Excessive cricket? There is nothing of that sort in Bangladesh. After hosting Sri Lanka in February and the Asia Cup after that, the country is ready for the World T20. Even the strip on which Bangladesh play Afghanistan on Sunday in the opening match might look a touch worn out, but there is no lack of enthusiasm among the fans, crazy about the game, even more about their team and country.
Selfies on handheld phones, bandanas of the national flag, painted faces, vuvuzelas et al, they thronged the streets around the venue, the Sher-e Bangla National Stadium on Saturday evening, causing the traffic come to a standstill. Bangladesh had lost to Afghanistan in the Asia Cup earlier this month, an event that shocked the nation. After all, Bangladesh had got Test status 14 years ago and the war-ravaged Afghans are taking baby steps in one-dayers and T20. But fans have not deserted the team.
When skipper Mushfiqur Rahim told reporters that the Asia Cup was a different format and things would be different on Sunday afternoon, the country believed him. Tickets priced between BDT 200 (Rs 160) and BDT 1000 (Rs 790) are selling at close to five to six times the face value. Even overseas journalists coming out of the stadium are being meekly asked for ‘extras’, in a distant hope that one might get lucky.
This is the first time Bangladesh are hosting a full tournament of this level, the curtain raiser of which came three years ago when the 50-over World Cup’s opening match was held in front of overflowing stands at the same venue.
A capacity 26000 had watched that day, while more than a lakh cheered in the streets around the stadium, soaking in the atmosphere. If that was special, this is not far behind, even if the tournament has not yet caught the fancy of the rest of the cricketing world.
India’s stand-in skipper during Asia Cup, Virat Kohli, spoke on the same lines as Mushfiqur at India’s open media session on Saturday morning — Asia Cup is past and T20 is a different format --- and went on to add that India did actually perform well in the tournament, the losses to Sri Lanka and Pakistan were close ones and could have gone either way. But does India believe him?
Yes, it’s a fresh tournament and fresh start and coach Duncan Fletcher, who joined the rest of the team in the morning after meeting the BCCI president in Chennai, will want to believe so too.
The World T20 in Bangladesh is as good as playing at home on wickets with low bounce and helping spinners, something India thrived on not too long ago.
Nothing shy of a spectacular display here will pacify the growing frustration back home. After all, it’s about a billion dreams every time India play a World Cup.