It is not every day that you restrict world champions India to around a hundred runs; 105 was their lowest against Bangladesh. By 'you' I include all the rated cricket-playing countries, inclusive of Australia, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Pakistan… The fact that it was done by Bangladesh in Dhaka last 17 June launched a festivity of expectations from Tetulia to Teknaaf. And thence began our troubles, as our batsmen and perhaps management too began to celebrate before their time had come.
Despite our knee-cap shaking history and mass on-field dysentery, it dawned not for once on any Bangalee that the one-day occasion would end in ignominy for not India but Bangladesh. We managed to fold our trousers at 58, our lowest ODI total against the men in blue.
The humiliating lowly result from a winning position to losing turned more significant a few days later last Saturday when the third ODI was washed away; a win in the rain-curtailed second would have given us a respectable series draw against India which even people in Johannesburg and Sydney dream of.
In takkor with the top cricketing nations, as one of the tops, we have coaches for every possible department(left-arm fast, right-hand bat, both hands keeping, catching, dropping, sliding on the grass, and fan-beating) but not for winning.
Our celebrity foreign coaches are pampered and paid very well, which is not a problem except that we would achieved the same results (or better, because it cannot get any worse) if local persons took charge. Now I do not have the time, or else I would have volunteered, but I believe many of our coaches (some are trained, some have the experience) would be happy to serve. The problem is racial, as Bangladesh Cricket Board would not consider paying a local coach as much as they pay a bideshi. If I am going to be bold out for the lowest score, might as well sack all the foreigners, save some foreign exchange, pay the local boys well, and hope for the better.
The reason I deliberate on a sporting matter in perhaps a rather mean-spirited manner is because a khubdo tiger member-of-parliament came up to me the other day and submitted a protest letter. Now you have the legitimacy to query why on earth they should address their grievance to me instead of how real tigers could elect a parliament, write a letter and communicate. Bhai, I understand a grrrr… as much as anyone else.
In advance of your queries, when I asked the visiting moggy the same questions and also how he got my address, the T-MP (T for tiger) retorted in a ferocious manner, they mostly do. I was fortunate because this was just after he had had his lunch. Roared he: “If you people can pretend to play cricket, don't you think we can have an election, hire a letter writer and learn a language? Money can buy everything.”
I did not have the nerve or the tongue to ask him where they got the human money. Instead, I quietly offered him a mouth freshener, as he was breathing quite heavily. But, he read my mind and snapped: “If your office peon can afford a six-storied building in the capital, if your government servant can educate his children abroad, if your MPs can have an increase in wealth by five thousand times in five years, if the asset-less wife can become wealthier than the minister, then don't you think we can collect some money by a simple grrrr… without the mouth freshener? My kindergarten teacher told me a long time ago, never argue with an angry tiger.
Notwithstanding his rhetoric, the letter in my hand was most humble. The ink handwriting was smudged at two three places. They looked like droplets of tears. In it was a list of signatories on behalf of several dozen tigers. Their appeal was very simple. They asked me to use my column to put forward their request that the Bangladesh cricketers themselves, their advertisers, the TV and radio commentators, reporters, spectators, and foreigners should not, never again, refer to any cricketer in Bangladesh as a 'tiger'. It is becoming intolerable for them in the jungle because other animals are making fun of them. There lurks the danger for mankind, as some of them, out of humiliation, may leave their jungle abode.
Me: So what should we call them?
Tiger: What do we care?
Me: Every country has a pet name for their cricketers. It is a custom…
Tiger: Do I look like a pet to you? And those countries are referring to their playing cricketers, not people who dress like one with golabi spectacles!
Me: Every country has their ups and downs.
Tiger: But no country breaks two lowest record in the same match. India's lowest total should not have been matched by our lowest.
Me: What about calling them by the name of other mascots?
Tiger: The snakes have said they will use the elevator at Ruposhi Bangla to reach the players' rooms. The elephants have promised to lift up and thrash to the ground even the grounds man. The monkeys are the only ones eager but…
Me: That is why calling them the tigers was so safe, and logical.
Tiger: Safe probably, but it is a lie.
Tiger: We are a dying species. There are hardly six tigers in the whole of the Sundarbans…
Me: Six? Are you sure?
Tiger: And you need at least eleven plus the twelfth man to make a team. So you are living a lie. Except that in most matches the eleven play like four or five persons…
Me: Six tigers only? Then how did you get these dozens of signatures?
Just then his mobile phone rang. He got it out from under his skin. “Hello, jaanu, where are you?” (Seconds pass) I am in some place. (Seconds pass) I cannot tell you. (Seconds pass) No, I am not hiding anything. (Two seconds pass) He is hiding. He writes in a pseudo name. (Seconds pass) Yes, yes, I have your signature, jaanu. (Two seconds pass) Love you too.
It was now my time to roar, but before I could react, the 'tiger' took off his headgear and was now only in his dora kata tops and bottoms. For the first time I noticed he was wearing running shoes. Fear can make you groggy. I was now beginning to see and hear things more clearly.
Taking a seat on the sofa, he asked for some water, and then he began to explain: “We are cricket lovers and great, great, fans of the tigers. We also call ourselves tigers. We love them when they bat and bowl and field and miss, and we love those tigers, however few, that hunt in the Sundarbans. We cannot bear that both species of the tigers should be so humiliated. Our tigers are again and again throwing their wickets when the whole country is rooting for them, many are fasting for them, praying for them… The tigers in the jungle they cannot read or write or say, but we feel for them, and they are being drawn into such ignominy for no fault of theirs, and so we…” He began to cry in loud sobs.
I will admit this was not the first tiger I saw weeping, and if we count those in our dressing rooms and stadiums (courtesy TV), homes and offices, schools, and colleges, markets and shops, we would all have seen so many. But this was different. The cry of this 'tiger' was the soul of the nation weeping.