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Cup brings Dhaka to standstill

cricket Updated: Feb 15, 2011 01:01 IST
Nilankur Das
Nilankur Das
Hindustan Times
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A World Cup helpdesk at the Dhaka international airport to help expedite a ridiculously slow immigration process was conspicuous by its absence as officials and mediapersons waited and waited in serpentine queues.

But once out of the airport, Dhaka presented a completely new look from the India cricket team's last visit here in early 2010 for a Test and a tri-series also featuring Sri Lanka.

Huge banners urging the Bangla Tigers to give of their best, posters depicting what Bangladesh wants the world to know it for, gigantic cricket bats for fans to write their good wishes on and lighting designed like cascades on either side of the roads leading to the stadiums and team hotel prove how much the country is looking forward to host the event.

Skipper Shakib Al Hasan summed it up well. "Cricket is the only sport we play a World Cup in. Moreover, this is the first time Bangladesh is hosting a World Cup. It's special to every citizen. It's special to all of us," he said, after training at the Sher-e Bangla National Stadium on Monday, one day before his team plays its last warm-up match, against Pakistan.

Five consecutive holidays announced by the government beginning Friday, the day of the opening ceremony, and ending on February 21, the day that commemorates the Bengali Language Movement of 1952, mean the capital city is gearing up for an assortment of festivities.

"This will be bigger than our Id. We get a three-day holiday for Id. Everyone is looking forward to the World Cup," said Bangladesh media manager Sikder Nizamul Haque Sabuj.

So, no one seemed to mind when a huge rally with bikes, truckloads of dancers and cheering, drum-beating fans made a tour of the city with the World Cup trophy. Such was its spillover effect that the already cramped city traffic stayed still for hours even after the road show. There isn't much Dhaka can do about its traffic unless, of course, cycle-rickshaws, which appear more likely to run you over than Volvo buses, are banned and flyovers and subway routes created. But Bangladesh is making a wholehearted effort to make this World Cup something to remember.