Thursday, March 21, 2019
Updated: Tuesday, May 24, 2005
An Evening with the Tigers

Asif Saleh

When I got a call from local politician Murad Qureshi about the Mayor of London?s reception for the Bangladesh Cricket Team, the first thing I thought of was of's avid followers. What they wouldn't do to be there. My first instinct was to get as many of them there as possible, but could only manage to add one person to the list of invitees, thanks to my unpersuasive negotiation skills. Sham, who has been diligently sending reports from around England on the warm up matches deserved to be there more than anyone else. So there we were, two avid Banglacricket followers, ready to mingle with the Tigers.

Habibul Bashar, Anwar Hussain Monir and Nasir Ahmed Nashu

The setting was beautiful. Overlooking Tower Bridge, the Mayor arranged a lovely Reception for the cricketers and British Bangladeshi guests at the City Hall. My mission was two fold. I wanted to capture as many pictures as possible for as well as to adorn the recently bought cricket jersey of the Bangladesh team with autographs of all of our players. It was pretty difficult to leave my dignity behind and walk around like a star struck teenager with a T shirt asking the players for their signature. Also it didn?t help that I was middle aged and all these players are mostly in their teens or early twenties. However, I got this mission accomplished within the first 20 minutes.

Whatmore in a jovial mood

While I was getting the signatures, the actual ceremony began and speaker after speaker spoke. There was the Mayor, of course, with his right hand man Murad Qureshi, who spoke about London's bid for the Olympics in 2012. Then there was the Bangladeshi High Commissioner to the UK, the British High Commissioner to Bangladesh, the MCC President, the BCB President and the Chief Executive of the ECB. All of them piled away on the usual formalities. But the best of the speeches was left for last and that was of former English captain Nasser Hussain. He spoke about how often he was on the other side and was bored to death listening to these speeches and now it was his turn to take revenge. Looking at the Bangladeshi cricketers at that point, it did seem like they wanted to be anywhere but there. It was as if they could not wait to start hitting the ball. Nasser Hussain's message was of hope. Hope that we would follow Sri Lanka in their rise to the top of world cricket, reminding the audience that only twenty years ago, they were where we are now. . But the most interesting aspect of his speech was his subtle hints at Mr. Whatmore to include Mushfiq in the team. ?I hope to see him at Lords,? said Hussain, ?although that his not a decision for me to make, it is for some people quite a bit older than him to make.? Mushfiq, who truly looks like a 16 year old and who was intently listening from the front had just had the proudest moment of his short but fast rising career.

Mushfiqur Rahim

I could not wait for the speeches to be over so that I could have a chat with the players. Bangladeshi players are not really known for their conversational skills in a foreign land but nevertheless, I wanted to try. I first grabbed the lad from Narayanganj ? our dear Mohammad Rafique. He looked very despondent and said he was ready for the action. However, his body language said the opposite. Then there was Ashraful ? chirping away with everyone who was there. He was undoubtedly the most confident of the lot and was amazingly tiny and still managing to look like a school boy. There was Sumon and his ever present smile. He was very polite and mentioned that he was counting on our support at Lords. There was Aftab, the only ?shoshrumondito?(bearded) player of the team. He looked very nervous. I don't know whether it was my recollection of the Shibir brothers of Dhaka University or if it was his nervousness, something put me off trying to have a chat with him. Mashrafe was bored out of his mind and was looking at a Bangla newspaper listlessly. Javed Omar was anxiously calling someone on the cell phone most of the evening. After my initial look at all of them, one thing that struck me was how young all these players were. They all were just kids. They have so much to grow. It was really refreshing to see the fresh but confident faces. I could literally feel the new found self belief in the team by being around them. The only old face of the team was of course that of Mr. Whatmore's. He literally looked like the father. Dav was making good use of the wine and was in a jovial mood.

Mohammad Ashraful

As the food was served, there were lots of familiar faces in the crowd and the event became a mini networking session. As the pretty ladies were serving food and the music of Habib (Krishno) was playing in the background, looking at Tower Bridge, my thoughts started to wonder. I imagined myself sitting in Lords this Friday and cheering on a century by our captain. I imagined the gritty opening stand by Nafis Iqbal and Javed Omar and a fiery opening spell by Shahadat and Mashrafe. May be life is this beautiful. Suddenly, my dreamspell came to an abrupt end. ?Asif bhai!!!? It was Sham! ?The manager is calling you?, said he. Me? Why me? I looked up and sure enough Col. Latif, the manager was nodding at me. He said, ?I noticed that you are a true fan getting all the players' autographs and taking their pictures. I will give you the team sheet with everyone's autograph and pictures tomorrow.? Much obliged I took down his number and said ?I will ring you up at Lords.? Of course, Sham had to come and take the spot light away by finding some attiyota with him, something he managed to do successfully with everybody who was anybody. But I was quite happy, feeling like a toddler who had just been handed a candy by a kind adult.

Wicket-keepers past, present and future: Former captains Shafiqul Haque Hira and Khaled Mashud with Mushfiqur Rahim

Of all the players and team members I met today, my meeting with Mushfiqur Rahim was the most special. This kid, who was born in 1989, has suddenly got the spotlight on him and was still trying to come to terms with it. I asked him if he has got any indication from Whatmore on his chances of playing on Thursday. He replied in the negative (not a good sign for Mushfiq fans) and said that they would know on Wednesday. I mentioned about all the big debates that are going on in Banglacricket about where his place would be in the team. He was very modest and said that the matches he played in were just warm up matches. ?Please pray that I can play in the same way in the real matches. I am feeling very confident,? he added. ?I want to make my country proud?, he said with the utmost sincerity. I instantly became a fan of this kid. who was born when I was taking my matriculation exam. That's where it all boils down to, doesn't it?

Making our country proud, here at that is the only thing we hope for. Win or lose, please fight like tigers and make your country proud. You have already made us very proud by coming this far and doing what you have done. Carry on the good work and show the real fighting spirit. We, from all across the world, will cheer for you all the way!