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Hear me roar

  • Published at 12:01 am September 27th, 2016
  • Last updated at 05:33 pm September 28th, 2016
Hear me roar

I do not support the Bangladeshi cricket team.

But, hear me out: My relationship with the Bangladeshi cricket team is one of perfect harmony; I am not saddened by their loss, but it feels good when they win (unless, of course, it’s against South Africa).

There is a certain form of blasphemy in that sentence that one, perhaps, shouldn’t advertise publicly.

With work and life having eaten away at the amount of my free time I am blessed with, my relationship with cricket in general is at the sad end reserved for long distance romance: Slowly, but surely, withering away, shelved somewhere in the back of the mind, only brought back out to revel in rose-tinted bouts of nostalgia.

As a result, I can’t remember the last time I looked at a cricket match that wasn’t a passing glance on my way to somewhere else.

Occasionally, I’ll look up a scorecard, if there’s a lot of a fuss, or watch it alongside a crowd outside an electronics store as my rickshaw is stuck in traffic.

But I feel the connection slipping away.

So, when the Bangladesh-Afghanistan match went down to the wire, the only reason I knew of its existence was because I had read a newspaper that day and later, a friend of mine had posted a photo of her watching the last over or two of the match.

If it had been against a team of more repute, one of the big guns, my thought would’ve been: “Oh look, interesting.”

Too often does it happen that sports demand an undying, uninhibited, unabashedly pure loyalty that is, for some, impossible. A loyalty beyond criticism

But since it was the Afghanistani team, a team which can barely participate in the World Cups (has it ever? I can’t recall), a win wouldn’t come close to exciting me, and a loss would just mean the Bangladeshi cricket team being its Bangladeshi cricket team self: Flip-flopping under the burden of inconsistency, struggling to find its proper footing, much like its batsmen, unable to decide whether it belongs in the big leagues or not.

But my lack of attachment to the team, or indeed, my inability to take pride in most things Bangladeshi, has been problematic.

As much as I enjoyed having my feet on two separate boats, when it came to airing my opinions in public, when I told a fellow Bangladeshi of how I felt, it seemed that I was neither a Bangladeshi nor a fellow man.

Sports are a great way of uniting the people of a nation, and bringing people from all walks of life together, under the same awning.

But too often does it happen that sports demand an undying, uninhibited, unabashedly pure loyalty that is, for some, impossible. A loyalty beyond criticism.

Too often does it happen that a sports team becomes the poster child for nationalism.

Now the merits and demerits of nationalism can be discussed all day long; most Bangladeshis would take pride in their Bangladeshi-ness, their ilish and machh and bhorta, their so-called “resilience,” their Tigers.

Some will latch on to things that are barely their own and wear them like undeserving badges of honour.

I, on the other hand, have always been on the other side of the spectrum, choosing to see ideas of nationalism and patriotism as mere loyalty to real estate.

And that should be okay. To have a differing opinion. The problem here is the underlying expectation and demand of blind loyalty, the flaws and imperfections of the entity to which you pledge loyalty to.

It should be okay to say: “You know what, the country I live in, it’s terrible.

The cricket team it’s so proud of? Even worse!” Not that I’d say it, not unless I meant it (well, the first half…).

The point being, even if I did, it should be acceptable for the people and the government to listen to my grievances without going to the age-old comeback: “Then why don’t you get out?”

The country you are born in, much like your religion, your name, your parents, is not a choice.

These are the cards you are dealt as you play the game of life, and within it, watch the game of cricket.

When you watch your national team, or local club, and roar in pride and misery when they win and lose, that is a result of billions of years of cause and effect.

And that is perfectly fine. But, contrarily, if you watch your neighbours, your friends, and family do the same and find yourself isolated, alienated, wondering why this is even a thing, that is fine too.

Dissent and criticism, discussions and debates, we must make room for these. No one deserves our blind faith, not even the country that is forced to allow you to inhabit it.

Bangladesh went on to win by seven runs. A close shave. Was I happy? No. Disappointed? Not really. And that’s okay.

SN Rasul is a Sub-Editor at the Dhaka Tribune. Follow him @snrasul.

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