Stumps drawn at the Bangabandhu
Fifty years of Test cricket at the Bangabandhu National Stadium in Dhaka came to an end yesterday, as the ground was formally handed over for exclusive use by Bangladesh's national footballers.
On an emotional day for the nations' cricket fans, the football federation made their mark on the stadium by digging up the wicket, while outside the ground, several supporters staged a token hunger strike, in protest at the government's decision to shift the sport's headquarters to the purpose-built Sher-e-Bangla stadium in nearby Mirpur.
According to some reports, the former national captain, Khaled Mahmud, was among those to join the protest, although he later denied this, telling The Daily Star that he had simply turned up for a final practice session. Mahmud, 33, made his international debut at the ground in 1997-98, a venue which has hosted 17 Tests and 58 matches since January 1955, at which point the country was still a part of Pakistan.
Though Mahmud claimed not to have been caught up in the emotion of the moment, another former Bangladesh captain, Raquibul Hasan, was sad to see the end of half a century of tradition. "As a cricketer it was painful to see the pitches at the Bangabandhu National Stadium being dug up in front of my own eyes," said Raquibul, who took on a touring Commonwealth XI at the ground in March 1971, to become the only Bengali to have played for Pakistan.
The lack of ceremony surrounding the digging-up of the pitch was upsetting for some, although the Bangladesh Football Federation claimed that it had been done at the request of the cricket board. "We wanted to take some more time but [they] had asked for the soil of the pitches so that it could be used at Mirpur," said the deputy secretary, Monjur Hossain Malu. "That's why we are uprooting it to avoid further damage."