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Dhaka is the centre of the ICC World T20 2014 party. Nishad Pai Vaidya captures the mood as he arrives in Dhaka.
“Hi. You were sitting next to me on the flight from Mumbai. What takes you to Bangladesh?” asked a co-passenger as this writer walked about the Kolkata airport during a long stopover enroute to Dhaka. We have seen the Bangladeshi public throng the stadium in huge numbers; cricket captures their imagination! Far away from Dhaka, you could still smell the air of cricket. It is a language that connects different nationalities and one that everyone understands. You say the word cricket on your way to Bangladesh and the response is overwhelming!
When this writer replied that he is going to cover the ICC World T20 2014, the co-passenger’s face lit up. He introduced himself and said, “We are disappointed with our team’s performance. Our people do expect a lot and come and support them. There is one thing about Bangladesh: our people will come and support the games. Even for some of the non-Bangladesh games, you will find so many people coming into the ground.” One could sense the anguish of the Bangladeshi fan miles away from the capital!
While the World T20 has been Bangladesh’s big party, their national team hasn’t arrived to be a part of the celebrations. It may have dampened the spirits of their supporters but, it doesn’t stop them from loving the sport. You land in Dhaka and the first thing you see on the aerobridge, connecting your flight to the terminal, a huge banner with the tournament’s logo. And, then there is the country’s Prime Minister, Sheikh Hasina, welcoming guests to her country’s grand event.
And you can see two figures almost everywhere. Mushfiqur Rahman and Shakib Al Hasan make their presence felt on large banners. Almost every bridge in the city declares that the country is hosting a world cup. This writer’s taxi driver couldn’t speak Hindi or English, but the moment he heard the word “cricket”, his face lit up. As we worked our way through the city, he suddenly exclaimed, “Stadium…stadium!!” pointing towards the magnificently lit up Sher-e-Bangla National Stadium. Cricket is the language people speak here!
Apart from the local fans, this writer also ran into a man from Kerala. An avid cricket fan, he travels around the globe to catch a glimpse of his favourite sport. Hailing from Kochi, he had to take a flight out to Mumbai and then come down to Kolkata to get the next for Dhaka. Along the way, he mentions, “I don’t have a ticket for tomorrow’s game (India vs Australia), and I am hopeful of getting it. This is my first time in Bangladesh, but I do hope to get it.”
Dhaka can stun you if you are here for the first time. The traffic is unbelievable and it is very hot! But, it is cricket that will attract you to this city that is booming into a big centre. One only hopes their national team repays all that faith and love with some performances along the way. As one fan told this writer, “Our future in cricket may be good, but when will it come?”
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