Throes of volatility
FOR yours truly, perhaps the most symbolic moment in a World Cup at home soil came in the game against the West Indies. It was unfortunate, but a sparkling Friday afternoon was bastardised beyond repair by an inept performance from the Bangladesh side, which saw them capitulate to a nine-wicket loss, and more worryingly for the thousands, for a total score of just 58.
The details of that game are already fuzzy in my head, courtesy of a concerted effort to erase systematically my worst experiences, but the single image that is impressionably burned in my memory was what transpired at the fall of the last Bangladesh wicket.
The mock cheers from the thousands who stayed on were yet to come, as was the blatant expression of anger by using the inimitable Bangla chant of "bhua bhua".
But when lanky left-arm spinner Sulieman Benn castled Rubel Hossain to snap up the last Bangladeshi wicket, the crowd were still too shocked to do anything but react instinctively.
It had all happened too quickly, almost in less time than it takes for you to say 'daylight robbery' and the fans expressed their collective shock and disgust in the most instinctive of ways; hurling their 4 and 6 placards towards the playing field in unison.
The moment was truly amazing; a sudden outburst of confetti coming about in such perfect synchronisation that it created a flashbulb memory for those lucky enough to witness it. And best of all, it happened with a sense of timing that you could not teach in the best cricket schools, for this was harmony born out of the most collective of frustrations.
Sitting in the stands I could feel it too, and at the risk of sounding like a soothsayer, it was quite evident that this collective frustration that was emanating in droves from the faithful would take very little to spark into something far more dangerous.
And that was exactly what happened.
The West Indies team bus was stoned, Chris Gayle was upset and gave us the 'kiss-teeth' of disapproval and a World Cup, where Bangladeshi fans were continually being referred to as the best in the sub-continent, suddenly looked like going kaput. The scenes were disheartening; many fans vested their frustrations almost as expressively as they had celebrated what was supposed to be a routine win against Ireland a week earlier. The public took to the streets as the cricket world looked on concernedly. Even the Bangladesh bus was supposedly stoned as controversy and ill-feeling reigned supreme. Thankfully though, the situation was salvaged later, thanks to a wonderful show of solidarity and condolence from a set of level-headed fans who visited the West Indies team with flowers and sent a bouquet to Shakib Al Hasan as well. But on that Friday afternoon you could tell that a storm was coming.
Most times, the average fan in Bangladesh is really an exceptional individual. In all probability, he has very little going for him; a tough job, if a job at all, shoddy living conditions, low pay, rising prices of essentials, suppressive family pressures and no place to release such pent-up frustrations.
In such a scenario, the decked chairs of the Sher-e-Bangla National Stadium, which in primary markets sold for less than BDT 250 a pop, proved an able conduit. This would give fans the opportunity to channel their latent frustration in the most constructive of ways; cheering on their national team to glory.
For this reason alone, many stood in line for upwards of 48 hours to land a precious voucher. Then they stood in line again to use that voucher to get an even more precious ticket. And then they stood in line again, to get a chance to get into the stadium. During the opening ceremony, some unlucky ones failed to get in even after going through the ordeal of the first two scenarios. During matches, some were stuck in lines so long that they missed their favourite players bat. Some fans bought cheap memorabilia off the streets only to find those and many other personal belongings snatched by security at the door.
* For the full version of this article please read this month's Forum, available free with The Daily Star on April 4.
Quazi Zulquarnain Islam is a sports journalist.