Facing India with our loss
Bangladesh bowler Taskin Ahmed (R) celebrates with teammate Shakib Al Hasan (L) after Al Hasan caught out India's Ajinkya Rahane
Bangladeshis, in Bangladesh and worldwide, are deeply traumatised and tormented by the refereeing decisions or lack thereof in the Quarter Final loss to India in the 2015 Cricket World Cup. This commentary recommends ways to better deal with this adversity and to better channel the outrage.
First and foremost, do not allow the negativity of the loss to cloud the gallant positivity of the best ever performance of the Tigers in the world cup and the record setting back to back tons of Mahmudullah Riyad, the first ever Bangladeshi and only a few cricket stars ever to do so in a world cup. By this world cup, the glass is more than half full (less than half empty) for the Tigers. I am sure most Bangladeshis feel that way deep down but are temporarily conflicted by an engulfing sense of indignation about arguably controversial refereeing. The sooner the resentment, however justifiable, gives way to the joy of the proudest ever moment, the better it is for the nation and for the valiant Tigers.
Being sad is emotionally natural, but being mad is nationally counterproductive. It has taken years of hard work for the Tigers and the support of many external friends and experts to make their ways into the prestigious echelons of world cricket. It will be a pity if an overreaction in the form of blanket allegations and name calling end up raising questions about our professional maturity, and hurting and straining our external network of support. Burning bridges with unchecked reactions can hardly be a prudent long-term strategy. The world cricket infrastructure is unlikely to be shaken or even dented significantly by our say, at least at this time. Therefore, the sooner pragmatism takes over anger, the better it is for Bangladesh. In this context, Tigers Captain Mashrafe Mortaza has led by example to exhibit high professionalism and leadership by maintaining his composure and not being critical about refereeing in public.
Hold our head high but more importantly straight. As the reality dawns and the emotions subside, most Bangladeshis would realise and recognise that India is historically a powerhouse in world cricket and this year's Indian team is simply outstanding. Instead of translating our disappointment into hatred for Indian dominance in world cricket, a more professional perspective is to admire India's superb performance in this world cup so far and to congratulate them. Setting aside the refereeing decisions that went to India's favour (against Bangladesh), we have to be honest enough to admit that we were also outplayed purely cricket wise and that no so unexpectedly, and this Indian team has won all of their other games without any noticeable controversy.
Admiring the best is not a weakness or a submission/yielding to power politics, it in fact is instrumental in advancing toward that ultimate level. This in no way compromises or diminishes our love for the Tigers and pride in their performance best. It only shows that our best needs to get better, else our potentially greater achievements in future would stall. India was not always the dominant cricket house that it is now, it has struggled and persevered hard since the colonial days, the aftermath of which kept lingering though the colonial attitude long thereafter. In the days to come, Bangladesh will be better off learning a few things from India's cricket history and this Indian team's consistent and extraordinary performance.
India is our friend in independence and a large and influential country we are geographically confined by. Its democracy and rising economic power are admired, appreciated, and sought after globally. It will be utterly suicidal for the Bangladeshis to unfriend such a strategically important and unavoidable neighbour on any grounds, let alone a cricket competition. It is good that our political leaders have so far restrained from their usually callous remarks and their typical "foreign conspiracy" speech on any matter. But it is the historic friendship between the two people that has fomented the strong inter-state relationship through geopolitical cycles. Bangladeshis should thus exercise utmost restraint in venting their emotional distress of the moment by hurling offensive and abusive adjectives toward the Indians as a people. As always, there are some graceless winners, in this case some Indians, but we can take the high grounds without being sour losers. This way, in defeat in the cricket battle, we may win the war of global admiration as a people of decency and courage.
Having said that, it is also an opportune time to critically assess the much wider and deeper issue of the pervasiveness of Indian influence in the daily lives of Bangladeshis. The sad reality is that many Bangladeshis, who are now mad at Indian dominance in cricket, prefer to listen to Indian music, watch Indian movies, wear Indian garments, follow Indian wedding ceremony rituals, and the list goes on. All Bangladeshis have every right to be exposed to India to such a massive extent and there is nothing wrong in and of itself, except that we do not see any such reciprocal trend in anything.
Hence the pertinent question is why we prefer to do so. The answer is that our Indian friends are exceedingly good in everything and we, the Bangladeshis, are long ways from equalling them. Why? Because when, by preference or habit, we do not act as Bangladeshis as much as Indians do as Indians, we end up deterring the advancement of our own interests. To be clear, no Bangladeshi personally and consciously intends to inflict this detriment on our own products and services, our culture and our Bangladeshi and Bangali ways of life. Nonetheless we are and have been for long on the trajectory of self-destructing our indigenous selves, albeit inadvertently, unknowingly and collectively. Our own preferred choices are biased against ourselves and are diverting resources, program, partnership and promotional choices away from our own and from our best long term interests elsewhere.
Lest I am misconstrued, by no means I am advocating severance of trade with India or any unfriendly gesture. I am instead urging fellow Bangladeshis to promote our own first, not by decry or regulation, but by our own voluntary and patriotic choices. Friendship with and admiration for India and Indians do not have to be conditional on, or accompanied by, living and breathing the Indian way of life. Instead I am urging to learn from them, the way they feel comfortable in their own skin, the way they place India first in everything, little or big, privately or as a governance team.
One might duly raise the issue of English and western influence as well. And there is some merit to that as well. However, be mindful that India itself is actively adopting western practices. Furthermore, English is the international language and western knowledge, technology, capital, and trading venue are inevitably essential for the continued advancement of Bangladesh as a state, as these are for any nation.
To conclude, if we want to do something positive for the future of Bangladesh in cricket and all other spheres, we need to take the first step first, namely believe in, support and promote Bangladeshi state nationhood (Bangladeshi nationalism) and Bangali cultural nationhood (Bangali nationalism).
There are many spheres of our lives we only compete globally as a state, most notably cricket, business & economy, democracy, etc., and there are many spheres where we compete and need to survive as a linguistic and cultural group – notably music, literature, drama, film, cuisine, etc. Surely some may and would find political insinuation in my suggestion of dual nationalism, Bangladeshi and Bangali. But I beg the indulgence of those critics and all fellow Bangladeshis to rise above petty politics since no individual or political party has ownership of the nation or our national identity, we the people do, united together of course.
Joy Bangladesh! Joy Bangla!
Mo Chaudhury, Ph.D., is a Professor of Practice in Finance at McGill University, Montreal, Canada.