Cricket picks me!

by Towheed Feroze

xtra0011Some-time in 1998, while playing squash at the Pan Pacific Sonargaon court, heard a knock on the door.
A little peeved, I opened and found two famous cricketers, Wasim Akram and Mustaq Ahmed smiling sheepishly: can we have fifteen minutes from your time slot for a quick work out?
Well, I was never a big fan of cricket but who could say no to the stars?
‘Yes, please go ahead!’ I said and came out.
The two got in and after about fifteen minutes were done, their shirts plastered to their bodies with sweat.
What followed was a chat about cricket and I had to admit that I only watched if Bangladesh played.
The two appeared a bit surprised!
Later, as I walked into the gym, noticed that it was filled with cricket players. Just to refresh your memory, in 1998, the mini World Cup was held in Bangladesh and all the players were either staying at the Sheraton or the Sonargaon.
In the gym, all eyes were glued to one exquisite woman, possibly in her early thirties, working out provocatively in a stationary cycle. The Pakistani players were joking with her or, maybe, there was a little hint of flirtation.
Who is that woman? I asked the gym attendant who was thoroughly enjoying the scene.
You don’t know! He gasped….and added in a dreamy tone….that’s Sangeeta Bijlani the Bollywood actress now married to Azharuddin.
Right on, in a world where cricket was soon becoming the latest religion, I was hopelessly backdated.
Did I get any autographs? Nope, the thought never crossed my mind. I would have tried if I got hold of Baichung Bhuita, the Indian football star.
Well, as the title of this piece suggests, cricket continued to pick me. A few days later, the editor of the Independent, the late Mahbubul Alam called me and said, go to Sheraton Hotel, Imran Khan is staying there; take his interview.
What!? I was a bit taken aback. Well, could not say no to the editor and therefore, found myself with the great Khan who smiled and asked me not to ask any questions about cricket.
He wanted to talk politics!
This story won’t turn out to be spicy, I was fretting and sensing my worries he broke into laughter, saying: OK, go ahead, let’s talk cricket!
I still remember, he observed that in about ten-years down the line Bangladesh would become a team to take seriously.
Don’t know if he follows the game anymore but we are not just taken seriously but with a sense of fear by almost everyone now.
Anyway, several years later, while working for the British government, the media handling responsibility of the England cricket team was handed over to me.
Once again, found myself among top flight cricketers like Alistair Cook, Kevin Pietersen and others.
During a visit to the Acid Survivors’ Foundation saw that some of the players were keen to support the rehabilitation of some victims of acid attack.
Interestingly, with the manager Andy Flower, I talked about squash because he played the game to keep fit.
Javed Omar Belim was once a national player for Bangladesh, but for me was a Dhaka University younger brother from the same department.
Better known as Golla, he was and still remains the epitome of the gentleman cricket player. Always found him courteous as a sportsman. Even today, if he sees me from a distance comes over to greet me.
Just a few months ago, several top level Asian players were in Bangladesh and many expatriates living in here were desperately trying to get to them to take pictures and autographs.
By coincidence, I was at the spot and the excited cricket fanatics asked me: would you like to meet the players to which I replied: no thanks!
In fact, I thought, the time is gone when we have to look at others to find sporting idols. The common question asked by many sports people to our sportspersons in different fields came to mind: who is your favourite player in the world stage?
Well, I won’t be arrogant, but in cricket Bangladeshis do not have to idolise someone else anymore, the best stars of the game are right here in our country.
To end, here’s a small real life story: back in 1995, one of my friends came to me and said in a crestfallen tone: what am I to do, the girl I admire is a fan of a player from another country with the admiration turning to obsession.
After a little pressing, he revealed that the infatuation was to such a length that the girl made regular overseas calls to that player to express her undying love.
Hmmmmmm, you can’t beat that cricketer, I had to say! Well, in time the girl finally realised that catching that star was beyond her and my friend got her full attention. Don’t know if she fantasized about the cricketer when they shared intimate moments.
Right on, come to 2015 when another girl at a swanky Dhaka night club expressed her inner desire after one Vodka too many: my fervent desire is to spend one wild night with Sakib….and I can live the rest of my life in bliss!
Well, just like I said: we don’t have to look for heroes outside our country anymore, we now make them!