May 14, 2007

Sidharth Monga on India in Bangladesh, 2007

Chittagong - charmingly capricious

Sidharth Monga
Tamim Iqbal drives on the off side, Bangladesh vs South Africa, Super Eights, Guyana, April 7, 2007
 © AFP
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'Chitang', as pronounced by Bangladeshis, is the land of Aftab Ahmed and Tamim Iqbal. There is something about the air of Chittagong, something that makes people aggressive at sport and laid-back in general. Being a coastal city probably explains the usual carefree attitude. Dhaka is slow because it is busy; Chittagong is slow because it won't have it any other way. The weather is as unpredictable as the batsmen; the scorching heat last evening turned into heavy rain in the middle of the night. It rained so heavily as to delay the practice this morning. The weather promises to be the same over the upcoming ODI and first Test match.

Buying dollars seems to be a local pastime. One can find peddlers on the busy streets, whispering to anyone who as much as smells non-Bangladeshi, "Dollar, dollar, exchange." Shipwrecking is a big industry here – people dismantle the useless ships and sell their various parts.

Chittagong also houses a considerable number of foreigners. There are Indians, there are Pakistani businessmen who did not move after the partition. There are ''Hindu" restaurants too. Tamim's parents are originally from Bihar. The parents of Akram Khan, former captain and Tamim's uncle, were born in Uttar Pradesh.

The Chittagonians are proud people. The locals speak about how they resisted the strong Pakistani forces at the Chittagong Port in 1971. General Ziaur Rahman, the rebel commander, who would go on to become their President, led the mutiny against the Pakistani forces.

The new cricket stadium in Chittagong is named after a martyr, Shahid Ruhul Amin. It is situated about half an hour from the city center. The previous match held at this ground will be remembered for Jason Gillespie's unbeaten 201, the highest ever score made by a night watchman. The match also had its share of controversy when a few journalists were beaten up by the police. As one looks at the calm Bay of Bengal from the top tier of the stadium – the various storms well disguised, one will be lying if caution is not the word on the mind.

Sidharth Monga is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

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