November 11, 2000

Dhaka diary

Crowds, congestion, noise pollution and traffic jams are the first impressions of Dhaka. With about 120 million packed into 144,000 square kilometres, the country is one of the most densely populated regions in the world. And the capital is symbolic of this. Wherever you go there are people. Wherever you go, there are crowds. As if this is not enough, there are cars, buses, cycle rickshaws, autos and other vehicles vying with people for a place on the roads. Mini motor vans which are meant for six, carry ten passengers. Auto rickshaws meant for two carry four. Every available space is utilised by vendors or beggars. And boy, are they persistent! Traffic rules are a casualty in Dhaka. It is literally every man for himself on the Dhaka roads as they have to look out for various contraptions and dodge their way out of trouble. But despite rushing here and there the people are generally polite and helpful. They listen patiently as you ask for directions and then give the details as clearly as possible. Even if it is in Bengali, no one can accuse them of not trying to help. And the officials of the Bangladesh Cricket Board have proved to be second to none in going out of their way to be of assistance.

A curious thing about the Bangladesh players is that all of them are known by their nicknames. They are hailed thus not only by their teammates but by everyone else - the officials, the media, the scorers and even the man in the street. So Naimur Rahman, the captain, is known as Durjoy and Khaled Masud, his deputy, is called Pilot. Javed Omer is Gullu, Mehrab Hossain is Opee, Habibul Basher is Sumon, Aminul Islam is Bulbul, Hasibul Hossain is Shanto, Enamul Haq is Moni and Al Sahariar is Rokon. It transpires that their parents gave them the nicknames when they were kids and such has been the impact that these names have stood the test of time and in most circles, the players are better known by their nicknames than their family names.

It is a special occasion, the inaugural Test played by Bangladesh and the Bangladesh Cricket Board has spared no efforts in making it an event to remember. A series of programmes were organised as a lead up to the big day and while most of them were of a grand or festive nature, the BCB also took the opportunity to deal with one serious issue - polio. 'Stamp out polio' was the slogan adopted and in keeping with this, two cricketers, Bangladesh captain Naimur Rahman and India's Yuvraj Singh administered polio drops to four children at the Bangabandhu stadium during the tea break on the first day of the Test. According to a press release, it was hoped that this symbolic initiative would encourage all Bangladesh cricket fans, their families and the entire nation to bring their children to polio immunisation booths on November 15 on the occasion of the first round of National Immunisation Day. Earlier in the week the BCB had announced its association with the Bangladesh government and the coalition of international partners for polio eradication. Under this arrangement, cricketers and officials will visit several immunisation booths on November 15 to encourage parents and guardians to immunise their children.

Predictably enough, Bangladesh's impressive showing on the first two days of the inaugural Test has drawn encomiums from all quarters - the media, officials, fellow players et al. But perhaps the most noteworthy praise was paid by former coaches Mohinder Amarnath of India and Gordon Greenidge of West Indies. Amarnath coached Bangladesh during 1994-95 while Greenidge was the country's coach during their triumphant campaign in the ICC Trophy in 1997 and their impressive showing in the 1999 World Cup. He however, left in controversial circumstances after suggesting that Bangladesh was not yet ready for Test status. Both have been invited to Dhaka for the special occasion and they have been effusive in their praise for the Bangladesh batsmen in adapting themselves so quickly to the much more exacting field of Test cricket. Also expressing happiness at Bangladesh's showing was Nasim ul Ghani, the former Pakistan all rounder. Now a member of the ICC's development committee, Ghani said that he was one of the few who had spoken on behalf of Bangladesh being granted Test status and he was happy that the players had vindicated his stand.