Some blamed it on the cold wave. Some said it was the hike in ticket prices. Others thought it was because Monday was a working day. But most seemed to point to the lack of stars in the Sri Lanka team that caused fans to stay away from the tri-series opener at the Sher-e-Bangla National Stadium.
Interestingly, predictions are that the turnout could be worse when India begin their campaign against Sri Lanka on Tuesday.
“There is no Sanath Jayasuriya, no (Muttiah) Muralitharan and no (Mahela) Jayawardene. So no point spending money to watch the match. I will watch it on television,” said an 18-year-old, who waited outside the gate to see the Bangladesh team bus enter and the players get off, but left soon after.
The 35,000-capacity stadium was not even half full as Bangladesh’s openers walked out to the middle after skipper Shakib Al Hasan lost the toss. A lot less than 10,000 stayed back to see Tillakaratne Dilshan begin the year with a century. Thilan Samaraweera and Chamara Silva got to the target well within the stipulated overs.
After having a great 2009, Dilshan looked in complete control. But the worrying part was that he picked up a niggle while running for a single and had to bat with a runner, limping after every shot off the backfoot.
A total of 260 was not meant to put the Sri Lankans in a spot of bother. Dilshan and Kumar Sangakkara both played well within themselves and still managed to score at over eight runs an over at one stage.
Even before Sri Lanka came out to bat, the groundsmen did extra rounds with the long pieces of rug (unlike rope in India) they use to dry the outfield. The ball getting wet as early as in the seventh over when Shakib brought himself on, Bangladesh, who rely heavily on their spin attack, had little chance.
Bangladesh got off to a decent start courtesy some good running between the wickets by Tamim Iqbal and Imrul Kayes. Sloppy ground fielding by Sri Lanka facilitated their cause. But after both openers were sent back in quick succession, Raqibul Hasan and skipper Shakib followed for nothing, the hosts were on the backfoot.
Mohammad Ashraful put his head down to grind on and at one point Bangladesh were looking good enough for just around 220. His patient knock helped Bangladesh recover from a middle-order slump and then some lusty hitting late in the innings by 23-year-old Naeem Islam pushed it to 260.