The teams currently preparing for the Asia Cup in the United Arab Emirates have been put up in the Dubai InterContinental Hotel in a part of the city called Festival City, which seemed aptly named as it is the headquarters of the cricket carnival about to start from tomorrow when the Asia Cup gets underway with Bangladesh taking on Sri Lanka.
The carnival atmosphere was dialed up a bit yesterday as it was a national holiday to mark the Islamic New Year. Cricketers of Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Afghanistan and Bangladesh were seen milling about in the lobby.
It was a rest day for the Tigers but Shakib Al Hasan, Tamim Iqbal and Nazmul Hossain Shanto braved the heat -- as did the Pakistan team -- to have a batting session at the Dubai International Stadium and put their injured fingers to the test.
Of the three, Shakib's injury -- to his left little finger -- is most concerning because he has been nursing it since January and had recently wondered publicly about how he could bat. Team manager Khaled Mahmud however said that he seemed to be coping well with the help of pain-killers, and expressed hope that they will be able to play with a full squad come Saturday.
A sub-plot of tomorrow's opener will be the burgeoning rivalry between Sri Lanka and Bangladesh and one of the people that can be said to have played a part in it strode out to the lobby and greeted Bangladeshi reporters warmly. It was none other than current Sri Lanka coach Chandika Hathurusingha, who prematurely left his corresponding post in Bangladesh in November last year.
“They are doing very well. They have to do well,” the Sri Lankan beamed when asked about Bangladesh.
Later, Tamim reminded the reporters that it was Hathurusingha's 50th birthday and there may have been a glint of affection when he said it. It may well be a little different tomorrow.