• Sunday, March 01, 2015

March Madness

Sakeb Subhan
Photo: Star
Photo: Star

These are great times to be a sports journalist in Bangladesh. The whole cricketing world has descended upon our shores and for the next two weeks we are the most important country in the cricketing universe.
At the time of writing there are so many places to be -- teams training at one or all of the three stadiums around the country, a practice match or actual tournament game, or at the team hotels for pre-tournament press conferences. It's a bombardment of international exposure and we love it. And truth be told, more than international exposure it is the fact that cricket has arrested the national consciousness like never before that is pleasing -- we are after all the sole hosts of the global championship of the game's newest and most popular (read least time-consuming) format, the ICC World Twenty20.
To add to that, the national team seems to be coming good. After a disappointing first two and a half months of 2014, the beloved Tigers have crossed the first hurdle in defeating Afghanistan in the opening game of the tournament and in the process settled the nerves of around 160 million people, especially after the war-ravaged nation had unceremoniously outclassed us in an Asia Cup game less than a fortnight ago. They still have to beat Nepal and Hong Kong to seal a place in the Super 10 starting from tomorrow. Well, those matches will have already taken place by the time this comes out but with the kind of intent Bangladesh showed in getting Afghanistan all out for 72, Nepal and Hong Kong really should not be a problem.
Bangladesh are also a team that thrives on momentum, so it will be imperative to their success in the next round that they beat Hong Kong and Nepal as convincingly as possible, because much sterner tests lie ahead. Assuming that they do make it through, each match they play will be tough as tough can get -- Australia, India and Pakistan are possibly the three teams people would name if asked to guess the eventual winners and they are the ones who lie in wait for the Tigers. If Bangladesh does lose to Nepal and fail to make it, I will look the idiot, but you as the fans have bigger things to worry about, like which team to support now that Bangladesh are just not worth it.

Forgiving Shakib
Talking about cricket taking over the national consciousness, I just got a call from a family member who told me she was very glad that Afghan fast bowler Dawlat Zadran gave Shakib Al Hasan an earful during their match. Since I could not muster the courage to dispute her reasoning in person, I will attempt to defend our star player here. Yes, he was astonishingly daft and arrogant in making the obscene gesture on national television and he was rightly suspended for it. I was as livid as the rest when it happened -- Bangladesh's most celebrated public figure has no business acting like that, whatever the circumstance. But despite his arrogance, which sometimes spills over into irresponsible shots when batting, I can say that having watched him closely through his career, he takes the success of his team very seriously. That could be seen in his passionate reactions during the walloping of Afghanistan. It is encouraging that we are finally expecting lofty standards of our public figures, but it is also important to remember that we never really get to know what kind of people they are -- especially those living in the fish bowl of public opinion from a young age -- and if judgements on character have to be made, it is best made on the elements that they derive their fame from; in Shakib's case that is his performance. I hope that the more sensitive among us forgive him eventually; he will probably have earned it. 

Published: 12:00 am Thursday, March 20, 2014

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