Hundreds performed in the gala opening ceremony of the ICC Cricket World Cup 2011, but fourteen, were simply exceptional for their roles in the show as they entered the field with 14 captains of participating nations on their rickshaws after the welcome song performed by singers Arnob, Mila, Balam, Elita, Hridoy Khan, Kona and Tipu.
Mukul Amin, a 40-year-old rickshawvan-puller, led the rally carrying Stumpy, the mascot of the World Cup, with Ramani Ranfa completing it by carrying the captain of Bangladesh, Shakib Al Hasan.
It was the happiest moments in their lives as they never could have hoped to be a part of the World Cup’s opening ceremony, much less carry the all-important captains of the participating nations, as by profession they are rickshaw-pullers.
Except Amir, none of the rickshaw-pullers could tell the captains’ names when they were approached outside the arena just hours before the start of the inaugural ceremony of the cricket extravaganza.
Amir knew that he would carry India captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni and he was much excited and waiting for the moment. “I saw him on television but this time I am going to see him from up close and I can say it is going to be my happiest moment in life,” said the 25-year-old from Madaripur.
Despite being unable to identify their possible passengers, the rest of the rickshaw-pullers were no less happy to be part of one of the greatest moments in the country’s 40-year history.
“I never dreamt of taking part in such a programme and I am so lucky, as thousands of people are trying to find a way to enter the stadium,” said Siddik, who later carried English captain Andrew Strauss.
“You can’t always manage with money but we have been given the chance because we are originally rickshaw-pullers,” said Miraz, who later carried Daniel Vettori, the New Zealand captain.
When Ranfa was asked whether he knew who was going to be his passenger, he could not answer but others told him that it was to be Shakib, as most of them can sometimes watch day-night cricket matches on television but they could not make time when it is a day affair.
All of the rickshaw-pullers toiled hard over the last week as they attended the venue early morning and left afternoon with taking part in the trial once or twice each day. They even still don’t know how much they would be paid and despite that they were happy to be part of the ICC World Cup opening ceremony.
The rickshaw procession will remain a highlight of the night when the dust settles over the coming weeks. What is more quintessentially Bangladeshi than a rickshaw? There might have been fears that the opening ceremony, though it was being held in Bangladesh, would be an Indian affair given our neighbour’s huge drawing power. It was the captains’ rickshaw ride that underpinned a night that celebrated all things Bangladeshi.
Segments were devoted to the two other co-hosts, but it was rightly a Bangladeshi affair. West Indies captain Darren Sammy bobbing his head to the music as he was carried in a rickshaw will probably be etched on the nation’s collective mind for some time. Most importantly, it gave a very marginalised segment of Bangladeshi — the rickshaw-pullers — much to smile about, and that is as big an achievement as any of yesterday’s celebrations.