Time for us to do our job - Shakib
It seemed as though Shakib Al Hasan had a tear in his eye when his rickshaw entered the Bangabandhu Stadium on opening-ceremony night to thunderous applause in the sold-out venue. His right index finger swept under his eye, and a moment later he was seen smiling and talking to the child with him on the rickshaw. One could not be sure, though. A day later, Shakib confirmed it was indeed a moving moment for him.
"It was a great feeling yesterday," Shakib said, giggling. "I got emotional at that time. It was a very good experience for me. It's something I will remember for the rest of my lifetime."
And this has been going on for at least a week. It has been an emotional time in Dhaka. People have been out on the streets even in the wee hours of the morning. All Bangladesh has been thinking about for a while now is the World Cup. "As you can see, on any street of Dhaka, you can see the difference from 100 days back," Shakib said. "It has obviously changed a lot. Even at night, up until 12'o clock, people come to see the ground, the facilities, how they have improved. Great feeling for the people of the country."
As players, as a young team, it is difficult to stay insulated from this kind of singular anticipation from the country. And the players know that the anticipation will translate onto the field. It will translate into pressure, from the people, from the media, from their families, from their friends.
Nerves showed in their warm-up game against Pakistan on Tuesday, when they lost comprehensively despite spells of good play both from the bowlers and the batsmen. Generally a good fielding side, Bangladesh dropped four simple catches during the match. They started their innings in a free-flowing manner, but once they lost a wicket they froze in the middle overs, playing too many get-away shots, losing wickets in a heap.
Jamie Siddons, their coach, knows about these pressures. "We have talked a little bit about the pressures they are going to face: the crowds, the media, their families, and all those sort of things that are part of playing a World Cup at home," Siddons said. "I think they are getting on pretty okay with it."
It is not just the anticipation from the country, which can sometimes be unreasonable, that will put pressure on them. Playing at home, they will expect themselves, reasonably so, to put it past at least one of the four big teams and make it to the quarterfinals. Siddons himself was quick to point that Bangladesh are rated ahead of West Indies, so they should be expected to win that game.
"We have to beat teams above us in the ODI rankings," Siddons said. "West Indies are just below us. We are expected to beat them; if we do that, we will get very close to going to the next round. We need to beat one of the big teams and two minnows - for the want of a better word - the Associate members, to give us a chance. Need to win four games to be safe. A lot of work to do, we start with India, and then Ireland."
They are no longer the underdogs. Their wins - at least in the first round - will not be considered upsets. All their previous big wins in the World Cup have come with not much to lose. This time they have a lot to lose. That is going to be Bangladesh's biggest challenge this World Cup. Already there is a mountain of hype because they beat India in the last World Cup encounter between the two teams.
Shakib is saying all the right things before the match. "We have six league games, that's the important thing," he said. "We are taking it game by game, we are not thinking about India. We want to improve ourselves. We want to go there and do the basics right. If we do that, hopefully we will have a very good game."
When asked whether what he saw last night put pressure on him, Shakib was blasé. "They came out and did their job yesterday, now it is time for us to go out and do our job," he said. The festivities are over, the song and dance is behind us. The only way the festivities will carry on in Bangladesh is if its cricket team does its job.
হোঁচট খেয়েছি অনেকবার, তবুও হার মানিনি। বাঁধা এসেছে বারবার, তবুও থেমে থাকিনি। বাঘেরা জানে কিভাবে ঘুরে দাঁড়াতে হয়। আপনারা আমাদের সাথেই থাকুন... ইনশাল্লাহ আল্লাহ ও আমাদের সহায় হবেন। চলো বাংলাদেশ!