At home in Bangla land

People of Mirpur exude easy warmth; and the journos here are the sort that will go the extra mile to help people out, notes Arun Venugopal.

As early as on day two of its stay in Mirpur, the diary acquires the comfort of familiarity. A major reason for that is the easy warmth that the people here exude. There is Habibullah Liton, the chubby, bald Bangladesh Cricket Board staff, who is most endearing. “George WashingTON...younger brother LiTON,” he says by way of an introduction.

The scribes here are the sort that will go the extra mile to help people out. While they indulge the diary’s craving for gastronomic adventures, they also attempt to teach it some Bengali, in vain. The diary is no good at the language and its pronunciation only has people cracking up.

Pandemonium in press box

‘Please keep the voice low. Journalists are working’, proclaim sagely scraps of white paper adorning the walls of the media enclosure at the Sher-e-Bangla Stadium in Mirpur. Press boxes can be eerily quiet places when the coarse clouds of deadline hover. Journalists, head lowered, are seen to be furiously hammering out match reports.

The Mirpur media box, though, is an astounding exception. During the humdinger, that is the Bangladesh-Pakistan game, the Bangladeshi hacks are tearing their hair apart besides letting rip their lung-power.

Every four and six is met with thumping of desks and rapturous roars. There is a journo seated beside the diary that asks it excitedly, “Bangladesh jeetbe na?” (Bangladesh will win, no?).

The diary only manages a meek smile. Seeking to escape the din, it goes to the upper tier that has an open terrace with a breathtaking panoramic view. But the timing is awfully wrong; just as when the diary puffs and pants its way up, Shahid Afridi is run out by Shakib Al Hasan. It watches a bunch of reporters, some draped in the Bangladesh jersey, erupt in delirium.

It decides to return to its original place. Soon, the noise progressively plummets as Bangladesh are losing. Most of the journalists have their hands on their heads and a tear or three stashed away in the corner of their eyes. Although the diary sympathises with them, it isn’t complaining for there is some silence for a change.

Celebrity moment(s)

The diary huddles into a CNG autorickshaw (the caged three-wheeler that has ferried it around Dhaka) with two fellow reporters after the frenetic Bangladesh-Pakistan game. With weariness permeating the bones, the diary barely manages to trundle out of the CNG.

The driver gives the three scribes a good, hard look. Suddenly, he mumbles: “Sign...sign.” The already dazed reporters don’t have the foggiest of what he’s saying. “Bhaiyya, you cricket player...sign,” he says. The diary gets the shock of its life for the driver has assumed the trio to be members of the Pakistan team.

The diary’s friends decide to take the driver’s mickey; they call themselves Misbah-ul-Haq and Umar Gul respectively. The diary is smug with satisfaction as it gets to be Shahid Afridi. The driver by now has vaguely figured that the group isn’t what he thought it was. He is still puzzled, wearing a faint smile before leaving the scene. Why a cricketer will haggle his way to autorickhaw rides, the diary wonders.

Its other brush with celebrity treatment comes when it pops into the commentary box during the Asia Cup final between Pakistan and Sri Lanka. It sees a star-struck media volunteer collecting autographs on an intriguing mini cricket bat that is made of a scraped piece of wood sans any refinement.

After he gets Gautam Bhimani’s autograph, his next target is — hold your breath — the diary. It is as stupefied as the reader, and initially tries to explain that it’s a nobody. The volunteer, however, issues an angry stare and virtually threatens the diary to scrawl its signature on the bat. It obliges. The look of contentment on the man’s face is priceless. The diary can’t make up its mind on how it should react.

What’s in a (nick) name?

“Shot, Shourobh”. The diary hears a Bangladeshi journalist exclaim. It wonders who Shourobh is. “It’s Mominul Haque’s nickname,” a local reporter clarifies. Is it because he’s left-handed and hence a comparison with Sourav Ganguly? “No, everyone has a nickname in Bangladesh,” the reporter says.

Turns out that Anamul Haque is Bijoy, Shamsur Rahman is Shubho, skipper Mushfiqur Rahim is Mitu and Shakib Al Hasan, Moina. There is also ‘Mash’ Mashrafe Bin Mortaza, ‘Lalla’ Abdur Razzak, and ‘Shiplu’ Robiul Islam.

Mandatory Bollywood presence

In recent times, actors have found promoting their films during cricket matches to be a smart marketing ploy. And what better commercial vehicle than an India-Pakistan clash. Farhan Akhtar, who had a new release recently, jumped on the bandwagon. He was also seen speaking on television during the mid-innings break.