Our national cricket team’s unyielding spirit and ‘never say die’ mantra is the defining credo for current-day Bangladesh
The day after the Asia Cup final, the talk around town was about how a winning game turned into a losing one. Everywhere, people turned into analysts -- those run outs were amateurish, somebody should have told the batsmen to take lesson from one run out, and, how could they give that out when the leg was on the line?
The last one is about a dismissal which has triggered both debate and indignation. Be that as it may, Bangladesh took the game to the last ball, and all throughout the match, the fortunes of both sides fluctuated. The predictions vacillated from over to over and, even in the last six balls, suspense reached fever pitch. That’s what a final should be -- thrilling, unpredictable, dramatic, and scintillating.
What the hell! All thoughout Bangladesh’s history, others have tried to denigrate this country, denounce it as impoverished, dysfunctional, and tried in various ways to inject a sense of inferiority in the national psyche.
Perpetuating the abhorrent colonial policy
In the colonial period, one of the policies adopted by the British was to create and nurture a social division, sustain sectarian differences, dig up old prejudices and slowly instill in the minds of the people here that they are only capable of reaching a certain level, and not beyond.
This tactic worked wonderfully, and that’s exactly why, in the British Indian army, a local’s highest position usually meant a sergeant major, a non-commissioned post. That was the rule with very rare exceptions, with some changes coming at the fag-end of empire due to rising demand of officers during WWII. Even in the game of cricket, a distinct division was maintained, under which a team was always led by a colonial officer, or at times the acquiescent (read fawning) maharajas.
What many don’t know, in a cricket match, the fielding was mostly done by locals, or natives as they were called, while batting, the art of getting the runs, was often the sole right of the imperial masters.
Check Jeremy Paxman’s candid narrative on the British Raj, available on YouTube, and all will be clear.
Anyway, when Bangladesh cricket began to come out of years of non-stop defeats and ignominious score sheets, there was initially a reaction from others, which seemed to say: This is just a flash in the pan.
Superior teams, which viewed the tiger “cubs” with a sense of amusement, began to feel the scratch of a grown-up animal, ready and eager to match a howl with a roar.
Metaphorically speaking, as the tigers rose, Bangladesh also began coming out of a shell of poverty, suffering, natural disasters, and upheavals.
Just as the cricket team is no longer taken lightly by anyone, the oft used term ‘desperately poor’ is no longer applicable for Bangladesh.
The cricket team’s unyielding spirit and their “never say die” mantra is actually the credo for the current day Bangladesh -- industrial growth is high, the textile sector is booming, wealth is in abundance, with starvation a term used nostalgically by elders.
What others can do, we can do better
I am perhaps not wrong is stating that a new wave of confidence swept through the country when the cricket team began to win. The uncontrolled celebration that I saw after Bangladesh won against Ireland in 2010 will only be repeated when tigers win the World Cup. Eight years ago, victory against Ireland was a major win, in 2018, no one came out on the streets to honk and shout after Bangladesh beat Sri Lanka, Afghanistan, and Pakistan. Notice the metamorphosis -- we have come to expect victory -- subconsciously, we have adopted a new ethos: No matter who the opponent is, we can and should win
This feeling of confidence in our ability is ingrained in the current-day youth. When we were at university in the early 90s, the common notion was “Bangladesh haru party” -- Bangladesh is inevitably the losing side, and that pernicious belief influenced all other aspects of life -- education, fashion, style, living standard, and our overall social outlook.
That has now changed -- in all sectors, there is a desire to be the best, and not just locally. Therefore, a Bangladeshi placed in the top 100 rich list in Singapore is not the apotheosis. Perhaps in five years, the top 10 richest people in top economies will be Bangladeshis.
The problem of being self–assertive
The power of self-belief has been extolled, though there is also a down-side. Those who had treated you sanctimoniously for so long will initially smile at confidence, and then, find it hard to digest. Late Humayun Azad, a social thinker and writer, once made a very profound statement: “Manush shingher proshongsha kore kintu ashole gaadhakei pochondo kore.” In broader terms, this means, as long as a country is subservient and servile, others will treat it patronizingly and also like it.
Confident countries are not adored, they have to be dealt with: Delicately.
Same goes for the cricket team. Whipping boys are affectionately given advice, pats on the back, and are treated with subtle condescension.
Boys who know how to step on your toes to win are revered and reviled.
Bangladesh may have lost the final on the last ball, but they sent a clear message: One swallow does not make a summer.
As for the wrongful umpiring decision, here’s a quote from Shakespeare’s King Lear: “Time shall unfold what plighted cunning hides, who covers faults, at last shame them derides.”
Have I made my point?
Towheed Feroze is News Editor at Bangla Tribune and teaches at the University of Dhaka