India January 23, 2010

Why I had to watch the Chittagong Test

You don't watch India-Bangladesh to find out who is going to win like you don't listen to Virender Sehwag if you're looking for a crash course in diplomacy

Careful son, you could crick your shoulder hoisting a bat that large © Associated Press

Be warned, fellow cricket lovers, there are some odd folk about. Some of them may even be living under the same roof as you. Earlier this week, having set my alarm for a refreshingly early hour of Sunday morning, I was met with a quizzical look from Mrs H. I explained that it was necessary to rise at such a time, lest I miss the toss in Chittagong.


“Chittagong. It’s in Bangladesh.”


I patiently outlined to her the nature of the feast of cricket that was about to ensue in that part of Asia, between the No. 1-ranked team in the world and another, slightly lower-ranked, but nonetheless equally determined XI. I cheerfully invited her to guess which was which. She declined the opportunity.

“Who’s going to win?” she asked, wearily.

“India,” I replied, “unless it rains.”

“So why are you going to bother watching it then, if you already know who’s going to win?” I had no answer to such a question. How can you even begin to cross the gulf of understanding implied by a comment of that nature? I wasn’t planning to spend four (or possibly five) mornings rising abruptly in the pitch dark, banging my knee on the bedside table and stumbling bleary-eyed down the stair, merely to find out who would win.

It was cricket. It was cricket and it was on television, and as such I felt that unless I let the Hughes eyes rest on the spectacle for at least an over or two, I’d let the side down, somewhat. Besides there’ll be plenty of time to sleep during the county season. Right now the schedule is packed tighter than Jacques Kallis’ lunch box and I intend to miss none of it, however many espressos it takes.

And having seen a lot of Bangladesh in the pyjama formats, I was keen to see what approach the Tigers brought to Test match cricket. Exactly the same approach, as it turned out. A procession of slightly built young men arrived at the crease and attempted to belt the cover off the ball. That is proper cricket, as Geoffrey Boycott probably wouldn’t say. Surely Mushfiqur Rahim’s life-affirming century with a bat that is a size too big for him is an early contender for innings of the year?

But the real star of the show was India’s stand-in captain. I hope that when he retires, someone takes the time to put together his best microphone performances and releases them on DVD. Virender’s Greatest Interviews. I would buy it. So would you.

He is the "before" character in the "Welcome to Diplomacy" introductory video shown to all new recruits to the Indian Foreign Office. Unfortunately, the brilliance of Sehwag’s interview technique is not always fully appreciated. Certain sections of the Chittagong crowd booed him on Thursday.

“You’re very popular here, aren’t you,” smirked Ravi Shastri.

“Yes I am,” replied Sehwag.

Put your irony away, Ravi, Virender is impervious. Before the game, the Mighty V had stated that he didn’t believe Bangladesh could take 20 Indian wickets. This did not go down well either. I suppose it shows how upside down the world is these days, that when a man gives a straight answer to a straight question, he is regarded either as a villain or an eccentric. Anyhow, as it turned out, in the first Test, Bangladesh took precisely 18 Indian wickets. One-nil to Mr Sehwag, I think.

Andrew Hughes is a writer currently based in England