Support bordering on the manic!

After India’s win, there is reportedly outrage in Bangladesh over perceived umpiring errors. The ICC President Mustafa Kamal, in his infinite wisdom, too lashes out at the umpires. By Shreedutta Chidananda.

The Diary notes that Bangladesh has perhaps the second largest media contingent at the World Cup after India. The country is evidently mad about cricket and the national team is supported with an extraordinary zeal. Even members of the media are not immune to this passion, something the Diary observed in Dhaka last year, where Bangladeshi sixes and fours were met with violent applause in the press box.

Two days before the quarterfinal with India, Shakib Al Hasan’s press conference turns into something of a rally in support of Bangladesh.

Question after question harks back to the win over India in Trinidad at the 2007 World Cup. Then there are percentages flung at Shakib, desperately seeking reassurance that Bangladesh has some chance of victory. Figures of 10%, 20%, 30%, and even 33.3% are bandied about, hoping that he will deny them. One question in Bengali, though, draws guffaws from the press pack and has Shakib grinning lopsidedly. The Diary learns later that it was less of a question and more of a plea for help. “India is given more than a 50% chance. We have no bloody chance, these Indian blighters are saying. Please say that we have more of a chance.”

Thankfully, Shakib’s reply is a lot more measured than the question. “You don’t gain anything from calculating these percentages,” he says.

After India’s win, there is reportedly outrage in Bangladesh over perceived umpiring errors. The ICC President Mustafa Kamal, in his infinite wisdom, too lashes out at the umpires.

One Dhaka-based journalist, who has stayed behind in Australia for the rest of the tournament, laments this attitude. “Those people are crazy,” he says. Kamal’s comments, he feels, were purely theatrics aimed at political gain. “People have no sense of reality. They need to understand and appreciate cricket rather than rabidly support their team.” The Diary hopes so too.

From cordiality to aloofness

The Diary walks into a convenience store near the MCG on the eve of the quarterfinal, where the shop-keeper is a young man from Lahore. Waleem is happy to make the Diary’s acquaintance and offers congratulations on India’s remarkable performance in the group stages of the competition. “You guys are lucky,” he says. “You drew Bangladesh in the quarterfinals. Who knows, you might win the whole thing.”

The Diary interrupts him, pointing out that Australia in the semifinals could prove to be a hurdle too high for India. Waleem’s face falls. “You are absolutely certain you will play Australia in the semis?” The Diary pauses, scrabbling to recollect whom Australia is meeting in the quarterfinals. Oh, ahem, Pakistan. “What I meant was...” the Diary begins. “14 dollars, mate. Next please.”

Media-baiter

Even someone slow like the Diary can understand that M. S. Dhoni is no fan of the media’s. In Perth, he made the press corps wait an hour while he played some football after India’s win over the UAE. At every press conference, he slips in the odd barb about how the media functions. Even gaining entry into the semifinals is no reason to let the assembled journalists escape without the odd criticism.

A question on keeping this simple draws this reply. “We are good thinkers and over-thinking can actually kill you, especially in an environment like this where there’s already so much pressure, especially if you are part of the Indian cricket team. It’s not only about doing well on the field. When you go out, you have to have proper dinner, otherwise the camera gets you there also.”

A question on the pitch gets this answer. “There was a bit of pace. I felt the pace increased a bit, and that’s one reason why I would say Ash bowled really well. If you just look at the stats, 10 overs, I don’t know how many runs, no wickets. In India the media don’t rate people high if they don’t take wickets.”

But his response to a question on whom he expected to face in the semifinals takes the cake. “Who do you expect to win (in the Adelaide quarterfinal) tomorrow, and if it is Australia, have you ever felt better prepared?” Dhoni is asked. It doesn’t matter, he says, and spews out some empty cliche.

“If it is Australia have you ever felt better prepared?” the journalist persists. “Why? Are you putting money on bet.com or something?” Dhoni shoots back.

The Diary is tempted to make a Gurunath Meiyappan reference but decides against it.