This October and early November just gone, I was in Bangladesh with the BLACKCAPS. My job at NZC is digital and communication advisor – mainly, I’m behind a laptop, so getting to go away with the team was a real honour and a thrill. Leaving NZ for almost five weeks was very exciting, but I had butterflies weeks out from leaving. It would be (by far) the longest period of time I’d spend apart from my partner and two young kids (I’d miss them awfully) and the first time I’d been to the subcontinent.
If you’ve travelled to this part of the world before you’ll laugh at me, but I had some serious culture shock. THE ROADS WERE INSANE. Travelling with a minder from Chittagong airport to the stadium along the river road on day two was more mind expanding than a night out with Keith Richards. I was trying to take in how everyone lives here, struggling to play it cool while buses, vans, cars, tuk-tuks, bikes, mopeds and rickshaws performed passable Michael Shumacher impressions around our van. If you wanted to train an athlete’s peripheral vision you could do worse than put them in a car in Bangladesh and get them to drive. I was glad to meet up with the team.
Bangladesh is hot. Chittagong was brutal at times with a dry heat, while Dhaka was humid, fuggy and energy-sapping. I soon understood why the team are followed around by chilly bins full of ice and water. Gordon Penney, the BLACKCAPS video analyst and I got out the baseball gloves and a ball at training one day and threw it around for about 15 minutes, and I was done – soaked in sweat and in need of air con. I’m (obviously) no athlete, but seeing how hard the guys train and play in the heat, and hearing tales of them losing 3-4kg during an innings, I got a small understanding. It impressed me no end how hard the substitute fielders work for the guys on the field in this weather, constantly ferrying drinks and gloves out to the middle, and around the ground to fine leg. They also put in some serious bowling practise and running during the innings break, which you don’t see on the telly.
During the matches I’d spend one session with the team while colleagues in NZ took the Twitter duties, then spend the rest of the time in the press box writing my match report and tweeting. With 160 million people in the country, there is a lot of media in Bangladesh – the press boxes were full, noisy and everyone was very friendly. I have to admit I was the ‘lone clapper’ in the press box a couple of times, when the guys got centuries or wickets. Unprofessional city (!).
The stadiums were amazing, dedicated cricket grounds with great facilities for the team and spectators. Often the media box was at the opposite end of the ground to the dressing room, so I’d trek around past the crowd. I’d have all my BLACKCAPS gear on and got quite a few cheers and waves, which took a bit of getting used to – again, everyone was very friendly. Fatullah, the venue for the third ODI, was PACKED and VERY NOISY, not to mention a little intimidating.
This tour was unusual in that after Chittagong, we stayed in Dhaka in the same hotel for almost a month, as the match in Sylhet was moved to Dhaka, normally the team moves around every few days. We’d travel to matches, training and everywhere on a team bus, with armed escorts front and rear. The hotels were great, and we were very well looked after by a group of minders. I got sick once, just fever and chills, for three days – but I managed to avoid going ‘full gastro’, which was what I was expecting.
Bangladesh was quite the experience – it goes without saying it’s a world away from home but again, we were well looked after by our minders and my opposite at Bangladesh Cricket, Rabeed Imam. Leaving the tour, I felt like a bit of a lightweight – I was going home to the family, fair weather and flat whites, while the team went on to Sri Lanka, before coming home for the full home series and then on to Bangladesh again and the West Indies. Cricket means a long time on the road to say the least.
I was honoured to be (a small) part of the team, having breakfast, travelling on the bus, being in the team huddles before training, seeing how hard they work and hearing team talks in the dressing room. It helped me get to know the team and management, understand what we were trying to do and helped me do my job. Without labouring this, they are a fine group of guys and a credit to their country. Like I say, it was an honour.
Photos – you can click on them to make them bigger:
BLACKCAPS manager Mike Sandle hanging the NZ and NZC flags outside the dressing room in Chittagong, he does this before every match.
(Some of the) Bangladesh press corp in Chittagong, with Cricinfo’s Mohammad Isam far right.
Comforting to know.
I thoroughly enjoyed spending time with Ronald Cardwell in Chittagong – check out his website.
Somewhat misguidedly, Hotel Agrabad in Chittagong wanted my autograph.
At the end of each press conference, the done thing was for the TV cameras to turn around and film the press.
Aktar (left) and Abul, our bag men. You couldn’t meet more dedicated and hardworking guys, they are legends among all teams that tour Bangladesh.
The view from the bus of the motorcade out of Fatullah, with gun jeep in the centre.
Gratuitous team photo Test edition.
Gratuitous team photo limited overs edition.