Having preferred the couch at home to the stadium seats for a large part of a decade as a cricket fan, I was first introduced to a live experience by a group of friends who had gotten me a ticket for an international fixture between Bangladesh and touring Zimbabwe back in 2008. With some of my favourite international players taking their bow from cricket, my curiosity for the modern game was yet to be reinstated and my interest was perhaps waning, developing a mildly condescending amusement towards how cricket at large was changing.
Living in Mirpur had its perks, however, as the local aura would change significantly whenever cricket was home. Any achievement by the national cricket team was rejoiced with gusto in the vicinity of the stadium and even in those slightly less exhilarating times of international cricket which nonetheless were galvanizing years of the country's cricket culture, a win for the Tigers -- no matter in what part of the world -- would explode into thumping fists and loud roars at Mirpur and be reverberated around the rest of Bangladesh.
I got a taste of the growing culture too that day at Mirpur's Sher-e-Bangla National Cricket Stadium during my first-ever foray into a cricket stadium. It was a largely transformative phase for the national team but us fans were fully expecting a Bangladesh victory in the first ODI of a three-match series against a Zimbabwe side that were looking back at their past years with a sense of longing and trying to get a foothold.
We arrived at the stadium draped in red and green colours of Bangladesh and from the onset I could tell that a Bangladesh match had its own unique environment. I was mesmerised by the look of the lush green outfield of the ground as the players warmed up; the excitement coursed through me as well while enjoying some tea and snacks awaiting the start of the match.
Unlike the witty and cerebral conversations with a parent or a friend while watching a match at home, the environment at the ground was blazed with a party atmosphere with cause for both hope and frustration. That was certainly evident to me as things unfolded.
Having won the toss, Bangladesh had elected to bat first but excitement soon turned to despair and loud cheers replaced by boos as the Tigers stuttered to an early slump. In the stands we looked at the coming of each Bangladesh batsman, filled with new cause for optimism. But local heroes Tamim Iqbal, Mohammad Ashraful, Shakib Al Hasan, Mushfiqur Rahim and Mahmudullah Riyad failed to fire with the bat as the Tigers were bowled out for a meagre 124.
Having always admired the faster bowlers for the excitement they introduced, it was a sight to behold Mashrafe Bin Mortaza in action. The journeyman was cause for excitement and the only action and enduring memory from that game was his run-up to the crease. I have simply forgotten in what way the Bangladesh batting was dismantled even as I looked up the scorecard while sitting to write this piece.
The Tigers had made a contest of it after we had fully expected Zimbabwe to run away with the match that would lead us to exiting the stadium way before the expected duration. Mashrafe had given early breakthroughs and as the scorecard now tells me, both he and Shakib bagged three wickets each.
While re-visiting the memory, I certainly remember the re-ignition of hope after a poor batting performance and also the relief at the chance to cheer to our hearts content, enjoying the fact that the game was not just going to end fast, bringing an end to our adrenaline jump.
Alas that the Zimbabwe batting line-up produced a late game-saving performance as the Tigers lost by just two wickets. However, it was also one of those times that the team and the Big Five of Bangladesh cricket would show that they were not bowing down easy in the face of a rout. The Tigers would turn things around in the remaining two ODIs but my disappointment that Bangladesh lost the first-ever match that I attended, will remain with me.