George Binoy is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo
For the last week, my daily routine on a non-match day has been to get up, attend various practice sessions and press conferences scheduled through the day and then come back to the hotel room to file stories, after which it’s too late to do anything but watch the Euro 2008. On a match day, a late brunch left me just enough time to get ready and head to the ground to find a good seat in what is a spacious and comfortable press box. Therefore, the only bit of Dhaka I’d seen was the stretch of road between my hotel, the Shere Bangla Stadium and the team hotel.
Today, however, was different. The final didn’t require a reserve day so I had some time to loaf around the city and, after a late morning, head off in the opposite direction from the stadium. There are four modes of public transport – buses, cabs, auto-rickshaws (aka CNG) and cycle rickshaws, whose peddlers have no regard for which side of the road they are riding on, or where they are crossing. Their attitude seems to be, “you hit me and my family will come after you.” There is a fifth mode of transport too, an intermediate form or motorised cycle-rickshaw which is covered like an auto and it was one such contraption that we, another journalist and I, got into.
Observing traffic is something you get used to doing because in India, you get stuck in it quite a bit, and Dhaka’s cars seem to primarily be Toyotas or Nissans. The cabs are all Indian cars pock marked with infinite dents – one roof leaked during the rain as I was heading to the team hotel. My destination was Dhaka’s DVD market and unlike Delhi, where pirated DVDs are available in the bowels of the underground market – Palika Bazaar - in Dhaka they are everywhere: in malls, roadside shops, supermarkets and even in hotels.
From languages as diverse as Bosnian and Arabic, countless Bollywood titles, old English classics, the latest Hollywood releases and music concerts, you were spoilt for choice. One of the shopkeepers said that when the Australians were here in 2006, the market had to be closed to the public for security reasons while some players spent a couple of hours and left with 600 DVDs. Determined to think of titles that they might not have, I was surprised to find that the “How I met Your Mother” television series was nowhere to be found. When I asked for “Green Street Hooligans”, he said with a smile that he had only the original and it wasn’t with him at the moment.
Our next destination was a cricket academy where a team was practicing on a centre wicket. The field was so small that even a child could hit the ball over the walls onto the square boundary. The cost for such an offence, however, is your wicket and the offender has to run twenty laps around the field.
I’ve always wondered why kids in Pakistan and Bangladesh play galli cricket with a tape ball while in India, we only use a normal tennis ball or a rubber ball. The taped ball zips through the air faster, swings more than anything else I’ve played with in India, and if you’re good enough to connect, the ball travels faster off the bat than a normal tennis ball. The art of taping the ball with electric tape looks easy but to get an even covering needs deft hands and experience. Mithun, a batsman at the academy, did it in seconds.
While we were sitting around discussing the final between India and Pakistan, Nadir Shah, one of the umpires in the match, strolled into the ground. In the middle of an extremely entertaining conversation, I tried to sneak in a few umpiring-related questions. What was the logic of a leg bye? Why should the batting team be rewarded when the batsman fails to make contact with the ball? I haven’t received a satisfactory explanation before and I didn’t get one here either.