On the face of it, Bangladesh is among the least alluring destinations for a cricket tour. The country only ever seems to hit the world’s headlines if it is struck down by a cyclone or a bout of flooding, and to judge by the national team’s results, there is not much in the way of quality cricket to attract spectators or touring teams either. And yet, if you take the plunge and pay a visit to this incredibly warm, friendly – and often tragic – country, the rewards for your perseverance will be one of the most enlightening trips of your life.
Shrouded in smoke, noise and poverty, the big cities can be intimidating, but with a modicum of common sense, safety is barely an issue in the major centres of Dhaka and Chittagong. Bangladeshis are among the friendliest and most genuine people on earth, and take genuine pleasure in welcoming their visitors, whether it is for a ride in their cycle-rickshaw, or a night’s accommodation in a cheap local hotel. English is spoken in most cities, if haltingly on occasions, but a smattering of Bengali will go a long, long way. Embrace the lifestyle on offer, and immerse yourself in the culture.
Admittedly, conventional entertainment is in short supply. Alcohol is available, although you have to seek it out in dingy backstreet bars that seem seedier than they really are. It is more rewarding to do as the locals do, and find your enjoyment in other manners – rickshaw rides around the old cities, trips into the Chittagong Hill Tracts, journeys down to Cox’s Bazaar, home of the world’s longest natural beach. Or go seek out a Bengal Tiger in the littoral mangrove forests of the southern regions.
There is no avoiding the stark realities of Bangladesh life. With 130 million people crammed into 55,000 square miles, it is the most crowded country on earth, and poverty is all around you. The secret is to accept what you see as the people themselves have to accept their circumstances every day of their lives. Patience and understanding bring the warmest of rewards.