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World Cup 2011: Passionate Bangladesh Provides Perfect Opening

By on February 18, 2011

Those who were not at the Bangabandhu National Stadium will never know just how successful and moving the opening ceremony of the 2011 World Cup was. Those who saw it on TV would have cringed at Sonu Nigam crooning an English inspirational song, Bryan Adams of all people being the top draw, recordings of Shankar-Ehsan-Loy’s unremarkable theme song playing on loop, and the politicians inducing yawns with their speeches.

Those who were here, though, saw, heard and felt the heartbeat of Bangladesh cricket. What happened inside the stadium, sold out by 25,000 people welcoming the World Cup with open arms, was only a minor part of it. There were 25,000 other fans – and this is a conservative estimate, mind you – outside the stadium, with no hope or intention of getting in, partying away to their own rhythm of vuvuzelas, carrying Bangladesh flags about 50 feet in length, celebrating the World Cup.

The reception for the World Cup on the streets of Dhaka was the closest cricket can get to a football World Cup. There was no giant screen outside for them, the music could hardly be heard there, there was obviously no alcohol to keep them going, but they danced and made merry, choreographing their own moves. There was not an inch of space in about a kilometre’s radius of the Bangabandhu Stadium. Nigam, Adams, Mustafa Kamal (the BCB chief) might as well have not turned up. The crowd either side of the stadium wall couldn’t care less.

There were journalists at the ceremony who have covered cricket World Cups, Olympics, Asian Games, even football World Cups, and they swore they have never seen anything like this before. For a sport that has a bad history with opening ceremonies, nothing could have been more welcome. It didn’t need the Bangladesh prime minister Sheikh Hasina to declare the World Cup open. The World Cup was open when at 2am last night, thousands were dancing on the streets, signing the best-wishes bat, and tens of cars went round and round the Bangabandhu Stadium. And when similar scenes were taking place at the Shere Bangla National Stadium in Mirpur, which didn’t even have anything to do with the opening ceremony.

And to say that the 50-over format is supposed to be dying. Not in the subcontinent, not in Bangladesh by a long shot. However, like with the good old ODIs, the opening ceremony had its middle overs. Nigam followed up his Celine Dion act from the recently held Filmfare Awards back home in India with a self-composed song titled Rise Up For Glory, which showed that his great voice needs to be rescued, from himself. The politicians took about half an hour of valuable time, and were on the verge of inviting a streaker. The crowd mimicked and made fun of one of them, another speaker gave two different figures for Bangladesh’s population in half a minute, and ICC chief Sharad Pawar tried to speak Bangla but no one could make out a word of what he said.

In the bigger picture, though, all those were minor irritants. There were some very nice touches to the ceremony. Local artists performing before the main function started was one such; getting popular, almost legendary singers, Mumtaz, Sabina Yasmin and Runa Laila, to share the stage was another, as was the crowd going crazy at the first sound of Bollywood music in an overstretched celebration of India.

Then there was the laser show involving the towering 24-storey Bangladesh Development Bank Building . On a long white curtain, a cricket pitch was projected. From the top floor, men tied on harnesses came down. Two batsmen, bowler, keeper, slip, umpire, cover, midwicket were all there. One man was pulled up suggesting a bowler running in to bowl. The ball was a laser pointer. In one over of “aerial cricket”, they showed a forward-defensive, an lbw appeal, a scrambled single and overthrows, a play-and-a-miss, and a boundary.

The best, and the most unforgettable, moment was when all the captains were brought in on cycle rickshaws. One captain on each rickshaw, with a young boy sitting beside him, waving to the crowd, and the crowd responding generously. They came out alphabetically, Australia first, with one exception – Bangladesh were saved for the last, and more importantly Shakib Al Hasan for the very last. Few present at the Bangabandhu Stadium will ever forget the applause that Shakib walked out to.

Put the applause for the other 13 captains together – and they were not stingy with any of them – but it paled in comparison. That noise was enough to know what the World Cup meant to the country. In that moment, the traffic jams, the poor singing, the long speeches didn’t matter. Over to Shakib’s team now to make sure the party goes on deep into the tournament. The people deserve it.

Sidharth Monga is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

ICC Cricket World Cup 2011 Opening Ceremony Video

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