By Proxy Celebrations
Bangladesh started their World Cup preparations with a bang, as they beat New Zealand in an unofficial warm up One Day International (ODI), they next went one better as they thumped mighty India by 5 wickets in the World Cup itself, but where was I? It seems as if I will always be destined to hear of Bangladesh's success against our Indian counterparts in a different country and time zone, but then again who's complaining?
In late 2004 I left for Malaysia to attend a debate competition, the thought of the trip so excited me that I completely forgot that India were even in town. For a very brief period of time, cricket was the last thing on my mind, that was until I got the news. On Boxing Day 2004 Bangladesh beat India for the first time, amidst wild celebrations in Dhaka I was carefully preparing my notes for the debates the following day. Later on that night as I walked into the lobby of the hotel, I heard what could only have been a Bangladeshi screaming (don't ask me how I knew). A member of our team got a call from back home to say that Bangladesh had just beaten India, suffice to say that was just the beginning of our celebrations. Every possible flag was rounded up, as each and every one of the 20 odd Bangladeshi's piled into the hotel lobby. The spontaneity of the party had to be felt and witnessed for one to truly gauge what it meant to us. Rivalries and differences were set aside as we celebrated for Bangladesh, song and dance broke out faster than a Bollywood movie.
We celebrated like there was no tomorrow, but I must admit it was a poor attempt to hide the frustration of not being there when the deed was done. To make matters worse almost everyone I knew attended the game and saw a bit of history, while I waved a flag in Kuala Lumpur. The victory seemingly energised the Bangladeshi's at the competition as each and every team performed outstandingly. Something about that victory struck a chord with me, from being called a joke team, a minnow and much worse we toppled one of the best teams in the world, I began to daydream about when victories like that would become routine for us.
But for me there was still a sense of dissatisfaction, I longed to be in Dhaka and celebrate with the rest of the nation. I swore to myself the next time we beat India I would be there to see it. Little did I know it would next take place half way around the world, while I would again be in another country.
This year the day the World Cup started I left for Beijing to attend a conference. I knew before hand that we would play India while I was abroad, personally I didn't expect a victory against what could be called the world's best batting lineup. All I wanted was a little respectability in the scoreline. I soon found out that we no longer craved for respectability, that we took for granted, instead we wanted success.
The day of the game I refused to check the live scores on the internet, even though I was sure we would lose. I went out, had a meal and tried my best to keep my mind off the game. The following morning I got up and the first thing I did even before freshening up was to sit online and check the score. To my utter bewilderment Bangladesh trounced India by 5 wickets. I could not believe it as I went through the halls of the hotel screaming, until I met the rest of the Bangladesh team. They were all visibly excited as we jumped up and down and celebrated. But much to my surprise a few minutes after my announcement they all went back to their respective work. The joy of Malaysia was not repeated. I was utterly bewildered as to their muted celebrations.
Sooner rather than later I realised that a wish made over two years ago came true. No longer could victories against the established teams be called “upsets”, those are for teams who are not expected to win. We were a team that could be relied upon to beat the bigger names in international cricket, we had officially lost the tag of jokers and minnows. Instead of playing with the big boys, we were now officially one of them. It took some time to sink in, but when it did, I no longer felt the pain of not joining in with the celebrations back in Dhaka.
The day we first beat India in 2004 a catastrophic tsunami hit the shores of South Asia, it seems even mother nature understood the gravity of that victory. This time around on the same day Pakistan lost to Ireland and a day later their coach Bob Woolmer passed away. Every successive Bangladesh victory over India seems to bring with it a certain number of casualties, their diminishing number seems to indicate that it is becoming more accepted. The balance is shifting slowly but steadily.
I have moved from Mahathir to Mao, from evolution to revolution, from economic success to even greater economic successes, yet no matter how far I am from the cricket, I just cant seem to stop my by proxy celebrations. Here's to many more…
(R) thedailystar.net 2007