Not used to such a warm reception, the Bangladesh women's cricket team members were looking around anxiously as the bus carrying the ACC Women's Asia Cup 2018 champions reached the Pan Pacific Sonargaon Hotel in Dhaka yesterday.
The media and top Bangladesh Cricket Board (BCB) officials rushed towards the bus as skipper Salma Khatun, holding the trophy in her hands and still seemingly clueless about how to process this adulation, disembarked from the bus.
It was like a walk through a guard of honour as people lined up on either side of the passage leading to the ballroom area started to clap as the members entered the room. BCB president Nazmul Hassan went towards the cricketers to congratulate them on the achievement.
It was not just alien to the women cricketers; no Bangladesh cricket team had ever returned with a championship trophy since that 1997 ICC Trophy triumph. For all their popularity, the likes of Shakib Al Hasan, Mushfiqur Rahim and Mahmudullah Riyad – who along with other national male cricketers -- have not seen a reception like this.
“Obviously, we are very happy as we have beaten a big team in the final [India, by three wickets on Sunday] and we knew that everyone back home in Bangladesh are waiting for us and we were eager to reach as soon as possible. Since getting out of the plane we received gifts everywhere and it feels good. After seeing our brothers of the national team here, it feels really good,” a jubilant Salma said at the reception.
She added that they always had the belief that they were capable of doing something extraordinary in the tournament.
“We enjoyed a lot after the victory in the dressing room where we danced and sang songs. I can't explain the happiness. It also felt great to see Tamim [Iqbal] bhai uploading a video of their celebration during our winning moment. We felt that we have managed to do what our brothers couldn't,” she added.
Jahanara Alam, who scored the two required runs off the last ball, provided a glimpse into the high-tension scenario in the final.
“I can remember in 2014 during the Asian Games in Incheon where I saw wickets falling in clusters from the other end when we required 42 off 43 balls. I remember that day and felt that I have to do it today [Sunday]. Then the 12th man came and said 'just try to hit the ball with the bat' and I literally scolded her and sent her back saying I know what to do as I told Salma apu that you just run,” said Jahanara.
The Bangladesh women's cricket team, long starved of success and recognition, were the toast of the town last evening in Dhaka's Pan Pacific Sonargaon hotel for their seminal success in winning the Women's T20 Asia Cup.
Bangladesh Cricket Board (BCB) president Nazmul Hassan announced that each member of the team will be awarded Tk 10 lakh. There will also be performance-based bonuses on top of the Tk 10 lakh award to the performers who made the triumph possible. The overall financial reward package is around the Tk 2 crore mark, according to the BCB president.
Hassan also informed that BCB's working committee had been instructed to finalise an improved salary package for the Tigresses within two days.