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Pictured: Cricketer Mashrafe Bin Mortaza.
Pictured: Cricketer Mashrafe Bin Mortaza.

Bangladesh’s back-to-back win in two ODI cricket series against Pakistan and India within two months is no flash in the pan. And this does not prove just its emerging cricketing prowess.

It is a manifestation of the all-round progress that South Asia’s youngest nation has made since Henry Kissinger sneeringly called it a “basket case” after its birth through an “ocean of blood” in 1971. And it is reflective of the enormous self-confidence born out of a powerful language-and-culture driven nationalism playing out on a homogenous demography replete with youth dividend. It took India 25 years after Independence to beat its one-time colonial masters in a cricket series. It has taken Bangladesh around 40 years to beat its sub-continental rivals India and Pakistan in the same year. There hangs the tale.

Much as the spread of democracy in India impacted cricket and the likes of Sachin Tendulkar and M S Dhoni left the Maharajas and Nawabs far behind, an improving rural economy and all-round development in Bangladesh has led to the rise of the likes of Mustafizur Rahman – who took away the ODI series by his stellar left arm seam bowling.

Mustafizur is the youngest of six children of a farmer who improved his family fortunes by shifting to prawn cultivation from subsistence agriculture a few years after his birth. Young Mustafizur got much support (cricketing gear and funds) from uncles settled in far off US and UK, reflecting the way in which the Bangladesh diaspora, whose lung power was on display in far off Oceania during the World Cup, has contributed to the country’s economy and to an aggressive nationalism that shapes its self-confidence. Remittances now touching nearly $25 billion a year are the second biggest foreign exchange earner for Bangladesh after garment exports.

But for those in India who still see Bangladesh as only generating desperate migrants, it is important to know that Bangladesh has beaten India (and surely Pakistan) in many important social and human development indicators – an achievement which Nobel laureate Amartya Sen never forgets to recall as the Bangladesh conundrum. A 2014 research paper in World Development says: “Considering its initial unfavourable conditions (caused by the devastating 1971 war and the 1974 famine) and the existing challenges of poor public governance and political stability, Bangladesh’s achievements in social development are truly surprising.”

What makes it more surprising is that Bangladesh is far ahead in social development among countries in the same economic league as itself – something that led The Economist to observe that Bangladesh might be a role model for inclusive growth and distributive justice. In areas such as female education, family planning or child health, Bangladesh has left India and Pakistan far behind.

Nowhere is female empowerment in Bangladesh more in evidence than in its politics. At one point, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s government had five powerful women ministers running key portfolios. The opposition leader is a woman, so is the Speaker. Interestingly, three women of Bangladesh origin made it to the UK House of Commons this year. So much for Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s “despite a woman” remark.

Hasina’s dream of turning Bangladesh into a middle-income country is still some years away. The target date is 2021, but finance minister A M A Muhith feels that will happen before his term ends in January 2019. There is still stark poverty in some areas but overall poverty levels have come down sharply – in one year from 2010 to 2011, says the Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics, the level of poverty dropped from 31% to 25.6%, with the number of “ultra poor” pitched at 12%.

That grey zone in the population still produces hapless migrants on leaky boats trying to reach Southeast Asia for a better livelihood – but Hasina’s government has done much to regularise labour exports and cracked down on illegal migration rackets. Many African nations now welcome Bangladesh farmers to boost agriculture and end famines.

Hasina’s government has undertaken huge infrastructure development – the most important being the 6.15 km Padma railroad bridge which, when completed, will add 1% of national GDP by bringing 21 southern districts close to the national capital. In her six years in power, Hasina’s government has augmented the national power output by three times. She laments the pace of both economic and social development would be much faster if the country’s Islamist opposition refrains from violent agitations.

But Bangladeshis are primarily a race of resilient hardy farmers who weather deadly floods and cyclones and stay afloat to fight for another day – perhaps they’re the toughest farmers of the subcontinent. They have learnt to live – and grow – amid the uncertainties of violent fractious politics and corruption at the top. Bangladesh’s cricket has drawn strength from the country’s social and economic progress at the grassroots, primarily driven by conscious public policies focussing on social development and a wonderful synergy between NGOs, government agencies and local stakeholders (including the poorest).

The fearlessness of its cricketers is born of the vicissitudes of sheer survival faced by millions in an over-populated delta nation battling the worst of climate change and the confidence of a young nation (65% below 35) unencumbered by colonial hangovers or confused national identity.

Subir Bhaumik is a bdnews24.com columnist. This piece was first published in Times of India.

Subir Bhaumikis a columnist and former senior editor of bdnews24.com. He also worked as a correspondent of the BBC World Service for many years. As a journalist he has broken some of the biggest stories in North East India, Bangladesh, Myanmar, Nepal and Bhutan. He has written a number of books on the region.

14 Responses to “Cricket victories reflect larger resurgence of Bangladesh”

  1. Joy Ahmed

    Shubir Dada should also know that anti India sentiment is growing in Bangladesh at a rapid pace.
    And, our opposition party in the currently non elected parliament is a national joke. They are in opposition but their leader is a special envoy to pm and having few ministers!!!
    It is our new democracy designed in India

    • Purnendu Sarker

      Shubir knows it all too well, Joy! S/He is mighty pleased that after 40 years, RAW has been successful in eliminating BNP-Jamat from the center stage, and establish Dhaka alignment with South Hall. Now Modi’s goons can tackle the NE insurgency, and solidify the SE Asia-India defensive posture. All this for the benefit of their masters, you know where.

      • Broadmind

        Yes! RAW has been successful at the cost of ISI,the terrorist and Achilles heel of pakistan in particular and the south asia in general.

      • Purnendu Sarker

        These are different beasts! No one is denying that ISI tried to influence matters, in particular between 1975-1990. The goal was to create mischief for its archrival India, mostly in the NE states. RAW is a different animal, and is bent on political, military hegemony by the South Hall over BD. BD is on the way to becoming a vassal state, and all indications are this will continue. Geopolitics drives these, I am afraid.

      • M.H.Kabir

        If you raise the issue of geopolitics , I think ,Bangladesh will be on strong foots if it can handle China card efficiently.India is not going to be dominant player in Asia let alone World in foreseeable time.China is 50 years ahead of India and will always be theirs big brother.So, Bangladesh Govt. must handle diplomacy in a very matured manner to place itself in very good position.Rest assure, India will never be able to neglect and/or dictate Bangladesh.

  2. Joy

    You read the pulse of the nation, Subir. At inception, many doubted the economic viability of the young nation. Only true believers, Bangladeshis themselves, held on to the dream of one day breaking free of the shakles of poverty amidst all odds. Perennial natural disasters, dysfunctional polity, poor governance — you name it, Bangladesh had/has it all, and yet, she has made impressive strides. Subir is right in saying the resurgence in Bangladesh’s cricketing prowess mimics her standing in economic and social indicators. Yet, we have mountains to climb before we can emancipate our people, but verily we are at the cusp of a golden age.

    • Syed Imtiaz Ali

      Good article and better reminders what stem from this ‘resurgence’ of sorts manifested by success in cricket matches lately. But true emancipation and COMPETITIVENESS has to grow much further if we want to make better progress that is sustainable. I would credit here much of our success to RMG exports and remittances from expats, millions of whom have demonstrated their own ‘never say die’ attitude to succeed. We have a mountain to climb and education only should be our true strength for development and sustainability, leading to EMANCIPATION and democracy.

  3. M.H.Kabir

    Very truly understanding of a nation ready to take itself to a new height of development in every sector.Above all , it is for sure , this Bengali nation is going to secure its pluralistic and non communal identity at any cost to pave the way to make our very country as ” Sonar Bangla “.There will be no place of extremist in the country.

    • Sarker Javed Iqbal

      Dear Mr. Kabir,

      you evoked an old dream again with citing of ‘Sonar Bangla’ which was shattered due to absence of a concrete plan, determination and sincerity of the then government in establishing that dream. Still that remains a far cry amidst widespread hypocrisy and corruptions.

      How do you become so sure that there will be no place for extremists in the country? What we see in reality? Fanatic groups crawled into politics very much cleverly with a concrete plan immediate after our liberation, gradually established themselves in the national politics and became minister even! Did we have any safety-net to prevent them? Still there is mushroom-growth of extremist groups in the country inspired by Al Qaeda, ISIS and so on. Do we have any safety-net to prevent them?

      Some sporadic attempt of nabbing some ‘extremists’ doesn’t solve the problem, I think. Government should take up a long term plan not only to eliminate the extremists but to eliminate the philosophy too as the philosophy is against religion and as well as against humanity.

      Anyway, I wish once your dream comes true which is in fact the dream of whole nation!

      • Broadmind

        Dear Mr. Javed Iqbal,

        Thank you very much.Yes,there might have been some lacks because of very valid reasons . But after 1975 , the total destruction of the nation started in the hand of Zia.Zia opened the door of politics for the fanatics , he made Sha Aziz prime minister and many other were given many posts/facilities and later Khaleda Zia ( what she did not do for the fanatics) brought them to power again .

        Therefore, it is Zia and his wife , who are to blame solely for the rise of extremists in Bangladesh.Hope, you will agree that blocking of holes have been started for a quite some time.But what makes me hopeful is that the Bengalies are very pious in nature but nobody has ever been successful to make them supporter of a pro-religious political party or join them in any group of fundamentalist and nobody will be able to do that upto an extent which can be the causes of major destruction.

      • Sarker Javed Iqbal

        You are very right. Please look it my 4 comments posted on the article ‘The Legacy of General Ziaur Rahman’ by Mr. Syed Badrul Ahsan for further details. Thanks and regards.

  4. Akhtar Mahmood

    People who are traditionally deprived of opportunity often make the best of it when given it. Thus, women in Bangladesh, who have grown up hearing what they cant do, do wonders when someone tells them what they can do (or when they themselves decide what they want to do). Poor people in general are often told to keep their ambitions modest. If someone tells them that thay can indeed dream big, they not only do so but work hard to realize their dreams. One of the best things that has happened in Bangladesh is that ordinary people have started aspiring for extraordinary things. There is audacity in it but a sweet one.

  5. Golam Arshad

    In salutation to farmers Glory! Cricket can unite a divided nation. Let us unite and push the cart of Peace and Progress.Are we ready? Yes! We are !! Good job!

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