ICC Cricket World Cup 2011 / Features

Bangladesh v West Indies, Group B, World Cup 2011, Mirpur

A collapse too far provokes the fans to fury

While what followed outside the stadium was an unacceptable reaction to a terrible performance, it should not be forgotten that a vast majority of the people in Dhaka have been extremely well-behaved

Sidharth Monga in Dhaka

March 4, 2011

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The Mirpur crowd threw their '4' and '6' placards at the Bangladesh team after they had been bowled out for 58, Bangladesh v West Indies, Group B, World Cup 2011, Mirpur, March 4, 2011
Bangladesh's fans have had to endure a lot in this tournament, and against West Indies, their loyalties were not rewarded © Getty Images
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They finally lost their patience in the stands. While what followed outside the stadium was an unacceptable reaction to a terrible performance, it should not be forgotten that a vast majority of the people in Dhaka have been extremely well-behaved and patient, even after this defeat.

For more than two weeks now, it has been exhilarating to watch the atmosphere in the streets of Dhaka. The people rightly came in for a lot of praise from whoever has travelled here in the last month or so. It hasn't been easy for the people, though. Genuinely, it hasn't.

The Bangabandhu Stadium, the venue of the opening ceremony, could take in only 25,000 people, but at least the same number danced in joy outside the stadium throughout the night. Before that, when Pakistan played the hosts in a warm-up game at Shere Bangla National Stadium, half of the bona fide ticket-holders were denied entry because of an organisational fiasco.

On the real match days, the fans have lined up hours in advance of each game, only to be told by overbearing security that the gates will not open that early. None of the games has been full at the start precisely for that reason. Once in, they have been stunned by Virender Sehwag, they have seen Tamim Iqbal give up the chase - huge albeit - in favour of some batting practice, and they have seen the batsmen fail against Ireland too. There has been the odd reward, especially the spirited comeback against Ireland. But even then, a life was lost in a traffic accident during celebrations after that game.

Yet the fans have carried on smiling. You tell them they should not be bothering the players during nets session, and they wait for hours outside the stadium to catch a glimpse of their heroes - or whatever is visible of them from the bus windows. No complaints, no ugly scenes, no attempt to sneak themselves in. Their patience finally ran out today. They cheered the last two Bangladesh wickets as their heroes made their way to their lowest total ever, and also significantly the lowest by a Full Member in the history of the World Cup. Only then did the fours and sixes start raining on the ground, because before leaving their seats, the fans shredded all their "4" and "6" placards, and flung them towards the playing surface.

The West Indies innings was surreal. For the first time the crowd here cheered an opposition batsman hitting a boundary. Devon Smith got out, but you couldn't tell that from the crowd reaction. The dholis, the men who play the double-headed drum, who had danced their way to a trance after the win over Ireland, didn't quite know what to do, and watched stunned. The PA system, though, went on with its attempt to orchestrate the atmosphere at the ground, which anyway is grating and artificial at the best of times. It was horrendous today, but the man there was just doing his job. The Titanic was sinking, but the violin, cello and piano were all still playing.

The ugliness that followed on the streets - besides the attack on the West Indies team bus, there have been reports of rioting and poster-burning from the Dhaka University area - cannot be condoned, but at the same time is not representative of the average cricket follower here. The average cricket fan can claim to have displayed what their team failed to muster: patience.

Therein lies a huge lesson for the cricketers, provided they are willing to learn it. It's the lesson of patience, of building an innings, whatever the format may be. On today's evidence, they have a lot to learn. After a spirited show in the field helped them escape against Ireland, it beggars belief that the Bangladeshi batsmen thought they needed to score 1200 runs off their allotted 300 deliveries today. Forget the dismissals, the first ball Shakib Al Hasan faced today summed up the muddle that their minds right now are. The score was 25 for 3, it was the sixth over, and the captain went after a wide one, no feet movement, just pushing at it and getting a thick edge.

Mushfiqur Rahim watched a short midwicket walk into position, but still couldn't find enough presence of mind to refrain from playing in that directon, and it was neither a slower delivery nor one that gripped the surface. Raqibul Hasan simply didn't move his feet, but his body had to stretch appreciably to reach a wide and full delivery, just so that he could drive it straight to point.

There seems to be this need to impose themselves on the opposition, but even the best and most imposing batsmen in the history of the game have known how to respect a match situation - if not the bowlers involved in that situation. Special batsmen like Virender Sehwag and Tamim can be allowed to bat like that, but not all 11 members of a team. There is a thin line between counterattack and the lack of willingness to face the heat. With Bangladesh batsmen that line blurs a lot.

The sad part is that none of it came as a surprise. They all did the same against Ireland, except for Raqibul who fought it out till the end. When asked if they had failed to learn their lesson from last Friday, Shakib repeated what he has been saying all along. "We have been consistent with the bat for the last one year. This is something - what should I say… I don't think in the last 12 to 15 months, we have batted this badly. But in cricket it can always happen. But we still have a chance to qualify for the quarter-final, we have to come back strongly and do the right things."

He also said that this was the worst day of his cricketing career, but that it could get worse. The local reporters suggested he was hinting about his captaincy career, should the team get eliminated in the first round. His words, though, proved to be prophetic. The day did indeed get worse, thanks to the unacceptable anger outside the stadium.

Sidharth Monga is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

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