World T20 Bangladesh 2014 kicked off with a bang, yesterday! It was a match highly anticipated by the millions of cricket crazy fans in Bangladesh. I can assure you, 16th March 2014 was marked in red in every Bangladeshi cricket fanatic’s mind! Even as I type this on my laptop all that I can hear is “char chhokka hoi hoi ball goraya gelo koi” ringing in my years. Matches at Sher E Bangla National Stadium often tend to have such an effect on you, but this was a little extra special.
We tasted similar sort of glory when Bangladesh co-hosted the ICC World Cup in 2011. But this is just a tad bit more exciting, a little more close to our hearts. The honour of hosting the entire World T20 has been given to us and this nation honestly could not ask for more. Seeing as how cricket is one of the only forts in which we have managed to establish ourselves on a world class level, it might be difficult for some to understand the exuberance and passion the fans portray for cricket. Let me tell you that, that feeling of being a Bangladeshi cricket fan is one of the best feelings in the world.
With rational expectations and a lot of positive energy I turned up at the Sher E Bangla National Stadium along with a thousand others to witness the start of the biggest event of the year. I must admit that with our recent loss to Afghanistan in the Asia Cup still fresh in our minds, our hopes were guarded.
To start off, singing my country’s national anthem along with the rest of the audience felt great. And then the action began! Mashrafe Mortaza – Bangladesh’s spearhead ran into bowl the first delivery of the tournament with the entire crowd’s synchronized clapping. Mohammad Shahzad skied a wide ball to mid-off where Mahmudullah Riyad completed the catch. The crowd were on their feet. Red and green flags flew high and loud music blasted from the speakers. The Tigers were off to a dream beginning.
From then onwards, with a sigh of relief I seemed to be able to enjoy the match comfortably. The Afghani batsmen managed to score a few boundaries before Shakib Al Hasan – arguably Bangladesh’s most loved cricketer – came into the attack. His over started off on a low, with Shabbir Rahman dropping a simple catch and the ball crossing the boundary. My heart skipped a beat as dropped catches are never a good sign for Bangladesh. However Shabbir seemed determined to make amends as he took an even better catch in the very next ball to send back Gulbadin Naib. The crowd rejoiced and the cheering reached a high as Nasir’s catch to dismiss the remaining opener saw Shakib on a hat-trick. Things were going Bangladesh’s way and there was not a single person in the stands who was not cheering, clapping and laughing all at the same time.
Courtesy some terrific fielding (two direct hits by Shabbir Rahman and Farhad Reza) and good bowling Afghanistan was bundled out for a mere total of 72 runs. Taking no credit away from the 11 Bangladeshis on the field, it must be added that Afghans were to be blamed for throwing some of their wickets away. The arrogance they showed in the second innings did not help their situation either. It made visible their obvious frustration and displayed unprofessional attitude unacceptable in such a tournament.
In the mid innings break there was a bit of entertainment for some lucky fans on the field as they got the opportunity to engage in a little friendly cricket competition. Some of the excited fans were also interviewed, as were those sitting in the “Pepsi Box”.
At a venue where most games see a good crowd turnout, it was no surprise that the stands were jam packed for the first World T20 match. People had come with their faces painted in red and green, some in yellow and black following the trend set by Tiger fan Shoaib. Bright, happy colours of red, orange, green, yellow and blue were seen on the fans. The colours looked especially beautiful when the all famous Mexican wave went around the stadium. The stadium’s new look was also very impressive as it was representive of Bangladesh’s culture. Local designs of “alpona” covered the orange, red and green poster boards around the stands, as did the players’ dugout covers.
Bangladesh having to chase a low score did not reduce the excitement for the second innings. If anything, people were happier and there was a great vibe all around. I was specially looking forward to watching Tamim Iqbal back in action!
It was pure joy to see the Bangladeshi top order get themselves easily across the line. The openers with their shots all around the ground gave the fans who had come with high hopes and expectations reasons to cheer and dance about. Anamul Haque Bijoy finished the game in style by playing the shot of the day: a six hit over long on. He had another treat awaiting his fans as he came off the field. Just before entering the dressing room, he put his helmet down and danced to the “char chhokka hoi hoi” step towards the crowd as the song was being played making his fans ecstatic! I for one have begun to love his jolly nature as a cricketer.
Overall the match was an amazing experience. Nearly everything we wanted as Bangladesh fans to happen, did happen. My only teeny tiny complain would be not seeing Mr Baby face Pocket Dynamo Mominul Haque in the playing eleven. Other than that the Tigers made us very happy with their first show in the World Twenty Twenty. The entire nation is now hoping to see them bring us two more victories and get themselves qualified for Round 2. All the very best of luck to the Tigers!
Madiha Athar Khan
From the Fans Conrner