By Kuldip Lal
Dhaka: Feb 27, 2011
Cricket-crazy Bangladesh is enduring a brief respite from World Cup frenzy due to a gap in matches as fans take a breather before the action resumes.
Calm descended on the Sher-e-Bangla stadium, a refurbished modern 25,000-seater facility in suburban Mirpur, which witnessed joyous celebrations of cricket's greatest show over the past week. Bangladesh regards the World Cup, which it co-hosts for the first time with neighbours India and Sri Lanka, as its biggest event since independence in 1971. And it is going out of its way to put on a party to remember.
So far, Bangladesh has proved to be the perfect hosts, creating a delightful World Cup atmosphere that would have pleased International Cricket Council (ICC) chiefs. Unlike empty stands at matches in the other two hosting nations, packed crowds have witnessed the first two matches played by Bangladesh against India and Ireland in Dhaka.
Tens of thousands, who failed to secure tickets, have partied outside the venue, soaking in the atmosphere on foot and in open vans, dancing, waving flags and blowing locally-made vuvuzelas. Dhaka streets were jammed till late on Friday night after Shakib Al Hasan's home team clinched a superb victory against Ireland, who failed to chase a modest target of 206.
The win was important for Bangladesh to stay afloat in the tournament, after the opening loss to India, but the celebrations seemed as if the team had won the World Cup. Beating Ireland mattered to fans because the non-Test nation had defeated their side twice in major events, first in the Super Eights of the 2007 World Cup and again in the first round of the 2009 World Twenty20.
The win also ensured that cricket fever will continue unabated when the West Indies come calling on Friday. Bangladesh are the only team playing all their league matches at home. The action will shift to the port city of Chittagong for the games against England (March 11) and the Netherlands (March 14), before Dhaka hosts the last league match against South Africa on March 19.
The Sher-e-Bangla stadium will also host two quarter-finals. If Bangladesh qualify, they will play at home unless they are drawn against Sri Lanka, in which case the match will be held in Colombo. "This is a tournament that matters a lot to the people of this country, they have never experienced anything like this," said ICC media officer Rabeed Imam, who is also contracted with the Bangladesh Cricket Board.
"If the team keeps winning, the celebrations will get even bigger." The Bangladesh government is also doing its best to ensure the party is not ruined by chronic power shortages that have stirred public anger and triggered violent protests in the past.
To save power and ensure fans get to watch matches uninterrupted on televison, authorities have ordered factories to suspend operations every evening till the end of the six-week tournament.
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