s not yet too late, but the sands of time are surely running low. Change is afoot in the international calendar, and as a political ally, the BCB is no longer as valuable to the Indian board, now that the IPL has emerged from the pack to become the game’s outstanding market leader.

The coming five weeks will be a chance to put a case for the defence, and show that the victories in West Indies, and the spirited display against India, were not an anomaly, but a belated and welcome signal of new intent. Can it be done? Bangladesh’s supporters have to hope so, because in the long run, cricket's power-brokers will not allow themselves to be swayed by emotion.

nahaz
February 27, 2010, 05:01 AM
Bangladesh's warm embrace
Posted by Andrew Miller

....On my last trip to Bangladesh in 2003, the team seemed primed to make that leap from underdogs to contenders. In Dav Whatmore they had a patriarch for a coach who had just guided them to within one wicket of a maiden Test victory against Pakistan in Multan, and while their young team remained fragile, the raw materials were in place for them to grow into something formidable.

....But until you’ve seen Dhaka, you can’t appreciate the pressures attached to those who achieve, or appreciate the temptations to relax once you’ve made it to the top. In a revealing interview in the <i>Wisden Cricketer</i>, Bangladesh’s latest sensation, Tamim Iqbal, was asked what was the best thing about playing cricket for a living. “It’s a great way of life, and fame and money comes as a package,” he responded. You can’t fault him for honesty, but the ambition is not that of a man aching to push for the summit. Merely escaping the daily grind is enough of an achievement.


....And so, the question that was posed in 2003 remains the same to this day. Can the Bangladesh cricket team rise above its extenuating circumstances, and become the team its supporters long for it to be? It’s not yet too late, but the sands of time are surely running low. Change is afoot in the international calendar, and as a political ally, the BCB is no longer as valuable to the Indian board, now that the IPL has emerged from the pack to become the game’s outstanding market leader.

The coming five weeks will be a chance to put a case for the defence, and show that the victories in West Indies, and the spirited display against India, were not an anomaly, but a belated and welcome signal of new intent. Can it be done? Bangladesh’s supporters have to hope so, because in the long run, cricket's power-brokers will not allow themselves to be swayed by emotion.

Andrew Miller probably knows us better than any other foreign journo and proves it here...Tamim points out the harsh reality that makes playing in the national team the end goal rather than performing at the highest level. Many would not even know they're affected by it..

I like how Andrew clears the stance of the Indians as well..the BCCI is nothing short of being power-hungry and I feel it worships Lolit Modi much more than Tendulkar....its all about the money, and is trying its best to show "Money is might".

I hope Andrew enjoys this tour, and we impress him by winning a few games. I'm sure a good sport journalist like him would not mind it (as opposed to the Indian ones who only look to undermine us most of the times)

auntu
February 27, 2010, 05:13 AM
http://blogs.cricinfo.com/inline/content/image/450123.jpg?alt=2
the stadium at fatullah is only accessible via a dirt track, and has not been used for top-level cricket since 2006
[বাংলা]
বিসিবির চরম নির্বুদ্ধিতার আরেকটি উদাহরন। [/বাংলা]

amar11432
February 27, 2010, 05:20 AM
How worse can BD's FTP be?

BANFAN
February 27, 2010, 05:45 AM
We really don't have someone like, Ranatunga or Andy Flower to guide the rest of the boys ahead. One senior class player should have been in the team. It could be Bulbul or pilot or anyone.. or even two. Even if they werent playing that good, but their presence could have brought out that required performance from many of the young talents, who were just visitors in our national team.

Tigers_eye
February 27, 2010, 07:52 AM
We really don't have someone like, Ranatunga or Andy Flower to guide the rest of the boys ahead. One senior class player should have been in the team. It could be Bulbul or pilot or anyone.. or even two. Even if they werent playing that good, but their presence could have brought out that required performance from many of the young talents, who were just visitors in our national team.
Performing senior. Non-performing senior can't demand anything from anyone. Ireland has Johnston, Kenya had Tikolo. Our Habibul Bashar was as carefree as Ashraful. Speaking of Ashraful, what a dynamite he could have been.

Shakib is doing it. Soon he would demand from Tamim and Co. playing with a head and responsibility.

cricket_dorshok
February 27, 2010, 08:38 AM
we missed a generation:
Akram/Bulbul - Bashar/Pilot/Rafiq - Ash/Aftab - Shakib/Tamim.
You know where we missed a generation be it a performer and/or leadership.
Except the missing Ash/Aftab generation, we at least had performers if not leadership in others. If Ash/Aftab generation could keep the same performing momentum as their previous one, we would have already in the elite league.

Ajfar
February 27, 2010, 12:06 PM
here comes murad bhai with his, this is old news. mods merge plesae. lol

Electrequiem
February 28, 2010, 01:14 AM
Well, doesn't surprise me. Not too many white people have left BD unsatisfied with our "hospitality." We tend to really upgrade our "chamchagiri" when we meet a "bideshi."