Livid Bangladesh fans are blaming their prime minister for drawing world attention to the burgeoning militancy in their backyard after Cricket Australia (CA) scrapped a scheduled tour to their country over security concerns this week.
Among several other theories, fans have also cited the ongoing tour by their women’s team to Pakistan as a trigger point, saying it was taking place against the wishes of the Australians, angering them.
But after initial taunts against the Baggy Greens – Bangla fans called them cowards afraid to face a side that beat Pakistan, India and South Africa recently at home – mass ire has turned to Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina.
Hasina invited severe criticism for asking her British counterpart to check the rise of UK jihadists, who she says are fomenting extremism in Bangladesh.
Many Bangladesh cricket fans believe their premier made the Australians uneasy by talk of rising militancy in their country.
In reader’s comments in Prothom Alo, a leading Bengali newspaper, they advised her not to speak about it in international forums.
“Our Prime Minister has said at a press conference abroad that the BNP-Jamaat is militant-infested,” one Sadat Hossin wrote in the readers’ comments section.
He was referring to the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP)-Bangladesh Jamaat-e-Islami alliance in the Opposition.
“Our ministers, MPs keep talking of militants in Bangladesh, so why will cricketers from other countries play here? We as a country suffer,” Hossin wrote.
Similar comments have flooded the online version of the paper, with one Kamaluddin saying Sheikh Hasina’s Awami League government has been snared in its own web.
“The Awami League dragged the country’s image through the dust,” he said.
Ever since fears of an Australian pullout gripped the country, the average Bangladeshi was swept up in an avalanche of conspiracy theories.
So much so, the ongoing tour by their women’s team to Pakistan has also been cited as a trigger point.
According to this theory, the so-called “Big 3” of world cricket – India, Australia and England – was against the tour, and had in fact pressured their board to kill the tour.
When that did not happen, Australia retaliated by jumping ship.
“It is a conspiracy,” wrote one Rony Takukdar in the readers’ comments section of Prothom Alo, a leading Bengali paper.
Arguing that the security situation in Bangladesh was not as bad as elsewhere, Rezaul Karim said: “Remember, we are not Pakistan.”
Seconding him was one NK Rubel, who said defiantly: “No need to come…there are many countries who want to play with us any time… remember that we are not Pakistan.”
“Not Pakistan” was a line that found favour with most people, with Saleh Ahmed saying, “1000% we are not Pakistan.”
Ironically, while Bangladesh has not taken kindly to the Australian pullout, Dhaka itself had debated their women team’s departure for Karachi to play two T20 and two ODI matches.
In fact, the BCB gave the green signal only after receiving a positive report from its fact-finding team that checked out the safety arrangements in the host nation.
In a pre-tour report, Prothom Alo referred to Pakistan as a country where people “were killed regularly” in terrorist attacks, and talked of its isolation in world cricket following the 2009 attack on the Sri Lankan team.
But it also noted this seclusion had partially ended with the Zimbabwean team’s visit this May.
According to Prothom Alo, some of their players even had to get “clearance” from their families to travel to Pakistan.
“We had to convince our parents,” it quoted Bangadeshi skipper Salma Khatun as saying.
But she dismissed safety concerns in Pakistan.
“Every country has such issues… don’t we have them here in Bangladesh?” she said at a press conference before the team’s departure.