Babar’s stunner

Zulfiqar Babar’s is an unusual case. He made his international debut last year at 34, notably helping Pakistan to a T20 series win over West Indies, when he finished Man of the Tournament, writes Shreedutta Chidananda in his final Diary from Dhaka.

The Diary is not enamoured with Dhaka, or whatever it has seen of it. It is a terrifying, stifling ocean of people, engulfing the city in its breathless enormity. At three in the afternoon, the Diary has to wade through an incessant stream of pedestrians to hail an auto rickshaw. At nine in the evening, it has to dodge another thousand hawkers, office workers, shoppers, wanderers, and god knows who else just to get to a department store a hundred metres away.

It can all get very claustrophobic and overwhelming. So it flabbergasts and infuriates the Diary that the locals treat the Sher-e-Bangla National Cricket Stadium as some sort of monument, lingering aimlessly in its vicinity in their hundreds. They gather outside the walls of the place, chatting, smoking, squatting, loitering, posing for pictures next to multi-coloured lights — just ‘hanging out’. A mini-economy has sprouted around the whole nonsensical affair, chai-wallahs, groundnut vendors, and cycle rickshaws all milling about for business.

It means even at the end of a long, unforgiving ‘preview’ day, stuffed as the schedule is often with two previews and four press-conferences, the Diary has to squeeze past one selfie-enthusiast after another just to reach the corner of the street.

The Bangladeshis are a genuinely warm lot, but the Diary is more at home in south Bangalore.

Flash mob tradition

What’s this the Diary hears from under its bedroom window? Surely, it’s not Char Chokka Hoi Hoi, the official theme song of the ICC World Twenty20? Catchy though it might be, the Diary is a little sick of hearing it. It turns out it is the same infernal tune.

As it peers out, the Diary spots a crowd on the road below, with some sort of clearing in the middle. It’s a flash mob, it dawns, with young folk dancing to the song’s vigorous beats. To the Diary’s amusement, even onlookers break into little jigs. Soon, the show is wound up, the performers slip away into the crowd, and things return to their usual dispiriting selves in central Dhaka.

The song, Char Chokka Hoi Hoi (Fours, Sixes, Fun and Games), was composed by Fuad Al Muktadir, a popular Bangladeshi artist and sung by six others. “The song is written in a way that fans from across the world are able to understand its basic essence and enjoy the music,” says a release from the ICC. The lyrics are a mixture of Bangla and English, with phrases like: “Stadium shouting, Bombastic rocking/ People are cheering, Everybody hearing.”

“During the making of the song it was really hard for us to stay in our seats, because it turned out to be so rhythmic and energetic,” Al Muktadir was quoted as saying. The flash mob tradition, the performers all university students, is a way of promoting the tournament across the country. The Diary is not one for shaking a leg, but it doesn’t mind watching.

An unusual case

These days, there’s very little teams don’t know about each other in international cricket, they say. With analysts telling bowlers where to land the ball, down to the last millimetre, to a particular batsman, there’s little that surprises anyone anymore.

Zulfiqar Babar, however, is a wonderful exception from the norm. Having dismissed David Warner and Shane Watson en route to figures of two for 26 in Pakistan’s victory over Australia, he claimed to be clueless over their identities.

“I frankly did not know that they (Warner and Watson) were two great batsmen,” he said. “I bowled at a line and length I am used to bowling in every match.”

Babar’s is an unusual case. He made his international debut last year at 34, notably helping Pakistan to a T20 series win over West Indies, when he finished Man of the Tournament.

“My father was an international footballer and I began by playing football but when he saw me play cricket he allowed me to do so and encouraged me too,” he said.

But Babar stunned journalists when, asked a routine question about bowling in Bangladesh, he offered this answer: “I have played previously in Twenty20 internationals against Bangladesh in Bangladesh so I have a fair idea of how to bowl on these wickets.”

Except he had never played in or against Bangladesh before. The Diary can only stand and admire.