The final match between Pakistan and Bangladesh for the Asia Cup was certainly an emotional ride for Bangladesh, and the millions of Bangladeshis living abroad who tuned in at odd hours to listen and watch the game from their computers. I was watching the 8 hour match at Pan Pacific Sonargaon hotel at the restaurant where I found a prime seat at a table in front of the TV. It is the same hotel where the teams from Sri Lanka, India, Pakistan, and of course Bangladesh stayed for the tournament. There was a program going on that night at the hotel which I skipped to watch the game, taking as much time as I can with my overpriced Chef’s Salad so that I wasn’t kicked out of my table.
An emotional ride was exactly what it was. Bangladesh played incredibly on the field- perhaps too well, as some spectators speculated with rumors of game fixing. At the end, the entire restaurant was filled with staff and people from around the hotel who stood there watching. Managers didn’t scream at the waiters and cleaners who have been taking peeks at players as they go in and out of the hotel rooms for the past two weeks. Well suited men stood next to ground staff. Everyone watched until the last ball- because that was what it came down to.
While Bangladesh lost the game, people have been talking about how well the team played this year in the series. They were not like the old Bangladeshi team, in that they actually played to win and did not give up. Still, fans were skeptical, as we are so used to being after years of supporting a losing team. Even when there were only 4 runs to score to win between Sri Lanka earlier, I was thinking something just might go wrong. You just never know with the tigers.
This time, people cried after the game. We were that close. Articles and comments of fans crying and also, backing the team filled the news, rather than rage over why we didn’t win. We were just not used to ever playing this good for so long.
It is also a game that has taken over an emotional nation. One would think- how can you keep supporting a team that is so unpredictable? The answer lies in the fact that it is a national team that plays against countries with political histories with the young country whose memories are too sharp. The emotional capacity is felt during and after the games (reportedly, the captain of the team pleaded with the fans to be strong after reports of fan suicides).
It is interesting to be in Bangladesh at this time. Cricket is one of the very few things that unite the country together. It is if not the only source of entertainment that doesn’t see a mark on social status and wealth of individuals. It’s a game that anyone can watch, does watch, and understand. I find it fascinating how sports can actually do this to people, communities, cities, and nations.
It is still unpredictable what could happen to this team after the Asia Cup. However, beating Bangladesh at a cricket match can no longer be considered an ‘upset’. They do actually play pretty well. This is the message that has been echoed by the millions living in Dhaka and abroad who try just as hard to better the image of the country from whatever angle possible. Take us seriously- we are here to play.