Bangladesh v India, 1st Test, Dhaka, 3rd day December 12, 2004

Disenchanting the Dhaka crowd



Zaheer Khan en route to an innings which frustrated the Bangladesh players and the Dhaka crowd © AFP

"This is just a taste of what's to come. If we start performing consistently, the support will be tremendous and that will lift the team to greater heights," said Dav Whatmore, talking up the support the team got from locals desperate to see the team do well against strong opposition like India. On Friday, the first day of the match and a holiday here in Dhaka, there were an estimated 20,000 people bellowing their guts out, calling out "Sumon" or "Pilot", the nicknames of Habibul Bashar and Khaled Mashud, two of Bangladesh's leading lights. But by the time the third day came around, things had changed somewhat.

The manner in which Bangladesh batted in the first innings - barring the two Mohammads, Ashraful and Rafique - made it next to impossible for them to stretch India. Yet, there were at least moments to cheer - Ashraful's half-century and Rafique's crunching drives. Then, when they bowled, there was more joy as Mashrafe Mortaza and Tapash Baisya put in lion-hearted performances first up, bending backs and extracting considerable seam movement off the pitch. But, with catches being dropped like there was a fatwa against taking them, the mood of the crowd began to turn.

"Don't worry, Sachin, you will definitely score a century" yelled some animated fans after Tendulkar was dropped on 28 and 47. Bashar, the captain, came in for special barracking. But with seven wickets falling in the day there were a few who had not yet abandoned their team. Then, on the third morning, the dam burst. Tendulkar scoring a century and more, reprieves notwithstanding, is bearable, but Zaheer Khan clattering the ball around the park merrily, and realistically harbouring ambitions of reaching three figures was too much for anyone to take. "Are there any records left to be broken?" asked one disgruntled fan when Zaheer rattled past 68, the previous best for a No. 11, by New Zealand's Richard Collinge in 1972-73.

And finally, what little support there was left evaporated as Irfan Pathan trapped Javed Omar plumb in front. Around the same time, three members of the Bangladesh team were walking along the boundary ropes, and were treated to the loudest booing you could hope to hear from a home crowd. And when Pathan walked down to his fielding position at fine leg, a roar went up, and sustained itself till Pathan waved to the crowd.

That leg-before proved to be just the beginning, as four more wickets followed, some so palpably out that Pathan's appeal was merely a formality. The first-innings 5 for 45 was crisp, but not a patch on the second-innings 5 for 31 in terms of winning over the crowd. Bangladesh may never make the list of top-ten destinations for holidaymakers, but Pathan knows what he owes this country. It was the 9 for 16 he took against Bangladesh at Lahore in under-19 cricket that fast-tracked him into the Indian team for the tour of Australia. Since then he has made rapid strides, but missing in the curriculum vitae was the one thing bowlers covet the most - the five-for. And in eight second-innings overs, he racked up 10 for the match, and added the people of another country to his burgeoning fan following.

Anand Vasu is assistant editor of Cricinfo.