Gold Silver and Bronze
In cricket's most rudimentary form, the batsmen out in the middle are fighting for their nine other teammates sitting in the dressing-room. They are a lonely pair against the opposition, trying to chase or set a score. But on November 26, Sabbir Rahman and Naeem Islam did not just bat for their captain Mohammad Ashraful or for their teammates.
The duo was battling to save the blushes of 230-odd fellow countrymen and women who traveled to the southern China city of Guangzhou to take part, and largely fail, in the 16th Asian Games.
Now Guanghzhou is not your typical cricket destination but its only cricket stadium became quite raucous, thanks to the Bangladesh-Afghanistan men's cricket competition final of the Asiad. Thankfully, some massive sixes from Sabbir and Naeem's calm batting brought Bangladesh its first-ever gold in the Asian Games since they started participating in 1986.
Before the two had made themselves part of the country's sporting history, the women also made the country proud through the silver medal they earned a week earlier. They were high-fliers throughout the competition, only to be brought down to earth in the final.
So cricket brought the country glory through a gold and a silver medal while all the other fifteen disciplines could only muster a single bronze medal. In other words, had the Asian Cricket Council (ACC) not worked tirelessly to bring cricket to the Asiad, the Bangladesh contingent would have returned with a bronze, similar to October's Commonwealth Games in Delhi.
But there wasn't much expectation either. In previous editions, Bangladesh had only won one bronze in boxing and a silver and a bronze in kabaddi. The national sport somehow salvaged the only bronze this year when the women's team reached the semifinals and confirmed themselves the third prize automatically. Their male counterparts lost to kabaddi backwoods Japan, Korea and Pakistan, a country which hired Bangladeshi coaches to learn the game several years ago.
The last shot. Photo: AFP
While they have gone down in kabaddi, some of the other sports have gone nowhere, especially the team events.
The footballers, of the Under-23 variety, didn't even last till the opening ceremony, exiting in the first round through losses to United Arab Emirates, Uzbekistan and Hong Kong. Some considered the defeat to Hong Kong as a shock but in international football, nobody is even remotely surprised when Bangladesh outfit loses.
In another team event, hockey, the campaign went from bad to worse when Bangladesh lost to Oman in the seventh/eighth classification match 5-6, after taking a 5-2 lead as late as the 45th minute.
In the first round, Bangladesh lost to Japan 1-3, were drubbed 9-0 by India, salvaged through a 7-2 win over Hong Kong and beaten 6-0 by Pakistan. In their first classification match, they lost 4-1 to China before the Oman game.
During the Games, some of the off-field antics have added to the charm (!) of a Bangladesh contingent. An elderly Wushu official, more well-known for his football organising credentials, was caught in the 'mosquito-coil' incident. He left China with the coil that he wasn't supposed to take out of his room and the Bangladesh Olympic Association had to pay for his indiscretion.
Then came the shocker of all shockers. News came floating on Saturday morning in the different papers who had sent their correspondents to Guangzhou, that a Bangladeshi journalist was caught stealing the laptop of a Chinese journalist from the media centre. When footage confirmed the man, he admitted his guilt, paid the $1,500 fine and sullied his nation.
Sometimes these incidents could be laughed off or avoided in conversations but the Sports Ministry should seriously take a look at these incidents and blacklist those guilty.
They could blacklist a few more people, namely athletes and players, who go to multi-sport events just to 'gather experience'. In all honesty, it is a government-paid holiday.
In the individual events, two participants stood out through a single win or a move to the second round. In billiards, little known Tayef Quader reached the quarterfinals; while in chess, the women's team finished in sixth place while the men's team finished tenth. Sprinter Azharul Islam reached the 100m semifinals before bowing out by just a 0.5-second improvement from the heat.
But apart from these, shooting went from bad to worse while none of the four swimmers could advance in their respective heats.
In Karate, Wushu, Taekwondo, Weightlifting, Golf and Archery, there was nothing of note while boxers from Philippines, Turkmenistan and China knocked Bangladesh out of the men's boxing competition in the first round.
(R) thedailystar.net 2010