Choice of game
Winter time in the UK isn't much fun, the cold weather coupled with a chronic lack of daylight sends most people into a state of despair, which is why it's always an ideal time to go away on holiday. And what better way to holiday than combining fantastic food, family and cricket? That's why I decided to spend ten fun-filled days in Bangladesh.
After watching the team excel in the ODI series, I was in the verdant and picturesque Sylhet International Cricket Stadium for the first T20I. Sylhet itself is a place of huge personal significance, being the birthplace of my parents and their forebears, and so a place I've visited plenty of times since childhood. The fact that international cricket has come to Sylhet is a source of enormous pride for its cricket-crazy residents. I was looking forward to sharing in the excitement that was gripping the city - the game was scheduled a day after Victory Day. I was ecstatic when a fantastically well-connected cousin was able to arrange a stadium pass for me (thanks Forhad!), particularly as I knew how difficult it was to get hold of match tickets.
Sheldon Cottrell's four wickets, which earned him the Man-of-the-Match award, and Shakib Al Hasan's 61 were impressive contributions, but for me, Shai Hope's brutal 55 from just 23 balls was the standout performance. He's clearly in the middle of a purple patch and the way he disdainfully dispatched the often wayward Bangladeshi bowling was breathtaking. When I was in Dhaka a few days ago, I decided to go for a swim and I actually saw him in the adjoining hotel gym. He was training hard and sweating buckets, and it's definitely paid off.
It was nice to see West Indies enjoy themselves on the field, even though it hasn't been the most successful of tours. The way they celebrate the fall of wickets has always been a feature of how they play the game and we were treated to a couple of unique celebrations today. Cottrell celebrated with a salute after dismissing Soumya Sarkar but I was even more impressed by Rovman Powell, who ran Mushifiqur Rahim out and then performed a mid-air heel-clicking routine, all in one movement.
One thing I would have changed
The weather. During the third ODI held at the same venue, the weather was a lovely mix of hazy sunshine and warmth. Three days later, however, the skies were similar to those of a summer's day in south London, slate grey without any hint of the sun. In fact, the evenings in Sylhet were much cooler than expected; my lack of packing any warm clothes meant I ended up with a horrible cold. It's a lesson learned for next time.
My other bugbear would be the ticketing arrangements. Back home, tickets for matches are available online. I was expecting a similar case in Bangladesh but instead I witnessed long lines of people outside the stadium, patiently queuing for tickets. The lack of online tickets makes planning extremely difficult, especially for those travelling from abroad - although I know I'm in a minority in this case.
There was deafening silence when Tamim Iqbal was out early in the innings, a top-edge looping gently into the hands of the fielder. And although the decibel levels were never truly ear-aching, each Bangladesh boundary and West Indies wicket was greeted with full-throated cheers from the passionate Sylhet crowd. The way the game petered out wasn't conducive to a great atmosphere and was in stark contrast to a few days ago when Bangladesh dominance was met with plenty of noise. That game also illustrated how the build-up to the country's general election was in full swing. Chants of "Nokah Nokah" (literally meaning "boat boat", the emblem of the ruling Awami League party) came from the stands, more so when election candidate Mashrafe Mortaza fielded anywhere near the boundary.
Marks out of 10
In terms of the Bangladesh performance, I'd have to give a 4. I was hoping for a good batting display and lots of balls being lost in the crowd. but it never happened. In terms of the way the game was hosted, it would be a 10, the stadium infrastructure surrounded by natural beauty surely means many more international matches will be played here in the future. I can't wait for England's visit sometime soon.