Reporter's Travelogue

The rest is history

Dr. Nizamuddin Ahmed

To recall glimpses from cricket's 1999 episode after six years and another World Cup in between is not easy. But allow me to follow the maxim of any Bangladesh coach and say, 'we shall try our best'.

The most memorable impression of the England world cup has to be its awesome logo the game embodied in it, the vibrant colours, the text-book motion of the unknown bowler, and the joy encapsulated.

Our first WC match ever was at the Essex ground, humble in contrast to the giants in the league Lord's, Oval, Edgbaston, Old Trafford… The venue is etched deep in me for it was where a picture of the coveted World Cup and me was taken during our match against New Zealand. It was on display outside the stadium and what else could a bystander do when you push your camera at him and say, 'please'? Of equal elation was the notable performance of our pace attack under the overwhelming circumstances.

The press box at the Essex ground was cramped. It was not a regular host of such big matches, made even larger by the Bangladesh team's enthusiastic thousands. Obviously the press corps was befittingly large. Rouful Hasan of the Observer, our long-time colleague, and now waiting up for us in the heavens where

Dr. Nizamuddin Ahmed

he has begun his second blissful innings, was quite perturbed when he was seated in the temporary marquee; more painfully for him was this Daily Star correspondent making it into the actual press box of wood and glass. Of course, we all had the same menu for lunch, provided by the generous organisers. Rouful would maybe have killed us all had it been otherwise. In any case, by English law he would have got a maximum of a life sentence. He does not care any more. He is fondly missed.

The flight to Cardiff for our match against the West Indies by ferry was delayed by an hour or so. The management at Holyhead apologised profusely and even provided us some spending money to compensate our disappointment. On board the vessel, we could shop duty-free and eat with payment, and sleep, watch movies, listen to music, and take a walkabout free. But I had to do them all alone as the rest our Bangladesh press chose the aerial route. I was left with the consolation they did not get any spending money.

The match against Scotland at Edinburgh I assumed was the only one that World Cup that we would win, or could. So just like any other fan, despite being an accredited journalist, I rushed on to the field as soon as we had won. So did hundreds of other Bangladeshis who followed the team from one part of the British Isles to another. That the Scots had pinned their hope on this one was pretty much obvious from the disillusionment painted all over their face, particularly of the ladies. That afternoon the pleasure was ours. Little did we know of further delight in store!

The magnificent win against Pakistan has to be the highlight of my long career as a sport spectator. The long journey from London to Northampton appeared to be like coming home for there thousands of others backing the red and green flag. There were dozens of them. Everything was falling into place. Pakistan low-scored and our fielding side had magnets in their hands; the ball was apparently made of iron. No one let anything past him in a ten-yard radius, or so it seemed. Whatever the sceptics may say that match Bangladesh won lock, stock and barrel. That Pakistan lost to us was evident from the disgruntled mutterings of the Pak press corps and the dark clouds plastered on their face.

I had the pleasure of being given the ride back to London by BCB president Saber Hossain Choudhury at the steering wheel with the General Secretary Syed Ashraful Huq sitting beside him. We ate up the miles as we took turns to ponder how different Bangladesh cricket would be after we battered Pakistan in a clean game of cricket.

Thank goodness we defeated Australia in 2005, which only proves that Bangladesh is capable of beating the best in the world, even if very occasionally. Unfortunately, we had to wait nearly six years to rub off the doubt that the Northampton triumph was fixed. Shame to those Bangla-speaking people who joined the muted chorus, muffled from the start for want of any credible evidence! Shame!

To me personally more shameful was a scene at one of the match venues featuring Pakistan. Two Bangla-speaking girls arrived with their father; I refrain from calling them Bangladeshis, and donned in full public view the Pakistan T-shirt. My attempts to find any logic behind their disgraceful and condemnable action failed; the dad was more to blame. Imagine… in a tournament in which Bangladesh was playing…

The Lord's media centre that was specially imported from Mars was in my full view in matches that I attended at the cricket's HQs. I had little option as I was allotted a seat in the Old Press Box opposite the 'spacecraft'. Lest my travelling colleagues tell me I missed something drastically important I made it a point one off afternoon to take the lift up to the press box of the state-of-the-art centre. It was ordinary. And my press box across Lord's looked to dignified, so archaic, and so…

We were quite a number of Bangladeshi scribes journeying from famous ground to famous ground, covering from match to match, but we hardly got the opportunity to share our thoughts and have a real session of gaal-goppo. The prospect looked bright suddenly after a match at Old Trafford. We made it a point to have dinner at a Pakistani restaurant; made sense since we were the victors among the two. Over half a dozen of us ate to our heart's delight and we had a loud evening, talking as we do best. That feast remains memorable for many reasons two wins in the bag, sharing quality time with fellow journalists, a sumptuous dinner and the fact that my younger friends did not allow me to pay, although I should have had the honour as I was the eldest. They reminded mez in a judicious overtone that we were on foreign land and funds should be preserved as much as possible. I remain forever grateful to my companions.

The author is former advisory Sports Editor, The Daily Star.

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