Good afternoon fellow Bears. I have been in Bangladesh for just over a week now and it is safe to say I am absolutely loving my experience away in South Asia.
So much so, that over the coming weeks I will be sharing my experiences with you all. Hopefully this will provide an insight into everything I experience whilst I am here.
I am sure you have all heard mixed things about touring Bangladesh. I know players have spoken publicly about it being a really difficult place to tour. Don’t get me wrong, the conditions are alien and it has its challenges, but I am determined to make the most of this fantastic opportunity and soak every bit of it up whilst I am here.
I think we as players can sometimes take for granted how privileged we are to be able to play a sport we all love as a profession, and travel the world whilst doing so. I certainly feel very lucky to be getting these opportunities.
The flight was fantastic, it was my first experience of a business class flight, and it didn’t disappoint. I really made the most of it! I managed to stay clear of the on board alcohol, but cashed in on amazing food and the lounges in the airport. I arrived in Dhaka on Monday 17 and was greeted by a familiar face in Ravi Bopara. ‘Welcome to the Desh, mate!’ I wasn’t quite sure what to make of that, but then I realised, I didn’t have a visa yet! The airport was absolute carnage and I knew I had a trip through rush hour traffic to get to the hotel.
My morning commute to training in Birmingham usually takes me 30 minutes from Solihull to Edgbaston (the real home of cricket!). I often complain about my commute along the Stratford Road, but I won’t be complaining again. You have never seen anything like it here in the capital. Picture the M25 at 5pm on a Friday, multiply the traffic by ten and add in the fact there is absolutely zero road etiquette.
People just get wherever they need to go as quickly as possible, whatever it takes. Ducking and diving between cars is perfectly acceptable, as is beeping your horn. In England I use the horn when I am angry with another driver, here it is used to let everyone know you are coming through and they need to get out the way. Fortunately, we have police escorts taking us to and from hotels and the ground. Without them, we’d spend more time on the team coach than playing cricket!
The bus journeys have been one of my favourite things about this trip thus far. You are probably thinking, ‘Jake cannot be enjoying his trip very much then,’ but you would be wrong. In England, over the last couple of years, we are constantly being reminded about how tough life has been throughout this pandemic. I think we all need a bit of perspective and these bus journeys have certainly provided that.
Out of 160 million people in Bangladesh, roughly 20% are in poverty. Let that sink in – that’s around 32 million people in poverty, equivalent to over half the population of England. So as I look out the window of the coach. I see this fascinatingly busy way of life, people everywhere, some really tough living conditions and lastly, most importantly, so much happiness.
Our team at Fortune Barishal is made up of some fantastic cricketers who I feel privileged to be playing with and learning from. Dwayne Bravo and Alzarri Joseph are my fellow overseas players currently. Chris Gayle arrives shortly, as does Mujeeb Ur Rahman. We have some brilliant local talent and a captain of the highest order in Shakib Al Hasan. Shakib is a top guy, he has welcomed me to the group and is an absolute king in Bangladesh. He is loved by the people here for his services to Bangladesh Cricket and this bring me back to our bus journeys.
Cricket is a religion here. Everyone is brought up around cricket. and everyone loves cricket. It is so refreshing to see people appreciate this great game. The police escort obviously draws attention to the fact that we are a cricket team. Lots of heads are turning. But the look on people’s faces when they see Shakib through the window is incredible. They are all waving and jumping up and down with joy at seeing their hero.
Shakib is brilliant, he always engages, waves back. He is very humble. It really is great to see people so passionate about our sport. It is something I haven’t experienced before but will sit with me forever.
In England we should be grateful to all our international players like in Bangladesh. No matter what the results, everyone is always trying their best and playing with so much pride. England’s players have had a really horrible time of it in Australia and, of course, it was very disappointing to lose the Ashes, but some of the comments have shown a lack of respect, as well as understanding of what professional sport is. It is a very tough environment and sometimes it stacks up against you. But the guys out there give everything every time they play. We should all remember that.
Back to the BPL, we kicked off the tournament against Chattogram Challengers and started strongly, chasing down 126 with four wickets in hand and a couple of overs to spare. I loved every second. Disappointingly, crowds aren’t allowed, but to play in the BPL for the first time was brilliant. To perform and get a win made it even sweeter. Now we have a couple of days to prepare for back-to-back games on Monday and Tuesday. I look forward to talking you through those games in a bit more detail. Until then, you Bears!