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     Volume 6 Issue 16 | April 27, 2007 |

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Srabonti Narmeen Ali

Burning the shame.

Back from Barbados

To be completely truthful, I am a fan of the Indian cricket team. Although I was ecstatic that Bangladesh beat India and made it into the Super Eights round, I was also a tad bit disappointed that India would not be playing this year. After all, what person who appreciates good cricket would not be? I felt bad that a team so talented was not able to perform to their full potential -- that is, until I saw the shameless way some Indians behaved during this World Cup.

It actually started when the World Cup season began, with advertisements endorsing different products implying that India would win this year. Right before the Bangladesh-India game (and one has to wonder whether this is a deliberate slight) a certain advertisement showed Indian team players metamorphasising into tigers and coming onto the field. Are they not aware that the tiger is the official mascot of Bangladesh?

Praying for divine intervention.

After the game, the world was forced to witness Bollywood actress Mandira Bedi's condescending attitude. The co-host of Set Max's show, “Extraa Innings” (more famous for her “noodle strap” blouses and her Satya Paul saris than her scintillating cricket commentary -- one of the hot favourites this season being a sari where she had all the Indian cricket players' signatures all over, including 'Dravid's signature on my chest') proceeded to make degrading comments about Bangladesh throughout the first round. Repeated favourites were “Why couldn't this 'Bungla Desh' play against our India” (after Bangladesh lost to Sri Lanka) and, even more insulting “Are they good enough, or was their earlier win just luck?”

The point is Mandira, why wasn't India good enough?

Why indeed.

After their defeat the poor Indian team members, who, until now, had served their country well, were escorted home amid tight security, lest they be attacked by one of the thousands of disappointed, angry fans. What a way to treat a team that, only a month ago, had been elevated to God-status.

Indian supporters of the Irish team.

You would think that after all this 'hungama' most Indians would have gone to the World Cup in good humour. Not quite. Instead many Indian fans made an absolute spectacle of themselves, running around the stadiums in the West Indies with Indian flags and signs that claimed “East or West, India is the Best,” and during games in which Bangladesh was playing, “India would have played better.”

During the Bangladesh-Ireland game, I came across a group of Indians that were supporting Ireland at the Kensington Oval. Unfortunately this was around the time that it was obvious Bangladesh was losing. One of them was wearing a t-shirt that said, “Kiss me, I'm Irish.” After a lot of jeering about how badly Bangladesh was playing this particular boy (he is too immature to be called a man) got in my face screaming “Kiss me baby, looks like Bangladesh is losing as usual.” What exactly was going through this person's head is beyond me. There are so many things that I could have said in response -- the fact that he looked like an idiot with his Irish t-shirt and green, white and orange cap (did he just get the two countries confused because the colours of their flags are the same?), the fact that he was being a terrible sport and sounded like a sleazy pig, or the fact that whether Bangladesh won or lost, we were still in the Super Eights, and India wasn't. I settled for the latter and walked away, while he shouted after me that Bangladesh got lucky and that they did not deserve to be here.

Many Indians we met on the streets claimed that the match between Bangladesh and South Africa was fixed, and that the only reason that Bangladesh beat India was because India did not take the Bangladeshi team seriously enough to consider them as “real competition.” (If this is true, why advertise such a gross and arrogant misconception, especially since they lost?) Some of them even went as far as to call us “Pakis” which, considering our history, is just plain ignorant as well as insulting. Some were less colourful, and just claimed that the Bangladeshi team had broken India's dreams and their hearts.

To be fair, there were many Indians who were supporting Bangladesh. These people decided to have a good time and enjoy the game, rather than hold onto a team that did not make it past the first round. During the Bangladesh-West Indies game, a group of Indians were sitting next to the huge group of Bangladeshi fans and playing the dhol in support of Bangladesh. Others sitting behind us were cheering for Bangladesh and commenting on how good some of the players had become in the last few years, and how the team showed promise. However, the attitude of their Bangladeshi-bashing counterparts overshadowed these supporters -- especially if you had been watching “Extraa Innings” before and listening to Mandira Bedi's unprofessional and unflattering commentary about Bangladesh, like I had.

It is unfortunate that many Indians have still not been able to accept that Bangladesh was the better team this year and instead, find comfort in insulting Bangladesh in general. It is even more offensive because most of us support India, and this poisonous backlash is the last thing we expected. Truthfully, though, the only people they really managed to insult were themselves and their own country by displaying such bad sportsmanship. The Bangladeshi-hating Indians are an embarrassment to themselves, their team, the name of good cricket and also their fellow Indians who showed their solidarity to South Asia by supporting the remaining South Asian teams in the Super Eights, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh.

In reality it is partially our fault. Look at the way we idolise India. Most of us are obsessed with India in some way or another, be it cricket, movies, T.V. serials, clothes or music (and sometimes all of the above). We spend more time trying to replicate India rather than form our own sense of identity. We compare every good thing that is done in our country to India, rather than create our own standards. And even when Bangladesh was playing against India in that first game (come on guys, admit it), we were all secretly expecting India to win. The fact that they didn't was an eye opener not only for us, but for the entire world. Thanks to our boys proudly sporting green and red, Bangladesh will hopefully no longer look to India for acceptance and approval. They are a force to be reckoned with, only to get stronger throughout the years. India will have to face that sooner or later.

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