After the rigours and hectic pace of Mirpur’s Sher-e-Bangla National Stadium, Fatullah is a sigh of relief. The ground is reached through a narrow road that trails off from the Dhaka-Narayanganj highway, lending the approach an almost rustic feel.
Yesterday, as the World Cup warm-up match between England and Pakistan started, hundreds lined that narrow road waiting to get into the Khan Shaheb Osman Ali Stadium. The going was slow because of the security checks, but the people did not seem to mind, happily chatting away among themselves as the line inched forward.
“The Khan Shaheb Osman Ali Stadium has always been peaceful,” said Shagor, an employee of Minar Group of Industries. “I had a voucher, and I picked up my ticket from the Jubo Shangha, and it was all very disciplined. The only disappointment was that we were not allowed to bring in bottle caps, which is very inconvenient,” added Shagor who was walking with a full, two-litre water bottle without a cap.
Tickets were also available for sale at the Jubo Shangha. Shohagh and Sohail, two local businessmen, bought the tickets and were happy with the arrangements. “We had no problems, everything went smooth. The queue was long, but we expected that,” said Sohail.
Although the tickets started selling from nine in the morning, by the time the game started, the ground was at best half-full. As England’s innings wore on, the gallery continued to fill up, and by the twenty-fifth over of their innings it had reached near-capacity, which reflected the people’s passion for the game. It was also the first time that a match was played under lights at Fatullah.
The ground has a quaint setting, including the surrounding landscape through its low galleries instead of excluding it, as most modern venues do. The low galleries allow the surrounding areas to be seen, forming a very intimate atmosphere. Fatullah has real character, and presents a simpler picture of Bangladesh’s passion for cricket.
When asked whether he would like to see international cricket back at Fatullah, Mustafizur Rahman, a local student of under-graduate level said, “I am very happy that the World Cup is being hosted in Bangladesh. But of course, I would like to see international cricket back at Fatullah because it is my home.” Judging by the passion and love for the game coupled with the ground’s intimate atmosphere, international cricket will be richer for it. It certainly is a far cry from Dhaka’s madness.