The miracle of Mirpur, a spanking new stadium May 7, 2007

The new home of Bangladesh cricket

Sidharth Monga in Mirpur

The Sher-e-Bangla National Stadium is ready for some action © AFP

The Sher-e-Bangla National Stadium in Mirpur is the new, proud home of Bangladesh cricket. All the international fixtures and the National Cricket Academy have been moved to Mirpur, a suburb of Dhaka. The first impressions are bound to disappoint but look around and prepare to be impressed.

The Indian team had decided not to practice today; their flight from Kolkata had been delayed and they were also suffering from the after-effects of eastern India's muggy heat. Yet the Shere-e-Bangla Stadium, cooled down by generous showers, is a hive of activity. The scene resembles a rural fairground; from garments to sugarcane juice, from chaat to meat, everything is sold out there.

The ground also is, perhaps, the biggest furniture market in Dhaka. The triangular space underneath the stands has been used to the maximum, rented out as shop space - and every shop sells furniture. The shops are shut only when there's an international match. According to the shopkeepers, they haven't had to shut down when the Bangladeshi team have practised. But going by the bamboo-pole barricades being erected outside the ground and the security arrangements at the airport, they might have to alter plans when the Indian team arrive here tomorrow.

There is nothing about the exterior of the stadium that suggests it circumferences the home of Bangladesh cricket. Yet as one walks further, the indifference and circumspection lift, to be replaced by a realisation that this is indeed the spiritual home of Bangladesh cricket.

There is a small grassless ground next to the stadium compound, and there are about 20 different games of cricket going on. It's gully cricket at its rawest. There are no stumps around, no pads, no protective equipment in sight. There are people in lungis; there are people in salwar-kameez. About five shots are being played simultaneously; people are getting hit by balls that are part of some other match. The tape ball has been thrown in too; only, it's called tape-tennis here. It's the rawness, the unorganized nature of their games that suggests that cricket is really popular around.

This, by the way, is a working day. All this is consistent with the general buzz in Bangladesh - cricket is alive and kicking and the matches against India keenly awaited.

After spending about an hour around the stadium, I try to make my way in. Surprisingly, the policeman makes way without checking any accreditation or identity card - all I have to do is tell him I am from India. I find that the work on the new media centre is on. I make way through the plush office complex to step on to the ground. And standing on the dry grass - it rained significantly, so the claims about the superb drainage must be true - it appears that, irrespective of whether the media centre is ready by the 10 th or not, the home of Bangla cricket, in spirit, is ready.

Sidharth Monga is a staff writer with Cricinfo Magazine