My first memory of cricket was when I was a mere toddler. Barely able to hold the ‘pre-made’ bat that my father made from a coconut tree branch, he would bowl a tennis ball under-arm to me and I would try my best to hit it; failing many times to make a connection.
A few years later, with the company of my brothers and friends, we would play in the streets. This was where I got my first taste of defeat. I found it to be very bitter. To put it kindly, I was a sore loser.
Playing cricket in the streets of Guyana
This was around the same time that West Indies were seeing their dominance in world cricket fading away.
In the cricket world cup of 96, I supported my West Indies team all the way to the heartbreaking semi-final defeat to Australia. I have a very clear memory of that day. West Indies had a modest target of 208 to chase, they were cruising, and it was when Lara’s wicket fell did I feel like they were going to choke. We all know what happened next and who won that world cup, but I somehow felt that that was the moment where everything came crashing down for my team.
So most of you reading right now might be thinking where I am going with this…
I have a soft side for losers. In battle, one has to respect his opponent; before, during, and after.
The first time I saw Bangladesh playing was at the 99 World Cup. I have faint memories of them, mainly because they were not the team I was supporting. I would later learn that they created an upset in that tournament.
A couple of years after the 99 World Cup, news of a record-breaking century by a 17-year old kid from Bangladesh came to my attention.
From that point on, I began to take an interest in Bangladesh cricket. It was more of a curiosity than an interest. The team was young in terms of experience. They were getting thrashed by significant margins. A part of me felt that this wasn't fair. I began cheering them on. On that day Bangladesh had a new supporter: me.
At that point in time, I was merely a newcomer to high school. I was not a good student. I was getting bad grades while Bangladesh cricket team was swimming with sharks.
My team, West Indies on their first visit to Bangladesh in 2002, made light work of their opposition. Pedro Collins took the wicket of Hannan Sarkar off the first ball of the test series, and Jermaine Lawson finished the 1st test match with career-best figures of 6.5-4-3-6. Mind you, West Indies also was a weak and failing team at that time. I remember listening to the commentary on the radio of the bus every morning on my way to school. I got to know the names of some of the Bangladesh players: Captain Mashud, Bashar, Enamul Haque, and a crafty young pacer named Tapash Baisya.
I continue to do badly in school while Bangladesh was suffering defeat after defeat.
Two years later, Bangladesh were the visitors to the Caribbean. The 1st ball of the series was a copy of the test series in Bangladesh; Pedro Collins dismissing Hannan Sarkar off the first ball of the series. The 1st test ended in a draw after a dodgy and undefeated century from Mashud. Even though the result was not in favor of my West Indies, I was satisfied with the outcome. I sensed a determined Bangladesh team.
The next time I would get to see the Bangladesh team was in the 2007 World Cup in the West Indies. This time, they had a bunch of fresh-faced youngsters: Shakib, Mushfiqur, and Tamim. We all knew what took place in their match against India. The sight of a 17-year old Tamim dancing down the track to Zaheer Khan and hitting a six is still fresh in my memory. Their match against South Africa was played in my country, and they won that game as well. I felt joy after that victory as would any fan of Bangladesh cricket would have felt.
One of my cricketing heroes, Brian Charles Lara, retired during that World Cup.
By that time, I finished high school and went to work in the sugarcane fields as a 17-year old kid; a job that was not based on the outcome of my high school diploma. It was not pleasant, but I tried.
Another 2 years later, in 2009, Bangladesh visited the Caribbean. This time, they would play a depleted West Indies side. Bangladesh came to do a job, they did it, and they went back home with trophies and wins. They left Shakib as my new hero in cricket.
A couple of months later, I stumbled upon BanglaCricket and saw that it was a forum where supporters of Bangladesh would congregate and debate. I noticed the passion instantly. I joined as a member with little knowledge of Bangladesh and its cricketing history. My initial posts were immature due to my lack of writing skills. I liked visiting the forum. Bangladesh was on my mind for the most part during that period. My curiosity got me listening to a Bangladeshi song sung by Habib. BanglaCricket was the medium where I could share my passion with fellow supporters of Bangladesh cricket.
The build up to 2011 World Cup was very exciting. Since it was being held in the sub-continent, I felt that this was an opportunity to see for the first time how fans in Bangladesh supported their team. Even though the world cup turned out to be a disappointing for the team, I was impressed by the crowd support. The match versus England was worth remembering. A persevering, unbeaten 58 run partnership between Riyad and Shafiul took their team home, to create an upset in the tournament. I jumped with joy as the target got closer and closer.
The next 3 years, I would take an unnecessary leave from following all cricket. I missed the 2012 Asia Cup, which was a high point in cricket for Bangladesh.
When I re-started my cricket following, I became a more fervent follower of Bangladesh cricket and also a regular member of Banglacricket.
The year 2014 reminded me of 2004. Bangladesh could not even buy a win. They were making bad decisions and they were basically moving away from winning positions.
They got a new head coach and a bowling coach. Things were not going to change overnight. They visited the Caribbean and lost all their matches. To me, it looked like a timidity problem and not a coaching problem. In my head, I was thinking: "The Tigers have to change their approach to the game, time to grow up!!!".
The World Cup in 2015 was the stage that they decided to finally "Grow up". Rubel, Taskin, Riyad, Sabbir, and Souyma, all had breakout performances. The world witnessed a team that finally arrived to play a different brand of cricket. I was proud of their fearlessness. A totally changed team.
Taskin and co. brought a different brand of cricket
The series that followed the World Cup were the highest point in following Bangladesh cricket.
The arrival of Mustafizur brought stability in the bowling department for the Tigers. His career is young, he has a lot to look forward to in the future.
Another cricketer that I admire is Taskin. He's young and got the pace to trouble top quality batsmen. Having recently learn that he is suspended from bowling is a huge blow to the pace bowling battery of the team. I wish him the best and hope he returns better than ever. Stay strong Taskin, only a small hurdle it is.
If you ask me who is my favorite Bangladesh cricketer now, I wouldn't say Shakib. There are so many good cricketers in the team that it is hard to pick a favorite. I might tell you that my favorite Bangladesh cricketer is the current captain of the women's team.
My perspective of Bangladesh cricket is likened to that of a living entity. At this stage of its life, it is a 17-year old teenager. The days of curiosity, timidity, and juvenility are over. It is time for bravery and maturity to play as professionals with the eagerness of winning.
Make it count. Go Tigers!!!!!