Friday, February 18, 2011

In it to win it

Negativity is a British disease, although some prefer to call it realism. There's the joke about the difference between an optimist and a pessimist in Britain: a pessimist thinks that things can't get any worse and an optimist thinks that they can.

I was rebuked twice yesterday for being negative. At the captains' press conference before the start of the cricket World Cup here in Dhaka, I was sitting next to a Bangladeshi journalist who told me that his country will win the World Cup "or at the very least make the final".

I was too polite to scoff at his confidence, but even though they are playing at home and will have noisy support, it is hard to see the world No 8 side advancing that far. He then asked me what my expectations were for England and seemed shocked when I shrugged and said that we should make the quarter-finals and then would need some luck.

"How can you not believe that your country will win?" he asked. I replied that I had watched them before.

Later that day, as the £20 million opening ceremony, complete with fireworks, a thousand dancers, a giant tiger and Bryan Adams, no less, wound to an end, an Indian journalist asked me for a quote for his Kolkata newspaper.

"Oh, ah, very good, impressive, great fun, certainly much better than anything we could put on in England," I said. To which he again asked in surprise: "Why do you English always put your country down?"

He probably had a fair point, but I was at the opening ceremony for the 2009 World Twenty20 at Lord's. It featured a speech by the Duke of Kent and so much rain that the planned concert by Alesha Dixon was cancelled on health and safety grounds.

That said, that display may have revealed as much of what is at the heart of British culture - royalty, drizzle and petty bureaucracy - as fireworks, dancing and tigers does about Bangladesh.

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