Shoaib Ali of Bangladesh

The modern day cricket fans have become an integral part of the game.  Being a fan is an honour. Subcontinent teams have different flavours and noisy fans are flamboyant, as they paint themselves in different hues to draw the attention. But, sacrificing a life to cricket and to a team is a different thing altogether. With the booming economy and development of the game, Indian subcontinent gets celebrity fans like Sudhir Gautam, Ram Babu and Chacha-the cricket uncle from Chicago.

Bangladesh, a perennial emerging nation in cricket, has finally risen to the big boys of Asia and kept their held high in the 2015 World Cup. They made it to the quarterfinal, and the journey to the success started in 2012 Asia Cup final. Cricket world has to accept that a young nation who got the Test status in the first year of this new millennium is gradually rising in the cricket sphere.

Shoaib Ali Bukhari is a Bangladesh fan who paints his body to resemble the tiger, attends most home matches and screams all day from the grandstand at the Shere Bangla National Stadium in Mirpur. He has travelled to India, Sri Lanka and Zimbabwe over the last nine years following the Bangladesh team.

The journey

He is in India to support his team. Shoaib Ali used to come on the field like other fans till 2012, but he changed his approach and modelled himself as the face of Bangladesh fans.

In a country where cricket has become a symbol of showing nationalism, Shoaib paints himself as a tiger, the national animal of Bangladesh that is the symbol of aggression and power.

Shoaib was often seen waving the green and red national flag of Bangladesh on the stand whenever Bangladesh play a match. He was asked by this writer why Bangladesh fan photoshopped MS Dhoni and Taskin Ahmed’s outrageous image where the latter was seen holding the chopped head of Indian captain, he said, ” This thing started after the 2015 World Cup quarter-final game in Melbourne where the umpire called a no-ball when Rohit Sharma was caught. I don’t know it was right or wrong. But, fans didn’t like it.  Since then a rivalry started between Indian fans and Bangladesh fans.”

However, this young fan said, “Cricket is a beautiful game. We should take it as a sport and a win or loss are part of the game. And there are a few fans who created all these bad stuff and that shared in every Facebook user’s wall lead to a bad image of the country.”

He loves Kolkata

Shoaib Ali also revealed his ecstasy to be in India. Explaining about his experience of visiting in Kolkata for the second time since 2006 Champions Trophy, he said, “when I was in Dharamshala during the qualifying round. I was eagerly waiting for Kolkata visit as  the city will bring the feel of Bangladesh. The weather, the food are similar to my country.”

Favourite player 

The motor mechanic has a bond with three celebrity fans of the subcontinent – Sudhir Gautam and Ram Babu of India, and Pakistani origin cricket uncle from Chicago.  They have their own favourite players, so Shoaib has his own version. Shoaib Ali is an avid follower of incumbent Bangladesh captain Mashrafe Mortaza, who is celebrated in Bangladesh as the best captain of the country. “

Mashrafe Mortaza is like dada Sourav Ganguly in Bangladesh. People in Bangladesh respect Mashrafe a lot not just because of his contribution to the game but also his willpower to lead the country even after sustaining seven operations.”

But, there was also  a melodrama on the stand as his flag whirling not only motivate his team, but also the entire country.

Motivation

When asked what motivated him  to paint his body in the colour of Royal Bengal tiger in his body and green and red Bangladesh flag on his chest, he said, “ Tiger is our national animal and the symbol of aggression and the national flag assert my love for the country and Bangladesh team.”

Pain he has to suffer 

But, there is a pain too as sometimes he does not get financial assistance from the third party. In 2015, Shoaib Ali had request Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina for monetary assistance. He understood since then that people would not always help him for his tour of another country for supporting the national team.

Now, he came in India of his own earning. “I came to India with my own money. But, occasionally player, BD Cricket helps me, and there is a fan group who also help with some money.”

This fan floats in ecstasy when Bangladesh wins a match and tears roll down his cheek when his beloved team loses a match.

On March 23 Bangladesh will play India in Bangalore after suffering two consecutive defeats. The defeat will ensure Bangladesh’s exit from the tournament, but a victory will see Shoaib’s country celebrate like never before in now what is seen as an emerging rivalry.