Even if it is just a 20-km journey to the Hazrat Shah Jalal airport in Dhaka, the traffic ensures that the journey takes more than two hours. The good thing is that the locals have learnt to embrace obstacles with a smile — the cabbie doesn’t charge anything extra for the hardship.
Bangladesh, however, aspires to change and change for the better, and the country has projected the upcoming ICC World T20 tournament as the beginning of a new dawn. The government has come forward with the Bangladesh Cricket Board (BCB) and together they’ve been working overtime to give everything a facelift – from infrastructure to stadiums and practice grounds.
“The World T20 is by far the largest ICC event we’ve ever hosted alone,” BCB director Mahbubul Anam told The Indian Express. “We definitely had to upgrade a lot of our facilities and we did it. Everything was co-funded by our government and the BCB. The government has spent USD 20-30 million over construction and renovation of the venues while the BCB has spent about USD 10 million. The government has also spent a lot on infrastructure and road-building. In fact, USD 30 million have been spent exclusively for the Dhaka city development. Flyovers have been built.
‘Money well spent’
“Earlier it used to take two hours from Dhaka to Fatullah which is about 37 kilometres away. Now it takes just a little over half an hour. We’ve also built eight new grounds, including practice venues. Overall, about USD 70-80 millions were spent but I can assure you that the money is very well spent.”
Bangladesh has just finished bidding goodbyes to its Asia Cup guests. World T20 comes close on their heels. Uncertainty had loomed over both events due to political turmoil. It considerably delayed the preparations. “Yes, the official go-ahead from the ICC came late. We had to race against time. But we’ve made it. By the time, the T20 world cup starts on March 16, everything will be ready,” Anam assures. Basically, World T20 is an opportunity for this small country and everyone has jumped on the bandwagon. Tourism is going to benefit the most.
“The Bangladesh Tourism Board is an official partner of the event and it is running their own campaign. Some of the venues are pure tourist attractions like the one in Sylhet, which is located inside a tea garden. Not just tourism, the World T20 will give a big boost to the whole economy, the organisers hope. And to woo the fans, the ICC has decided to keep the ticketing prices reasonable. The lowest category is priced at BDT 50 which is less than a dollar and the highest is BDT 3,500 which is less than 45 dollars,” says Anam.
The BCB and the government want to include the fans for this big event and don’t want to make their visits uncomfortable through heavy security measures without really compromising on the safety of the players or the spectators.
All said and done, Bangladesh cricket team have to do well to make the event a success. They’ve been on a downward spiral and have lost seven ODIs in a row — three in the bilateral series against Sri Lanka and four in the Asia Cup, including the loss to Afghanistan. They will have to qualify for the World T20 proper. Their journey starts on March 16 at Mirpur against Afghanistan and it might be tricky business.
“This a new tournament in a different format and that is going to be a revenge match for us,” Bangladesh captain Mushfiqur Rahim threw down the gauntlet, exactly a week before the start of the event. “We now have all our experienced players back — Shakib Al Hasan, Tamim Iqbal, Mashrafe Mortaza. We will start the tournament with renewed confidence.”
Three days before they play their first match, an evening gala at the Bangbandhu National Stadium will see rapper Akon and composer A R Rahman performing. The job for the Bangladesh cricketers would be not to turn the mood sour.