On the tour of Zimbabwe in 2013, then Bangladesh spin bowling coach and former Pakistan off-spin legend Saqlain Mushtaq bemoaned the team's lack of adventurism. He talked about how the Pakistan teams he played in used to go out and embrace the local culture on tour, while the Bangladesh team he was coaching in 2013 seemed under house arrest inside hotel rooms, the only excursions being to the hotel swimming pool, dining areas or nearby restaurants.
He is no longer associated with Bangladesh cricket but he probably would be happy to know that the Tigers have started to change their stripes in this regard. On Thursday night in Dubai, they not only ventured out of the comfort of their hotel and surrounding attractions in Dubai's Festival City to Jumeira Beach, but dined at a restaurant that has had eager visitors as varied and famous as Cristiano Ronaldo, Diego Maradona, Karim Benzema, Roger Federer, P Diddy, James Corden and Al Pacino.
The meat-lovers' paradise is called Nusr-Et, named after Nusret Gokce -- or Salt Bae as people familiar with viral sensations may know them. The Turkish butcher shot to fame in January 2017 when a Youtube video of him dramatically sprinkling salt on his culinary creation went viral, spawning countless memes and many more viral videos. The son of a mine worker, Salt Bae has 12 restaurants around the world – two in UAE, seven in Turkey, two in the USA and one in Qatar – and they are widely sought after by ordinary and famous foodies alike.
10 of the Bangladesh squad treated their palates to the tenderest meat imaginable, as can be seen in a Youtube video of Diego Maradona gaping in amazement as Nusret -- in appearance a cross between Antonio Banderas and Arjun Rampal -- pulled out the ribs from a steak without the slightest bit of resistance.
It is also a restaurant full of whimsy. Waiters wander about with dry ice and pour the smoke randomly over diners. Mahmudullah Riyad's Instagram video shows a beaming Mushfiqur Rahim doused in the white smoke, all the while trying to capture the moment on his smartphone. Meat is cooked at the table not over fire, but on plates bearing scalding hot oil. Other waiters walk through juggling knives that they just used to expertly carve the meat, lending the experience that element of danger that induces exhilaration among the guests.
Diners at the restaurant were probably over the moon when Ronaldo stopped by on August 3 to have a piece of aged beef with his name on it, but the relatively lesser lights of the Bangladesh cricketers also attracted selfie seekers on Thursday.
While Mashrafe and Co did have a blast, they just missed out on Salt Bae in the flesh as he had left the restaurant in the evening. Instead, they had to settle for pretty good imitations of the famed sprinkle.
Regardless, the excursion itself is a heartening development because, as Saqlain perhaps meant to say, it is important to have fun while touring in order to lessen the effects of being away from home. The best touring sides -- Steve Waugh's Australia comes to mind -- had this attitude and it translated onto the pitch. It will bode well for the sated Tigers if they can bring some of the salt into their Asia Cup opener against Sri Lanka tomorrow.