The Delhi effect

India's century-makers Gautam Gambhir and Virat Kohli during their 205-run partnership for the second wicket against Sri Lanka in the Asia Cup.-AP

Gautam Gambhir and Virat Kohli score centuries and despite Jayawardene's hyper-kinetic energy at the top, Sri Lanka slump to a 50-run defeat against India. The Delhi duo's exploits ensure that M. S. Dhoni's men start their defence of the Asia Cup with a facile triumph. It is still early days and more needs to be done especially when a shocking surprise was in store against the host, in a few days' time. By K. C. Vijaya Kumar.

A Friday night stretches at the Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport. It is the nervousness of departure for some and the joy of getting back home for others but for a few scribes on the cricket caravan, the wretchedness of coping with a delayed flight to Dhaka is overcome by exchanging notes on Rahul Dravid, who earlier in the day had bowed out in Bangalore.

Statistician Mohandas Menon, who is also headed for Dhaka for the Asia Cup, joins the tete-a-tete. The conversation veers towards a milestone that has shadowed every press conference which the Indian team members have attended since March 12, 2011, when Sachin Tendulkar scored his 99th international hundred — against South Africa in Nagpur in a Word Cup game.

“His longest drought in tons was 34 innings and that happened in that phase during 2007. Now he has gone 32 innings without a century,” Menon says.

One legend has departed with his halo enhanced, another still nurses a hunger to play and crunch a few numbers on the way. The question remains — how long will with this incredible era last?

Cycle-rickshaw rules

Unlike other cities' all pervading culture of bigger vehicles having the pride of place on roads, Dhaka proves to be an exception. The cycle-rickshaw is the strongest reference point for Bangladesh and miniature versions are often picked at airports as souvenirs and the modest vehicle also dots T-shirts that plug this densely populated small nation. The men, who pedal these vehicles, are intrepid and have no fears while cutting across lanes and it seems as though they have the right of way more than the sedan cars and mini-buses that ply on these bustling roads.

What's in a name?

The monotony of filling up check-in forms at the Grand Prince Hotel, close to the Sher-e-Bangla National Stadium, suddenly lightens up as this correspondent sees a column ‘nickname'. This is a first but on closer enquiry, there is a revelation that the nickname defines a person's identity in Bangladesh. Shakib Al Hasan for instance is known as ‘Moina'. Local sports scribes say that earlier in their match reports, they used to refer to players by their nicknames!

An old story

Bangladesh's tag of the ‘occasional slayer of big teams' is now getting frayed at the corners. The team may have scalped India and South Africa in the 2007 World Cup at the Caribbean but similar upsets have become distant over the years.

Against Pakistan, the host despite the aggro atop the order from Tamim Iqbal and Shakib Al Hasan's ice-cool temperament, hobbles to a 21-run defeat. Captain Mushfiqur Rahim says: “We played well in patches.”

It's been a recurring fault-line in Bangladesh's approach to cricket — the inability to remain consistent.

Small drops make an ocean

The Grand Prince Hotel is swarming with foreign nationals, mostly students from Thailand and various parts of Europe. They are all here to do internship at the Grameen Bank, which along with its founder, the Nobel Prize-winning economist Muhammad Yunus, revolutionised the concept of micro-credit and helped the poor slowly gain financial strength.

Winning spin... Saeed Ajmal (right) celebrates with team-mates after getting rid of Sri Lanka's Upul Tharanga.-AP

Holiday!

Remember those days in school when an unexpected downpour forced the authorities to down shutters for a day and the resultant joy that enveloped your heart? That feeling rippled across the Indians and Sri Lankans as a ‘Dhaka Cholo' (March to Dhaka) rally unleashed by the Bangladesh Nationalist Party, forced the teams to skip training and stay back in the hotel. The players were not complaining though as they had just come in from a gruelling schedule in Australia. “We wanted to take a three-day break and in that sense we were happy, staying in our rooms,” said Mahela Jayawardene.

Gambhir, Kohli make merry

Gautam Gambhir and Virat Kohli score centuries and despite Jayawardene's hyper-kinetic energy at the top, Sri Lanka slump to a 50-run defeat against India. The Delhi duo's exploits ensure that M. S. Dhoni's men start their defence of the Asia Cup with a facile triumph. It is still early days and more needs to be done especially when a shocking surprise was in store against the host, in a few day's time.

Fire in the belly

Rabeed Imam, the Bangladesh Cricket Board's media manager, is a friendly man, who goes the extra distance to help the sports hacks. Perhaps it helps that he is a former journalist.

Over a cup of tea in his cabin, Rabeed gets nostalgic about his days of chronicling sport. “Once I tried hard for a Curtly Ambrose interview. He refused and refused. Finally he said, ‘five minutes maaan!'. The interview lasted 15 minutes and when I asked him about how long he intends to play, Curtly said: ‘The fire is still burning maan, the fire stops, I stop.',” Rabeed says.

Sadly those old competitive fires are now mere embers in the West Indies and that remains one of cricket's tragic notes.

Teesra!

Ahead of the game against Pakistan, Jayawardene is asked about plans to tackle Saeed Ajmal's teesra.' “What is it called?” asks the Sri Lankan skipper and then adds: “It is difficult to keep a track of deliveries these days. Finally they are all the same and it is about how you adapt to them.” The captain's optimism does not trickle down to his team and Sri Lanka suffers a six-wicket defeat against Pakistan. Ajmal scalps three.

Sweet and sour

A Friday dawned and a headline in a local daily, imploded: “Not today, Sachin!”. The complex inter-play of history, destiny, prodigal talent and longevity ensured that cricket had one of its biggest moments as Tendulkar finally struck his 100th international hundred.

A burden had lifted, a golden milestone was etched but it was not a day of eternal smiles for the Indian fans as Bangladesh mounted a frenetic chase while trailing 289. Mushfiqur's men pummelled the Indian attack and later at night, Tendulkar admitted to mixed feelings over his success and the team's defeat.

The master also spoke about his mortality. “I am not God, I am Sachin,” he said. Outside the venue, boys and girls zipped away on bikes, waving the Bangladesh flag after one more chapter was added to the fable of David quelling Goliath.