World Cup 2011 February 19, 2011

A first experience of cricket in Asia

For a cocooned Englishman who has seen little of the world but has loved cricket since a chance boyhood encounter with it on his parents’ television, this was a deeply inspiring day.
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My first full day in Dhaka began with a fortuitously-timed rickshaw ride (my debut on the transport mode of choice for all right-thinking international cricket captains these days), which dropped me at the Shere Bangla National Stadium just as the Bangladesh squad was arriving in its team bus. I have never seen a bus earn such a rousing reception just for turning up somewhere, not even an unusually delayed N159 night bus from Trafalgar Square to Streatham. I just hope the Tigers’ team bus can cope with the levels of expectation on its journey to the stadium on the big day today. It would be an enormous shame if, when the pressure of a nation is on it, and with the powerful Indian bus looming in its wing-mirror, the Bangladesh bus takes a wrong turn and ends up taking the team to a cinema or furniture shop instead.

I imagine all cricket fans are hoping that Shakib Al Hasan and his team are inspired rather than intimidated by the frenzy of hopeful excitement in their nation. Personally, I usually wilt under the pressure if my wife is watching me boil an egg, so I cannot imagine what it must be like for a young, emerging team to shoulder the aspirations of their country. Even the scoreboard looked excited on Friday morning.

If Bangladesh perform well against India, even in defeat, I think they will have a strong tournament. India should be too strong.

From the Shere Bangla, I took an autorickshaw south through Dhaka to Fatullah, a journey in which the driver displayed an almost supernatural eye for a gap, the nimble fleet-wheeledness of a young Margot Fonteyn (had she been the motor vehicle she always dreamed of being, rather than a woman), and an ability to conduct a heated discussion with a fellow autorickshaw pilot which lasting, in distance terms, at least two miles. I have no idea exactly what they were discussing ‒ perhaps it was whether Shakib should bat or field on winning the toss, or whether Bangladesh’s spinners will be able to restrain India’s ominously thwack-heavy middle-order; in tone it sounded as if they may well have been exchanging heartfelt and detailed criticisms of each other’s driving techniques.

An eye-opening hour later, through the colourful commotion of Dhaka, I arrived in Fatullah 90 minutes before the start of play in the England v Pakistan warm-up. A decent-sized crowd was already in the stadium. That crowd continued to grow throughout the afternoon, until by the later stages of the England innings, the ground was packed, increasingly noisy and rippling with a vibrant and vocal enthusiasm, which swelled to a cacophonous crescendo of foot-stomping, hand-clapping excitement as Pakistan briefly looked like making a close game of it in the latter stages of their reply.

It was all eerily and potently reminiscent of the fourth afternoon of a county championship match. The only discernible difference was that the average age of the crowd was between 50 and 75 years younger, and the Mexican wave was, consequently, much faster – I timed one circuit of the ground at 12.5 seconds, which by my rough estimation equates to approximately 96mph. (The last recorded attempted county championship Mexican wave at Tunbridge Wells, during a lull in a Mark Benson-Neil Taylor opening partnership in the late 1980s, resulted in five dislocated hips and an irretrievably snapped deckchair.)

I spent a couple of hours sitting in the Fatullah stands amongst some local cricket fans, whose pride in this event is palpable and uplifting, an outburst of that increasingly rare commodity, pure sporting emotion. I spoke to one supporter, Ashuk, an engaging and thoughtful young graduate from Dhaka, about his team and his country – I will include the interview in my first World Cup Cricket Podcast on Sunday ‒ and he said that the World Cup was Bangladesh’s chance to display itself to the world, “to show that we can do anything”. He added: “I am proud of my Bangladesh, of my country, of my team.”

His sentiments seem to be widespread, and the Bangladeshis’ hopes for, and faith in, their team have been given full rein, mercifully free from the overweening, myopic official control that scarred and squandered the 2007 tournament in the West Indies.

Whilst the game may be struggling and compromised for various reasons in some of the older cricketing nations, Bangladesh now seems to represent cricket’s hopeful future, as far from Allen Stanford’s bogus helicopter, fondling hands and hate-hate relationship with the US justice system as it is possible to be. A strong showing against India, and a quarter-final or better, could accelerate that future, and ensure this tournament leaves an enduring legacy, in the way that its predecessor four years ago chose not to.

For a cocooned Englishman who has seen little of the world but has loved cricket since a chance boyhood encounter with it on his parents’ television, this was a deeply inspiring day. Saturday could inspire a nation, and a sport. So inspiring, in fact, that he still has not written his tournament preview. So here it is, in brief:

India should win but might not, Sri Lanka could win and may well do so, Australia, South Africa and England could win but probably won’t, Pakistan won’t win but could have done, New Zealand won’t win unless they stick Richard Hadlee in a time machine as soon as possible, West Indies won’t win and will wish this tournament was taking place in 1979, Bangladesh won’t win but will make the quarter-finals, and will wish it was all taking place in 2019. The rest won’t win and won’t mind not winning.

EXTRAS

● ICC chief Haroon Lorgat was asked at his press conference this morning what plans the ICC had in the event of the Mumbai final bringing India and Pakistan together. Mr Lorgat did not entirely answer the question ‒ he gave the impression that the ICC did have a plan for crossing that bridge when and if they are forced to come to it, but that they are hoping and praying to all available gods that the bridge is dismantled and incinerated before they reach it.

● England were excellent in all departments in their comprehensive win over Pakistan. Stuart Broad was in magnificent form, perhaps presaging an era in which the next piece of modern cricketing technology developed will be the Injuring Machine, into which teams will shove their key players a couple of months before a major series or tournament, the machine will twist and bash them about until they have received a non-major but rest-requiring physical mishap, ensuring that the player is fully revitalised by Crunch O’Clock.

You can follow my Twitter feed, with live updates from the grounds where possible, as well as general musings, stats and wild fabrications, at @ZaltzCricket.

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

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Shahed on February 21, 2011, 11:17 GMT

    Dear Andy, I'm a huge fan of urs from Dhaka city. The way u described the autorickshaws of the city was just amazing. Probably it is the first english-written piece on the autorickshaws of Dhaka. Great one, keep it up. :)

  • faiz on February 20, 2011, 2:40 GMT

    dear andy, i never miss your article, i guess you are enjoying bangladesh a lot, just as we enjoy your writing. we will beat the english side, please do not mind.....without that we will show the maximum hospitality, and i am inviting you personally if you have time, thanks once again for your great wit, humor and fantastic creations.

  • drsankalp on February 19, 2011, 21:39 GMT

    I think this post lacks logic,cricketing sense,even common sense. I dont know why cricinfo dont get better quality in there content.

  • Ben Hurley on February 19, 2011, 20:00 GMT

    Lovely sir, just lovely. Beautiful and very funny writing but no surprises there.

    I'm picking New Zealand to have the most fairytale World cup. After 9 straight defeats in the subcontinent leading into the tournament they brush of their propensity to lose everything and start winning...er....everything.

    I'm already writing the screenplay. You will agree, it would be one hell of a story!

  • Asif on February 19, 2011, 19:01 GMT

    Like the preview most, precise and to the point, wonderful. Backing Pakistan, I hope they do something magical, but of course you need a great like Imran Khan to do that. Interestingly one thing Imran and Afridi has in common and that is they both are 'Phathans', hope this commonality turns into the same result of 1992.

  • Rocket Hat on February 19, 2011, 18:50 GMT

    They won't gain much by putting Richard Hadlee in a time machine now, unless the 2019 new zealand team happen to need a 60-ish former fast bowler.

    Maybe their best hope is they had the good sense to stick him in a time machine in 1985.

    Alternatively they could start working on 10 clones of Dan Vettori.

  • Amol on February 19, 2011, 18:44 GMT

    It has become a cliche well past its use to say that 'SA can't play spin'. All these guys have to do is to check the necessary batting records of the top order of SA: Graeme Smith, Hashim Amla, Jacques Kallis and AB De Villiers against IND, PAK and SRL. With the exception of playing **IN** SRL, these four have actually EXCELLED at other times.

  • pat on February 19, 2011, 18:04 GMT

    The preview of winner was the best yet I've read. Awesome!

  • John Ellison on February 19, 2011, 17:42 GMT

    I can't wait to see India up against a decent side. Oh the sighs of a billion people when they're out of the WC.

  • Girish on February 19, 2011, 17:36 GMT

    Let me tell you one thing - today the SHERE BANGLADESHIS showed a BRAVE and MAGNIFICENT performance and spirit even while they lost the match.

    Remember they just lost A match, not the HOPE OF THE CUP yet.

    They have the right combination of tallent and spirit to go for it and they may.

    Salute to you Bangladeshi team - good work - keep it up - don't loose hope. GIVE A FIGHT TILL THE END - just the way you did it today.

  • Shahed on February 21, 2011, 11:17 GMT

    Dear Andy, I'm a huge fan of urs from Dhaka city. The way u described the autorickshaws of the city was just amazing. Probably it is the first english-written piece on the autorickshaws of Dhaka. Great one, keep it up. :)

  • faiz on February 20, 2011, 2:40 GMT

    dear andy, i never miss your article, i guess you are enjoying bangladesh a lot, just as we enjoy your writing. we will beat the english side, please do not mind.....without that we will show the maximum hospitality, and i am inviting you personally if you have time, thanks once again for your great wit, humor and fantastic creations.

  • drsankalp on February 19, 2011, 21:39 GMT

    I think this post lacks logic,cricketing sense,even common sense. I dont know why cricinfo dont get better quality in there content.

  • Ben Hurley on February 19, 2011, 20:00 GMT

    Lovely sir, just lovely. Beautiful and very funny writing but no surprises there.

    I'm picking New Zealand to have the most fairytale World cup. After 9 straight defeats in the subcontinent leading into the tournament they brush of their propensity to lose everything and start winning...er....everything.

    I'm already writing the screenplay. You will agree, it would be one hell of a story!

  • Asif on February 19, 2011, 19:01 GMT

    Like the preview most, precise and to the point, wonderful. Backing Pakistan, I hope they do something magical, but of course you need a great like Imran Khan to do that. Interestingly one thing Imran and Afridi has in common and that is they both are 'Phathans', hope this commonality turns into the same result of 1992.

  • Rocket Hat on February 19, 2011, 18:50 GMT

    They won't gain much by putting Richard Hadlee in a time machine now, unless the 2019 new zealand team happen to need a 60-ish former fast bowler.

    Maybe their best hope is they had the good sense to stick him in a time machine in 1985.

    Alternatively they could start working on 10 clones of Dan Vettori.

  • Amol on February 19, 2011, 18:44 GMT

    It has become a cliche well past its use to say that 'SA can't play spin'. All these guys have to do is to check the necessary batting records of the top order of SA: Graeme Smith, Hashim Amla, Jacques Kallis and AB De Villiers against IND, PAK and SRL. With the exception of playing **IN** SRL, these four have actually EXCELLED at other times.

  • pat on February 19, 2011, 18:04 GMT

    The preview of winner was the best yet I've read. Awesome!

  • John Ellison on February 19, 2011, 17:42 GMT

    I can't wait to see India up against a decent side. Oh the sighs of a billion people when they're out of the WC.

  • Girish on February 19, 2011, 17:36 GMT

    Let me tell you one thing - today the SHERE BANGLADESHIS showed a BRAVE and MAGNIFICENT performance and spirit even while they lost the match.

    Remember they just lost A match, not the HOPE OF THE CUP yet.

    They have the right combination of tallent and spirit to go for it and they may.

    Salute to you Bangladeshi team - good work - keep it up - don't loose hope. GIVE A FIGHT TILL THE END - just the way you did it today.

  • Faheem on February 19, 2011, 17:00 GMT

    Your podcast is back..woohoo.. been waiting for a long long time, andy. Enjoy your trip to the subcontinent. Don't eat anything that's too red and shiny.

  • Kapila Kahapola, SriLankan in UAE on February 19, 2011, 16:54 GMT

    Hey Andy, Hats off Mate !!! Keep Writing & I want U in SL Soon !!! Appalled, Yeah, it is Not Funny When Someone Says India would Want to Win but Might Not !!!

  • Osama on February 19, 2011, 16:47 GMT

    The only reason why Pakistan didn't win the warm-up against England was because arguably three of their best players were sitting out: Umar Gul, Shahid Afridi and Abdul Razzaq. If they had been playing, it would have been much closer against a full strength England team.

  • Elango on February 19, 2011, 16:45 GMT

    Hi Andy, Nice to have you here in the land of the British Raj. Enjoy the hot and spicy cuisine, but pls do watch out for prawns - they are the villains who lay the Englishmen low while touring the sub continent. You'll be better off boiling eggs. And if you're in Chennai anytime, do drop a line. Let's catch up - I'm sure you'd want to meet the only other human whose cricketing career was as mercurial as yours. Cheers.

  • chris on February 19, 2011, 15:36 GMT

    When today's greatest writer says "enthusiasm which swelled to a cacophonous crescendo" I fear he regards a crescendo as a zenith, not a rise. The only place where 'rise to a crescendo' makes sense is in the roads where I live, where each one is steeper than the one before. Still, I'm looking forward to future articles.

  • waterbuffalo on February 19, 2011, 12:33 GMT

    I wonder how they feel now, after India racked up 370-4. The thing is, India were put in to bat, for reasons unknown except to the Bangladesh think tank. The middle order did not even have to pad up.

  • James on February 19, 2011, 10:32 GMT

    Loving it Andy. Can't wait to follow you for the rest of tournament, even if that may be for another year or two.

  • Appalled on February 19, 2011, 10:01 GMT

    Someone has to tell this poor fellow that he is not funny.

  • palash verma on February 19, 2011, 9:38 GMT

    hats off to you,andy!!!!!!!!!!!!! you are truly the best at cricinfo.this is agift,really;the way you manage to seamlessly blend satire with reasonably good reporting. carry on the good work.hope you have a happy tour of the subcontinent.

  • Immanuel on February 19, 2011, 9:16 GMT

    Good one Andy!!

  • lawreeuk on February 19, 2011, 7:52 GMT

    Another wonderfully funny piece from Andy.I will be anticipating his column during the WC more than the matches this time....

  • Sohel ahmed on February 19, 2011, 7:50 GMT

    Welcome to bangladesh,andy.Please try to cope with the traffic jams thinking that,unlike us, you're here for a couple of days only.I'm sure you have already felt the enthusiasm and true love this country has for the game.I wanna give you a little example;my two sons,ifraim and irham,aged 10 and 5,are sitting in front of the tv right from the morning and if you ask them,they will tell you the names of the bangladesh squad including the extra players.Enjoy your stay.

  • SunShine on February 19, 2011, 7:44 GMT

    Nice article Zaltzman, wonderful writing. The last para before Extras - nobody could have described the Worldcup-11 (And I 'forcefully' resisted writing WC-11.. chheeee), exciting, spirited and full of uncertainties..

  • Utshab oxide on February 19, 2011, 7:24 GMT

    Bangladesh rokzz

  • zaman on February 19, 2011, 7:18 GMT

    Hi Andy ! Hats off to you for the article. Hoping to see more exciting articles tomorrow and onwards. Thanks.

  • Anwar Khan on February 19, 2011, 7:17 GMT

    The heart says Bangladesh, the mind says India. Always, follow your heart I say...

  • Adnan on February 19, 2011, 6:54 GMT

    Dear Andy, I like your satirical writing and always enjoy what you offer to us through your writing. Keep entertaining us as we all love you as much as we love cricket.

    From a humble fan of yours from Karachi, Pakistan.

  • Arpit Asthana on February 19, 2011, 6:50 GMT

    Winning and losing is not 'that' important.

    I hope this World Cup helps people irrespective of countries getting more closer. All the best to every team. May the best team wins.

  • hari on February 19, 2011, 6:40 GMT

    Zaltzy, play down the reporter part .. We only want your imaginative humour ... but the Mexican wave bit ewas good .. you could add to the fact that it was banned in Australia because people tend to pour their beer over the guy sitting in front while standing up ....

  • Anonymous on February 19, 2011, 6:27 GMT

    Great Tournament review. So you favour SL, and mine is SA. Injuring machine,

    Bangladesh now seems to represent cricket’s hopeful future,... That is some serious cricket writting man.

  • saad on February 19, 2011, 6:16 GMT

    Well done Bangladesh for such a wonderful opening ceremony, hope u will do the same today in your opening game, all the best

  • Anoop on February 19, 2011, 6:15 GMT

    Ha ha. Hilarious as always. The Mexican Wave comparison had me in splits. Btw here's a tip. Prefer readymade food whenever ur wife prefers watching to cooking :D

  • Ahmad. on February 19, 2011, 5:29 GMT

    Yeayyy....1st comment :D. and lol yeah...intersting article. I will be honest i didnt know about you (Zaltzman) before. saw the link on Cricinfo main page and wondered what could it be. Now i will be looking forward to your articles all through the WC. I like to laugh :). Interesting short review by the way. yeah it does seem to be a Sri lanka - India final. Until unless Aus, SA and England find some way to tackle the spin.

  • Dev on February 19, 2011, 5:22 GMT

    Nice article...

  • Vishal on February 19, 2011, 5:11 GMT

    The map in background is taken from Red Dead Redemption... ruined a rather good article by setting up my expectations before the text was even loaded. I feel like Tamim Iqbal during IPL auction.

  • Anand on February 19, 2011, 5:00 GMT

    The excitement among Bangladeshis is quite palpable. And frankly, reading the comments from Bangladeshis here on Cricinfo and watching them during the opening ceremony are the only things that is making me realize that the big tournament is here.

    India has been playing so many matches of late that this tournament otherwise looks like yet another one on the calendar..

  • Tim on February 19, 2011, 4:53 GMT

    Bless you Andy. Great piece. Wonder if Dale Hadlee might hop in time machine with brother Rick.

  • Sarfaraz Mulla on February 19, 2011, 4:18 GMT

    Andy, welcome to the subcontinet. I hope you enjoy your stay, food & word-cup and cherish this experience to share it with your wife. I am hopeful, you will be more confident "boiling eggs" once you return :)

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  • Sarfaraz Mulla on February 19, 2011, 4:18 GMT

    Andy, welcome to the subcontinet. I hope you enjoy your stay, food & word-cup and cherish this experience to share it with your wife. I am hopeful, you will be more confident "boiling eggs" once you return :)

  • Tim on February 19, 2011, 4:53 GMT

    Bless you Andy. Great piece. Wonder if Dale Hadlee might hop in time machine with brother Rick.

  • Anand on February 19, 2011, 5:00 GMT

    The excitement among Bangladeshis is quite palpable. And frankly, reading the comments from Bangladeshis here on Cricinfo and watching them during the opening ceremony are the only things that is making me realize that the big tournament is here.

    India has been playing so many matches of late that this tournament otherwise looks like yet another one on the calendar..

  • Vishal on February 19, 2011, 5:11 GMT

    The map in background is taken from Red Dead Redemption... ruined a rather good article by setting up my expectations before the text was even loaded. I feel like Tamim Iqbal during IPL auction.

  • Dev on February 19, 2011, 5:22 GMT

    Nice article...

  • Ahmad. on February 19, 2011, 5:29 GMT

    Yeayyy....1st comment :D. and lol yeah...intersting article. I will be honest i didnt know about you (Zaltzman) before. saw the link on Cricinfo main page and wondered what could it be. Now i will be looking forward to your articles all through the WC. I like to laugh :). Interesting short review by the way. yeah it does seem to be a Sri lanka - India final. Until unless Aus, SA and England find some way to tackle the spin.

  • Anoop on February 19, 2011, 6:15 GMT

    Ha ha. Hilarious as always. The Mexican Wave comparison had me in splits. Btw here's a tip. Prefer readymade food whenever ur wife prefers watching to cooking :D

  • saad on February 19, 2011, 6:16 GMT

    Well done Bangladesh for such a wonderful opening ceremony, hope u will do the same today in your opening game, all the best

  • Anonymous on February 19, 2011, 6:27 GMT

    Great Tournament review. So you favour SL, and mine is SA. Injuring machine,

    Bangladesh now seems to represent cricket’s hopeful future,... That is some serious cricket writting man.

  • hari on February 19, 2011, 6:40 GMT

    Zaltzy, play down the reporter part .. We only want your imaginative humour ... but the Mexican wave bit ewas good .. you could add to the fact that it was banned in Australia because people tend to pour their beer over the guy sitting in front while standing up ....