Talking about cricket.

Bangladesh’s last game of the world cup ended in the team allowing South Africa to score just fifteen points shy of 300, and Bangladesh making up only 78 of it, all out. I was at the Shere Bangla National Stadium in Mirpur for the game yesterday and left right after Bangladesh’s fifth wicket, as did many others in the stadium. Many did not even sit in their seats anymore but stood in the space in front of the gates, ready to leave once they saw another terrible play. The guards could not even tell us to go back to our seats since there were so many who could as one said nearby, “beat them up” if they tried anything of that sort. Conversation of precious time and money wasted could be overheard repeatedly as fanatics started to take off red and green pieces that they had prepared for the game from their bodies in frustration. Thousands poured out of the gates looking disappointed more than shocked by the afternoon.

Disappointment is a look I see often in Bangladesh- the look of getting your hopes up really high, because just maybe the impossible is possible as it often can be in the country, and then to have it crushed suddenly and quickly. It is a quick shot, crisp and clean. There isn’t much space for sudden reaction. And then it sinks in and people start to get emotional and use their words to get violent. It’s not clean anymore. Car windows get shattered whether it is the cricket team losing or a sudden hartal. Words are used to spread thousands of messages across newspapers, blogs, and television and in the streets.

I had talked about the fascinating way in which sports are able to unite a country and bring forth nationalism about a month prior to the start of the tournament. I forgot to think about the aftermath of it all. People are united pretty obviously and perhaps more than ever but for the reason that they are disappointed in their team and need the venues to vent. But nationalism however you choose to define it has also been obviously dazed. It is going to take some time when the signs of the world cup are everywhere in Dhaka- the lights, posters welcoming you to “our land”, billboards of painted fans, and the several enlarged cricket bats on Airport Road with signatures of thousands wishing the national team luck. While I am not a maniac fan of cricket, driving through the city last night still resulted in a bang of defeat as we passed lit strands of lights and colorful decorations made just for the world cup, and most importantly, for the national team.

Even then, hosting the cricket world cup with India and Sri Lanka for the first time in the nation’s history brought in some (hopefully) un-doable developments. It created jobs for many in the city, expanded several commercial sectors and boomed businesses who took advantage of the cup to sell products. It cleaned up the roads a bit and created some conscious among the people to maintain it as they were now the hosts of something historical (instead of stealing parts of decorations in the middle of the night to sell in the black market, for example). It got children out of the house to play cricket in their neighborhood and with other children they were able to befriend with this common interest. It created a conversational topic for literally anyone despite social classes, gender, or age. This alone is worth noting in a society where all three aspects matter more than it ever should. It illustrated the candid potential that Bangladesh has- it can host international guests, it can start building a tourism industry, it does not need everything to be political, it can market itself, and it can allow people to get along for at least some time. Thus, despite everything, it must be admitted that these are some feats for a sport to be able to achieve even if temporarily.

 

Bangladesh vs. South Africa

Bangladesh is getting ready for the World Cup

Since I drive to Uttara from Baridhara everyday for work, I have been able to observe the progression of decorations being put up on Airport Road over the last month for the 2011 cricket World Cup. My drive on the way to school and back always gave me something new to look at- colorful lights being put up on the lamp posts, enlarged versions of various flowers and animals randomly placed around the paths, new flowers and trees, balloons, and various billboards with photos of the country’s scenes and catchy slogans. Beximco endorsed a giant cricket bat- deemed as the largest cricket bat in the world– on this road, allowing for people to come by and sign it and to wish Bangladesh’s team luck.

Two nights ago past midnight my cousin and his friends came by to pick me up and we went to airport road to look at the scene around this bat. People kept coming and parking on the highway to sign the bat. There were no police or anyone nearby to monitor the scene. As usual, anything goes in Dhaka. While it was late at night, there were families, children, women and men there taking photos and signing the bat with markers and spray paint. Someone got out a huge speaker from their car and put on Bollywood music nearby that matched the energy of the night. There were names, wishes, even cell phone numbers and love notes on this bat in various colors and in both English and Bengali all over the bat.

My cousin’s friend got a hold of a red spray paint bottle from someone, climbed up to a box with the help of strangers, and reached the bat’s giant handle and spray painted our initials (“Oli” for me) in large letters as onlookers watched. Thus, as you pass by the road now and look at the bat’s handle, there it is, our initials permanently written in red.

It was refreshing to see places such as these where Bangladeshis can come together in one place and enjoy this moment before the World Cup. While I will be in Nepal for the beginning of the tournament, at least I was able to experience some of the hype and excitement. Sporting tournaments such as the various world cups have a way of uniting countries and instituting a new kind of nationalism. They are the one event where people from a nation can unite despite differences social classes, age, or sex. Recognizing with the nation is the minimum and the most important requirement. Most interestingly, you do not even have to be a fan of the sport itself. Identifying with a set region (its language, or history, the culture, and the likes) in this case becomes more important in this relationship- the sport, in this case cricket itself is just the catalyst.

Opening ceremony is set.