The World cup meant different things to different people. To most it was a chance to hope that Bangladesh would do something special in the world of sports. Some wanted a skirmish with an old enemy –Pakistan- or of more recent times-India. Others wanted to prove their arrival to the world and so on. A few even wanted to just enjoy the game though that number was rather small.
Many wanted a relief from the endless drudgery of political conflict news between the AL and the BNP. Such is the power of repetition that people don’t even want to read about adultery, gang rape, murder, drug dealing or encounter killings anymore. It happens every day, everywhere so nothing is new anymore. Nothing g surprises, shocks, excites.
It’s a major happy season for media when the cricket events arrive. It’s all international news but with local flavour. News once more is exciting and one can love and hate the players, make stars and shoot them down, basically make people read which is becoming an effort now for all.
But cricket contests are also doing something else. It’s also providing livelihood to a new group of people, not cricket freaks in that sense but money and greed savvy certainly, of other people that is. So while many watched the game on TV or laptops, many in Dhaka were betting on the matches. No one knows how big or small the business is but it involves everyone from the top brass to the street dealers in various neighborhoods.
However, it’s not a legal trade so like so many trades in BD, it goes on till someone decides that it will be more profitable to stop this than let it go on.
In the post yaba dealer killing scenario, this year’s World cup attracted a great many people who wanted to make money and not get arrested or killed in the process. It has also drawn in young kids of the middle class who are not full timers but treating it like a summer job, earning some money during a vacation.
I was curious because everyone had heard about the betting but few admitted betting themselves. Finally, through the peon of a media house I was put in touch with a mid-level bookie. The conversation is quite revealing.
“Cricket betting is a business, safer than yaba”
Abu had agreed to talk to me when he found out I had no interest in gambling, wasn’t linked to the police and sometimes seen on TV. To him I was a celebrity of sorts, of the mid-level variety. He told me that many in Dhaka were betting heavily that WI would win the match against India.
“Why is that? Indians are way ahead”.“Nobody knows why they bet boss. Most bet to make money and some to bring luck. It’s a chance game. But many bets are heavy and high.”
“I know that pan shops take bets.”
“Those are for kids, para boys. Nowadays many big people play big. But bookies like us have to be careful. If you have many betters, you are safe. And bookies should never bet themselves but still they do. If they lose, the dhanda goes away and you are in trouble. People have lost their shops, motorbikes. One has to be careful.”
“How do people know where to bet.?”
He laughed. “If you were betting, you would have known. But because you are a journalist you have found me. See... it’s who needs whom... no problem... we stick to areas… because we are field players… we have agents who collect the money and then after the match bring the money and after calculation it’s distributed... it’s all on phone boss. No problem”
“But it’s illegal isn’t it?
“Boss, it’s very safe... its not like yaba which kill people and wreck many lives. This is dhanda not crime. No smuggling, no hiding, no police, no politicians, no masters... very safe....only phone and TV and cricinfo and YouTube... this is very respectable...
By product of a sports culture
So there, the inevitable byproduct of cricket culture is betting and its arrived in Dhaka in a sort of big way Dhaka style... I was told many play from all classes and groups... there is no violence but Smartphone is needed and connections grow like big totals... there is no stigma and best no violence till now. Nobody dies from an overdose of cricket. But one day betting will become a problem if these people can influence outcomes... till then no one will pay much attention I guess...
Best wishes and good luck... after all it’s all about luck not effort