Some tightened their lungis in the inimitable Bangladeshi style while getting ready for the next ball, a few were wearing three-quarter pants and all were bare-chested during the cricket match on a barren paddy field under fading daylight. This was the scene a few days ago in a remote village of Netrokona.
It was of course not a rare event that young villagers in Bangladesh play passionate games of cricket to pass their time and evenings. It is instead a rarity these days to find boys playing football with a jambura (pomelo), preferably unripe, and apparently those excursions or their ubiquity has become a nostalgic story for elderly people who grew up in the rural areas. As euphoric boys take to the streets to play cricket in the rain, it only reflects that wants and desires have changed in the face of the cricketers' success.
Mashrafe, Shakib, Tamim, Mushfiqur are now the household names in every nook and cranny of the country. Even so, every four years the country's cricket craze transforms into football frenzy. Flags of Brazil, Argentina and even Germany dominate the skyline and are hoisted at the top of almost every home and global football stars put the country's cricket celebrities in the shade, at least for a month.
Whether allegiances are expressed by making the longest flag or painting the entire house in the colours of the flag of the favourite team, the madness knows no bounds as the greatest show on earth makes landfall.
That madness started long before the 32-team extravaganza is due to kick off in Russia today, but now that it is about to get underway surely it will add extra spice to daily life in Bangladesh. From tea-stalls to posh restaurants, from well-decorated offices to slums everywhere, the World Cup will find a way to every home regardless of demographics. Media people are not immune to the fever and 'neutrality' is nowhere to be found when it comes to supporting teams.
All the pain and suffering, all the bad news may not be driven away by the World Cup but the next month will at least offer a different kind of joy, as well as anguish, through the beautiful game.