May 20, 2007

Sidharth Monga on India in Bangladesh, 2007

All siesta and no play

Sidharth Monga
Shahadat Hossain shows his musical talents, Trinidad, March 20, 2007
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More than half the tour is over, and we are yet to have a full day's play. In fact, only once have we started on time. It's frustrating for everyone: the fans of course; the groundsmen who have waited for 14 months and prepared tirelessly to stage a Test match; the journalists, too, who struggle to find something to write about; the umpires who everyone keeps calling on for updates; the TV commentators whose job is to keep the viewers hooked, sounding falsely optimistic in their updates; the text commentators who do not have the luxury of archival footage to fill in the void.

It's equally frustrating for the players once they leave the hotel and have to wait for 2-3 hours in the dressing room. How do they pass time; how do those restless souls stay at peace with themselves and the weather? Not everyone, after all, is a Chris Read to go on Sky TV and tell people, "What's in my bag" [Read used to do this feature with Sky during rain intervals]. Not everyone is a Makhaya Ntini either, who can come out and start doing bhangra at Chepauk [his sense of geography gone awfully wrong there] or play with the resident dog there.

The Bangladesh side here are a jolly lot who may only have a problem if the wait is longer than two hours. A two-hour break is just another opportunity for their bowlers to be looked after by the physiotherapist and their batsmen to, yes, sleep. Mashrafe Mortaza, an allrounder in his own right, takes the role of a batsman there. He can fall off to sleep anywhere, anytime, in any posture. With his snoring, Mortaza provides other players with some much-needed fun.

Javed Omar is another heavy sleeper. "I just sit down and go to sleep," Omar says. Habibul Bashar, the captain, can't put himself to sleep in the afternoon, breaking the proud Bengali tradition. "I try my best to wake the others up," he says, "I trouble Mortaza for his snoring; I take their pictures to remind them who is the laziest. Basically, we are after everybody's case."

Mohammad Rafique, the senior statesman, enjoys the fun and frolic of the youngsters. "Rajib is a good singer," says Rafique, "I enjoy his singing." Wait a minute, Rajib? "The fast bowler." Who Rajib? Rafique takes about 30 seconds to dig up the good name of the "fast bowler". "Shahadat Hossain."

What did they do yesterday and today? "Similar stuff and, of course, sleep," was the unanimous reply. Not for nothing did Huen Tsang describe Chittagong as "sleeping beauty emerging from mists and water".

Sidharth Monga is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

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