Mirpur (Bangladesh), Feb 24 (IANS) As the Bangladesh cricket team gradually evolved into a competitive unit on the international stage, the popularity of the gentleman’s game has also increased by leaps and bounds in the country. The passion for cricket among the Bangladeshi fans waas in fulll show in the Asia Cup opener against India at the Sher-e-Bangla National Stadium here on Wednesday evening.
The stadium was packed to full capacity with hardly an empty seat. The jampacked stadium was in raptures as the hosts made a superb start with the pacers putting the Indian batsmen in loads of trouble on the green wicket. As each Indian wicket fell, the roars of the crowd grew louder and louder.
As star Indian batsman Virat Kohli was sent back to the pavilion by Bangladesh captain Mashrafe bin Mortaza reducing the visitors to 42/3, the frenzied slogans and the throbbing of the drums reached a defeaning crescendo.
As Indian opener Rohit Sharma and later Hardik Pandya attempted to bring the visitors’ innings back on track with some lusty blows, the crowd sportingly supported their efforts, cheering evry hit to the boundary and beyond.
Kohli’s estranged girlfriend Anushka Sharma was something of a hot favourite, as the a large portion of the crowd, especially the youngsters chanted her name several times during the Indian innings.
But as the Bangladesh batsmen started their attempt to overhaul the competitive Indian total of 166/6, the picture started to change. Even though the hosts started their essay on an unsteady note with Indian pacers Jasprit Bumrah and Ashish Nehra striking a couple of early blows, the locals stubbornly retained a strong hope that their heroes will prevail in the end.
But as the home team lost wickets at regular intervals and the prospects of victory started to look ever more distant, the mood of of the crowd started to go downhill. The dismissal of the experienced Shakib Al Hasan in the 13th over which left the hosts tottering at 73/4, stunned the stadium into defeaning silence.
But to their credit, the crowd displayed plenty of sporting spirit at the end as they cheered the victorious Indians off the field. The Asia Cup probably could not have asked for a more fitting start.