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World Cup Postcards:

Elephant in the room

One big party and one big animal get the World Cup up and running

World Cup Postcards Posted 18th February 2011 view comments

Andrew Strauss had said it was time to switch on when he landed in Bangladesh but the indication from the first warm-up match here in Dhaka was that many of his England players failed to answer the call.

Matt Prior and Jonathon Trott helped England to a defendable total of 243 but after destroying the Canadian top order they were made to toil hard for victory, with the Cannucks recovering from 25 for five to push England to within 17 runs of defeat.

Stumpy: was too busy starting the World Cup party to bother with our own Tim Abraham

Stumpy: was too busy starting the World Cup party to bother with our own Tim Abraham

A Canadian clubber called Rizwan Cheema was the man that did the damage although the early signs were that his, the sixth wicket, would fall a quickly as the first five. He swung at the first ball but copped it on the shoulder from Stuart Broad. He swung at the second and hit thin air. He swung at the third and it raced to mid-wicket for four. And so it went on until the Pakistani who has made Canada his home, made 93 of 71 balls, 70 of those coming from boundaries.

An elephant soon became interested in us, poking its trunk into our bus, sending our reporter Tim Abraham ducking for cover behind the back seats. The day before he'd had a close encounter with a bull being pulled through the streets by a flyweight 14-year-old who couldn't control it. Throw in the 30 mosquitoes that attacked his leg under the lights against Canada and this was fast becoming as much a wildlife programme as a cricket report.

Sky Sports News' Jamie Hunt
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But England did make it through and it was the win that Strauss has asked for, even if Kevin Pietersen was left saying that the side were acclimatising to the conditions. Broad, whose five wickets won the match for England, later admitted that the performance was below par.

The warm-up match at the Khan Shareb Osmani Stadium in Fatulla showed again two sides to the tournament experience in Bangladesh.

First the positive: since England last played here less than a year ago, the stadium has been renovated offering now a media centre, new pavilion and seating rather than concrete terracing. Although it will only be used as an emergency ground, this is an international cricket venue.

The negative: a crowd of less than 500 was made up of more than two thirds by security staff. And the reason for the poor attendance could be down to the impossible journey to the stadium from Dhaka. The road from Dhaka to Fatulla is almost entirely under construction. The 17km trip is averaging out at two hours ago and that the ICC are asking international teams, media and supporters to travel to this venue is a cause for consternation among the media. England have kept their counsel but it is unnecessary.

At least one of those journeys though provided a colourful highlight for the tour as we were overtaken by an elephant on our way back from a training session at the ground! We took the opportunity to roll the cameras on its progress but the beast soon became interested in us, poking its trunk into our bus, sending our reporter Tim Abraham ducking for cover behind the back seats.

The day before he'd had a close encounter with a bull being pulled through the streets by a flyweight 14-year-old who couldn't control it. Throw in the 30 mosquitoes that attacked his leg under the lights against Canada and this was fast becoming as much a wildlife programme as a cricket report.

Uncomfortable

The England players were given a day off training following the Canada game but were still on duty and went to revisit a hospital that treat victims of acid attacks. They visited the same facility last year.

There were 2,433 attacks registered between 1999 and 2010 by the Acid Survivors Foundation (ASF). Many of the victims will survive and the hospital visited by England is just one of many that help victims deal with the horrendous injuries inflicted upon them when acid is thrown in the faces of, mostly young women, as a form of attack.

The overwhelming majority of the victims are girls below 18 years of age. In some cases it is because a young girl or women has spurned the advances of a male or either she or her parents have rejected a marriage proposal.

After the visit, Broad gave his first press conference. It was a case of third time lucky as twice he had been scheduled to speak to us but twice he had to send down a sub, as he was suffering from uncomfortable intestinal symptoms that are said to affect most who tour the sub-continent.

It was here that he told us about England's disappointment at their performance against Canada, although he also said that out in the middle England have never lost confidence that they would win the match.

He also shed some light on living under the same roof as the other teams currently based in Dhaka, and was asked by the The Sun's reporter here about relations with the Pakistani team after their tumultuous summer of cricket, dominated by the spot-fixing claims.

Broad told us that they 'weren't exactly going out for dinner with one another' and an hour or so later, when feeding the Broad material back to Sky Sports News, there was a moment when Umar Gul and KP appeared to be on course to share the same lift. They avoided one another but you'd want to be a fly on the wall for that sort of conversation!

Downstairs in the lobby at the ICC hotel, it was a 'Who's Who' of international cricketers as the captains of all 14 sides prepared to face the media together. Graeme Smith, Ricky Ponting and Shahid Afridi all passed by with a nod and wink to Tim Abraham.

Fireworks

The opening ceremony followed at the Bangabhandu Stadium and it was a proud moment for the people of Bangladesh. Everyone you spoke to wanted to know if you were going to attend. Sky Sports News had a second crew covering that event, so we, the England crew, watched from our hotel.

Opening ceremonies aren't everyone's cup of tea but you would be of a mean disposition not to be pleased for Bangladesh and its people in this cricket-loving nation on their special day.

The headline on the front page of the local Star on Friday was: "WC off to Wow Start" with a picture of the BangaBhandu Stadium lit up by fireworks and son et lumière. As the BCB President AHM Mustafa Kamal said, it was the 'biggest honour of his life' - and you felt he was speaking for everyone.

Outside parties went on in the street, with thousands upon thousands of people on the backs of trailers, in rickshaws or just walking along. For many here it was the sign of how far Bangladesh has come, not just as a cricket team but as a nation.

In 1947 Bangladesh was still part of India but partition took place that year and East Pakistan was born. Angered by the governance of ruling Pakistan, with whom they shared no border, a liberation was ensued in 1971 and finally independence.

Cricket since then has overtaken football as the most popular sport and a first one-day international with Pakistan, although lost, was celebrated in 1986. The Bengal Tigers, as they are known, became full ICC members in 1999, two years after they took part in their first World Cup, in England.

They have now beaten all the Test-playing teams in one-day internationals and, most recently, beat New Zealand 4-0 in five-match series. They have moved above the West Indies into eighth place in the ICC ODI rankings and although their meagre record stands at played 238, won 64, in 2010 they won nine of 27 matches, including seven of their last 10.

The opening ceremony therefore, while a proud moment, was not the only moment. The Tigers, with all 125 million of its population behind them, believe they can achieve something here and reach the quarter finals.

England and the West Indies or even South Africa and India, in Bangladesh's group, had better beware as one of those will tumble if the Tigers tame their more illustrious and celebrated opposition.

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