World Cup 2011 February 18, 2011

The sizzle of anticipation

The roads in Dhaka are full of excited people and the honking of traffic

I arrived in Dhaka on Thursday evening, to scenes of understandably wild jubilation. People thronged the streets, horns were honked at my taxi as it weaved through the traffic, the route from the airport was festooned with flashing lights, joyous rickshaws laden with cheering cricket fans sped past. All for the humble author of a humble cricket blog. This place must really love cricket.

It has been suggested by other members of the ESPNcricinfo team that, given that my arrival coincided with the opening ceremony, some of the festivities might not have been exclusively in my honour. Some even went so far as to suggest that street-thronging and horn-honking are by no means unusual events in this buzzingly excited city. I will let others be the judge of that. Suffice it to say that, as I recall, there was not quite the same sizzle of anticipation when England hosted the 1999 tournament. There was barely even a fizzle of anticipation. There seems little chance of the World Cup slipping under the public radar this time.

Little could be read into the team captains’ opening ceremony rickshaw ride in terms of predicting how the tournament will progress. Strauss was giving little away about the likely make-up of the England XI for their opening game with the Dutch in Nagpur as he sat in his rickshaw, waving at the crowd, whilst Shahid Afridi seemed unperturbed by the recent turbulence in his nation’s cricket as he sat in his rickshaw, waving at the crowd. Mahendra Singh Dhoni sat in his rickshaw, waving at the crowd with quiet confidence, whilst Ricky Ponting sat in his rickshaw, waving at the crowd as if he had fully recovered from the devastating psychological sledgehammer blow of losing Nathan Hauritz to injury. It’s all very tactically cagey at this stage.

(I missed seeing the opening ceremony as I was in transit at the time, although it must have been disappointing for all those watching live and on TV that, due to a confusion in the booking process, Bryan Adams performed some of his classic rock hits. It was supposed to have been Jimmy Adams, delivering a Powerpoint lecture about how to nudge the ball to deep square-leg for a single.)

Today I will have my first experience of watching cricket outside England, as Strauss and Afridi lead their teams in a final warm-up in Fatullah. I imagine the atmosphere might not be quite as febrile as it will be in the Shere Bangla Stadium on Saturday, but I am almost childishly excited about it anyway.

Having overestimated my ability to write a tournament preview whilst on an aeroplane, my tournament preview will now appear late on Friday or early on Saturday, depending on where you are in the world. And when I finish it.

Andy Zaltzman is a stand-up comedian, a regular on the BBC Radio 4, and a writer

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