A Bangladeshi American watches cricket ... with passion

I didn’t think it would happen. My wife, Ruhana, a life long cricket fan kept murmuring to me the past couple of months that the World Cup Cricket tournament was approaching shortly and how she wished she was back home watching it. I don’t follow cricket or have any particular affiliation with a ny sports team for that matter. Sports are something I watch occasionally, usually if a good friend is passionate about it or if the game is hyped enough. For me I like international tournaments like the Olympics, World Cup Soccer, etc. where games taken on a cultural / political dimensions. In my opinion its more fun to watch a game if a country’s national pride is at stake!

So while my Indian and Bangladeshi friends got excited about the World Cup, I listened patiently to their stories but felt no real emotion. You see like most casual fans of Bangladesh sport, I assumed that Bangladesh would probably lose all of its games by large margins and sports commentators would wonder if Bangladesh real deserved to the World Cup at all.

But then it happened. I had been watching a movie at home with my wife when I got a call from my friend Zeeshan that Bangladesh had beaten India. I asked her to repeat it. “What do you mean Bangladesh has beaten India? That’s impossible.” I said. “No, they really have. Go to the web, check it out.” Zee replied. So I hit the cricket sites and sure enough Bangladesh had won. Being the skeptic that I am I immediately scanned the big cricket sites (mostly run by Indians) to see if anyone thought that there had been any match fixing as in Bangladesh’s inamous 1999 World Cup match win against Pakistan. But after reading the analysis, it was clear that Bangladesh won fair and square and that three teenagers had confidently led the charge.

A few hours later, I started getting emails from friends and relatives signing off “Go Tigers” (the nickname of Bangladesh’s cricket team). Blogs like Drishtipat ran headlines like “Where were you when Bangladesh won?” Not since the announcement that Dr. Yunus and the Grameen Bank had won the Nobel Prize had their been such euphoria.

For me as a Bangladeshi American it was a special moment. Having been born and brought up in American I’m often viewed by Bangladeshi relatives as an outsider, I somehow identified with the pride of the country. For me it was the quarter century of Indian and Pakistani friends boasting about the prowess of their cricket teams and condescendingly acknowledging that Bangladesh played Cricket at the international level. For once I could smile proudly and ask them “So how is India / Pakistan doing in the World Cup this year?” (Of note: Pakistan was eliminated from the tournament on the same day that Bangladesh beat India.)

From that day forward, I began learning the “Laws of Cricket”. Ruhana, a master cricket fan explained the rules, the initially complex scoring system. I started to appreciate the beauty of the game, how the mathematics of run-rates and overs determined the strategy of a match. Over the past week, I followed the Sri Lanka - bangladesh game with resignation from the outset that we would lose the match but with disappointment when were trounced by the Sri Lankan batting team. My French colleague, Paul kept me company analyzing the numbers as we tracked the game online.

Yesterday though was the big day. It was the big Sri Lanka - India day. Cricket commentators acknowledged it was make or break for India and as the third place team, it was critical to Bangladesh that Sri Lankan win in order for Bangladesh to pass to the next round. From 9:30 on myself, Paul and my Sri Lankan colleague, Nadika tracked the game on the net, following each wicket, keeping an eye on the net run rate. In the morning it was the tension of whether the Sri Lankan team would bat a good number when their famous batsmen. In the afternoon when Indian was upto bat we kept hoping that the triumvirate of Rahul Dravid (the captain), Saurav Ganguly and Sachin Tendulkar would collapse. But about half through as the Indian batting team started to collapse our spirits rose. Suddenly the unthinkable, Bangladesh making into the second round for the first time in World Cup history was looking possible. After the loss to Sri Lanka, I ribbed my Indian colleagues a bit about the game, many of them commented that the triumvirate was no more, and that the senior guys should retire to allow new kids a chance to play. It was a good way to end the week.

I look forward to tomorrow’s game (Bangladesh v. Bermuda) with interest. Our organization, NYBAP is hosting an event at of all places, an Indian restaurant called Brick Lane in Manhattan so I’ll actually get to my first match of the 2007 World Cup. (If you’re interested visit our website to register.) I’m sure over curries and cha there will be a lot of cheers and tears and I look forward to be being part of the action. If Bangladesh wins as they should I can only imagine how proudly Bangladeshis around the world will hold up their heads.

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Saturday, March 24, 2007

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