Bangladesh v India, 2nd Test, Chittagong, 2nd day December 18, 2004

The difference a day makes

The fans trickled into the stadium at first ... © Getty Images

If you're in Bangladesh for just one day, make sure it's a Friday. That's the day when the masses throng the roads, the kids drag their parents out in search of the parks, and the parents spend a day away from what must be a fairly onerous working week. Chittagong, though, is a bit different from Dhaka, in that there are a mere 7000 cycle-rickshaws per half-kilometre, a mere pound and a half of suspended particles per cubic metre of air.

An English journalist once described Chittagong as a breath of fresh air, and in a limited sense that's accurate. Sections of the city have gently sloping hills, and the poverty and despair that seem to assault the visitor in Dhaka are not as apparent, perhaps gently alleviated by the sea breeze that cools things down as the sun begins its downward journey.

On Friday, just one day after another holiday - Victory Day - you would have been forgiven for thinking that the census board was lying when it recorded that Chittagong had about a quarter of the population of Dhaka. The stands were well-packed, though the support waned as Gautam Gambhir and Rahul Dravid silenced the yelling and chanting with booming drives. There's nothing like the crack of opposition willow on leather to shut the crowds up.

But for most of the day, the real action was outside the ground. The Bangabandhu Stadium in Dhaka is skirted by electronics stores, so the chatter is naturally businesslike and rather dull. The edges of the MA Aziz Stadium, on the other hand, are teeming with life. East of the ground is what would have been a large open space, before it was taken over by a mammoth circus tent. All manner of garish amusements trot in and out of the tent with regularity, and almost to provide relief to the eyes, the immediate surroundings of the tent is a dhobi ghat. Large swathes of clothes dry on lines and, to the untrained eye, the whole exercise seems a waste of time, as the thick exhaust fumes of vehicles and the heavy dust particles drift towards the freshly washed clothes.

If you wander towards the media box, which is at the Circuit House End, overlooking an amusement park, you have to go past the curiously named Royal Hut kebab house. The aroma of an assortment of meats being grilled over hot coals tempts you towards the shop, but you know that the cricket beckons, and refrain. The location of the kebab house could not be more apt, as it is owned by Nurul Abedin, the brother of Minhazul Abedin, and Shahidur Rahman, both former Bangladesh cricketers.

But on Saturday, the second day of the Test, with India beginning well and truly on top, the surrounds of the stadium were largely deserted. It was back to work for everyone as the inevitable records tumbled. The fans trickled into the stands but, as the first ball was about to be bowled, it was only the two press buildings - the commentary boxes at the Chittagong Club End, and the three-storey tower that houses the written media - that were full. If the average fan was worried that his day would be wasted watching his favourite cricketers ground into the dust by Sachin Tendulkar, he needn't have bothered. Mashrafe Mortaza, the hero at Dhaka, hit the perfect line and length first up, and Tendulkar was so palpably in front of the stumps that even Aleem Dar had to take that left hand out of the pocket and point to the sky.

As word of Tendulkar's dismissal and - soon after - VVS Laxman's spread, hope returned and the stands began to fill up. But just outside the stadium, rickshaw-wallahs argued with customers, kebab houses solicited customers, and life went on. After all, it wasn't a Friday, there was work to do, and there was no time to stop and stare.

Anand Vasu is assistant editor of Cricinfo.