Fans' flowers can't mask the bigger picture
As promised last night, hundreds of Bangladeshis gathered outside the team hotel in Dhaka on Saturday to apologise to the cricketers for the actions of some “fans” – for want of a better word. Stones were thrown at the team buses last night, there were reports of rioting in the Dhaka University area and of an attack on the house of Shakib Al Hasan’s parents.
This morning the other side of the Bangladesh cricket fan emerged, a side I still believe to be more representative of the average fan. I was not there to see it – I had an early-morning bus to Chittagong – but the reports are reassuring. People arrived there early in the morning with flowers, with placards apologising not only to the West Indies cricketers but the Bangladeshis too.
I never doubted this side of the Bangladeshis. Often at the end of rickshaw rides or CNG [auto-rickshaw] rides in Dhaka, I have seen people try to overhear how much money I, their “guest”, am paying, to make sure I am not being ripped off. I can only imagine they have been just as hospitable to other travellers.
However, no amount of good behaviour, no amount of apologising can make up for what happened last night. For the most important issue right now is not the image of the Bangladeshi fan. It’s that there was a security breach last night and no authority right now is ready to acknowledge it. It’s that last night Chris Gayle felt unsafe in the country. That he wondered how, if those responsible for security couldn’t keep stones away, they would keep bullets away. When your house is robbed, you don’t debate the robbers’ moral make-up, you think of how you could have protected your house better.
The incident has evoked reactions from the three main parties: the police, BCB and ICC. All three reactions have been shoddy. The police, for some reason, thought that they needed to stress that the people were attacking their own countrymen, not the visitors, and that it was a case of mistaken identity. Not only is that version not accurate – ESPNcricinfo learned later in the night that both buses were hit and there wasn’t much to tell one bus from the other – but it beggared belief how attacking Bangladesh players can be seen as a smaller security failure than attacking the West Indians.
Mustafa Kamal, the BCB president, issued an apology but did not concede to the incident being a security failure. His version was that the stones came from “far away from the main road”. How reassuring to the players who genuinely felt they were in danger. How reassuring that only troublemakers on the main road can be taken care of, not those immediately beyond.
Haroon Lorgat, the ICC chief executive, seems to have gone a step further. “It was a few individuals who threw pebbles at the bus, and they were pebbles,” he said. Pebbles don’t crack bulletproof glasses – something the West Indies media manager confirmed to ESPNcricinfo - do they?
It is understandable that the establishment doesn’t want to create panic, and wants to play down the whole thing. It is also hoped that their actual reaction to all this will be different from the statements they are making in public. For the moment, how about not making it sound like nothing happened?
Sidharth Monga is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo