I will always remember one dialog from a former cricketer, “Form is temporary, class is permanent.” My father used to tell me not to take sports too seriously. I wasn’t that good anyways, but I am a close follower of sports. I can guarantee I know more about sports history then many sports journalist! One thing I have seen is, team sports is the most honest reflection of a society. How you are is reflected on how a group of people try to take coordinated action in a competitive environment. The ability shows how the national attitude is towards many attributes; commitment to a cause, dedication to a cause, work ethics, physical ability, mental toughness. All of these are needed in personal, social or national life. A team of sports persons will show you the crack somehow or other. For us, unfortunately the form of honesty and commitment is always temporary but the class of ungratefulness is a permanent trait. Let’s take a popular sports in Bangladesh and see how it shows our national character. I actually became curious to find a weird correlation like this today because of two separate incidents. One was the story in a news blog in Bangladesh about an investigative story in Norway about Dr. Yunus. The banker is allegedly moved money from Grameen Bank to a sister concern project. That allegation is a clear violation of work ethics if proven, let’s assume innocent until proven guilty. The second was the sorry performance of Bangladesh cricket team against Zimbabwe, the skipper Shakib’s instant reactions on the field and the result. None was cherish-able stories and as they say, when you are in bad mood even well cooked stake feels just a piece of burned meat!
Our greatest achievement in any sector which involves more than one person has to be in cricket. So let’s take a look at that sport. The team has shown resilience under extreme circumstances. They have surprised the world on many occasions when no one thought victory was possible. But after one achievement either we feel so satisfied that we loose the apatite of bringing more glory, or we start counting on what else we can cash out of one achievement and then feel sad of not getting enough recognition. This is a national characteristic. We can turn around when our backs hit the wall, but we don’t know how to sustain once we rebound. After winning a game or a war it’s the same characteristic we show.
We always do the bare minimum to keep ourselves afloat. In cricket, look at- say Ashraful! The guy played 169 ODIs and most of the time his batting is not any better then mine, and that’s really not a complement!! But as soon as he’s out of the team, he’ll start scoring runs in national league or in practice matches. That can be an indication that he knows how to bat, just doesn’t have the ability to apply himself every time he plays with the same level of commitment. Take Raqibul right before the England test series. A twenty odd year old kid, who’s earning more than millions of college graduates declares retirement after he scores a hundred against the touring team in a practice game. After he declared his retirement he told the press,” I scored the hundred with determination, because I wanted to prove before I leave how good I was.” What I saw wasn’t a talented batsman but a selfish, apatriotic person. Who had no problem to sign central contract and get paid by taxpayers money, but had all intention to show his ego by rubbing insult to the country’s face. They represent a race of takers. Take any instance when you have lend money of Bangali and even try to ask it back, you’ll know what I meant about these two.
How about the officials! Well they know cricket board is a golden goose. The cricket board itself has more money then the National Sports Council. Sponsorships, free foreign trips are as lucrative to a mediocre cricket official as a newly elected MP or a university VC who’s highest academic achievement was a second class in SSC (alright also in BA exam!). It’s easier to just put someone in front of you as shield and do what ever you want, let it be a former prime minister’s son as board president than budget control, school cricket development or decentralizing the board’s authority and establish divisional cricket entities. So keep all the power, lick a bit from the money pie and do the bare minimum to keep the money machine running. That’s what the government is doing with the country, a headmaster and a newspaper editor is doing, why not the cricket board? The talents are coming in from all round the country, and are doing well only on their determination. They are like that student who just got kicked out of his hostel seat but will still study hard, or the farmer who’ll keep on going back to field year after year. Their determination runs the system. We always listen to the stories of 30 odd cricketer who make big bucks, but what about the ones who play for the divisions all their lives? Now, the enthusiasm is high and players are trying their luck, but we are gambling with gamblers luck. If we don’t give the environment, the institutions where they can go and get training who are they going to improve their skills? What about school cricket? We still hear the stories about Tendulkar scoring 500 runs with Kambli, or scoring a hundred for his district junior team and come back and score a double hundred for his school the next day. Don’t you think those innings helped nurture his talent?
Now take this scenario and change the characters and you’ll find the same happening in every works of life. Our education system is doing bare minimum to make sure we produce some engineers who’ll run for lucrative offers in Microsoft or Intel any given morning, have intern doctors who go on strike after knowledge they might have to spend time in villages, sociology majors expert in hand to hand combat and knows more ways of winning a tender at any cost then a Wall Street Banker (they are actually infants in front our shining knights). Everywhere it’s the same. The system doing bare minimum to keep the system afloat and everyone else finding ways to get ahead of the game overnight. So they actually appreciate the loose system. It makes it easier for us to go forward with no rules in race!
We are one of those rare breed races who knows the very best way to destroy our achievements. Have you ever been to Bangabandhu Stadium? Then you must remember the sudden stream of water falling from the top of the building on the road. That’s no rain or overflowed water tank, that’s the spectators releasing their bladder with a satisfied smile on their faces as if they are helping to clean the stadium. I still feel ashamed when I read once on Cricinfo to be careful when walk around the ground! Or how about all the stores on the stadium, chopping down roads and bricks to expand their stores. How’s that different to what we have done to Dhaka?
We as a nation have no patience. Again let’s go back to the cricket field. Couple of dot balls and up goes fifty thousand people!! That’s because in our daily lives we are all thinking of becoming millionaires overnight, or become the leader of a political party in a year, become team captain before becoming a team player. It has to be today! So we keep blind eyes in bending the system on things that help us and criticize the things that goes against us. Our kids are injected this fake competition from the moment they try to get into a school. Has to get into that school or must have 10 on 10 in every god damn test, look at the picture of the one who’s number one student of the year! Then someone realized that’s failing the system, we have to keep the system floating. So out goes scores in comes grades! Now we have one Einstein in every five kids who take the SSC exam. Some of them are even ‘Golden’ Einsteins. Businessman have to have two foreign accounts in two years, politicians have to become leaders in five years! Look at the rickshaw pullers and private car drivers on the road, they are exactly like a batsman who just scored two straight boundaries-we have no time to wait! Some try to keep the sanity in check for a while. But after a certain level the non profit mentors become semi profit mentors. With Lalons music a little Whiskey won’t hurt! In a hut an exhibition of indigenous group of rice will please some Shahebinterns from USA, while we’ll keep a blind eye on research and development in agriculture. That’s too much work! It’s lot easy to bring money from other countries then bring expertise from them to create a job industry in twenty years. Just like our coaching structure in cricket! Bring coaches to stop the bleeding and keep on changing them every four years when they are full of disgust and can’t wait to leave with new ones, rather keeping them longer to train local coaches so they can go and train young players at the grass root level. Why won’t we keep Jamie Siddons as director of development programs and let him help us train some coaches for next two years? We won’t, because that’ll make some people uncomfortable, some who are pretty well set in that supply chain business of promoting new players. Some would actually leave the opportunity of learning to make a quick money and chance to do khobordari in a league team. Yes, I’m talking about Khaled Mahmood, leaving the national team three months before the World Cup at home and taking a job as coach of Abahani. How ungrateful can someone be, if you want to know the answer to that you need to come to Bangladesh.
I can go on and on but I don’t want to waste more of your time. Some other discussions some other day. In the end I’ll tell you about Shakib Al Hasan. He showed his frustration on the field when his teammates just kept the procession of failures going. In the post match press conference he pointed out that the team that he thinks is the best wasn’t there on the field and he hoped the people in charge realize the mistakes before it’s too late. There will be always some who’ll stand out in this filthy crowd. Who’ll inspire others, lead others-even if it’s a burden to them and try to tell the right things before it’s too late. But to us, they’ll be heroes until they do all the work and leave the job of applauding to us. We’ll look up to them until they point the finger to show us what we need do. They might win us a country or a game, eventually the DNA of this vampire race will bite them. We’ll make these rare breeds either one of us, or banish them to eternity; I hope we’ll do the later to Shakib 🙂