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Farmers World Cup (Mymensingh, Bangladesh)
On 2 January 2011, few weeks prior to the World Cup, an unique cricket match was held in a remote village in Bangladesh to spread enthusiasm for the upcoming World Cup amongst the villagers. As an agriculture-based economy, Bengali farmers are the heart of the nation. They work incredibly hard - often with very little reward - to feed the people. It was now time to swap their tool for a bat and ball and have some fun.
Channel i, a leading private television channel of Bangladesh, hosted the game at a makeshift stadium in a paddy field at Charpuliamri village near Mymensingh district town, 120 km north from capital Dhaka. Some 20 farmers aged over 60 participated in the 10-over-a-side match and were divided into two teams representing Bangladesh (wearing green jackets) and Australia (in yellow jackets) national teams.
Many of these farmers had no idea where Australia is. To some of them it is just the name of a cricket team and to others Australia is a neighbouring village.
Shaikh Siraj, head of news at Channel i and host of the event, stressed the importance of villagers – who form more than 110 million (i.e. over 60%) people of Bangladesh’s total population - contributing in order to make the World Cup a truly successful and fruitful one.
Just before of world cup cricket so the whole rural people, mainly they are the farmers, they are participating in this game. It is just to boost up our cricket, to boost up our rural people, that's it.
Shaikh Siraj on the motivation behind the unique event
The villagers turned out en masse to watch the game under makeshift portable floodlights, and Channel i cameras recorded the action. Many of the spectators were blowing vuvuzela-type horns, and a giant television screen meant everyone could see the action.
Before the match, a president of a symbolic Farmers Cricket Council (FCC) and a symbolic local sports minister were introduced to barefooted players, who were wearing their traditional dress of a Lungi, a sarong-style cloth around their legs. The players made up in enthusiasm for their lack of traditional cricket skills. Balls were thrown rather than bowled and batsman sometimes failed to realise they were out even though they were clean bowled.
Two popular Bangladeshi radio commentators gave a running commentary of the game, and the farmer of the match award was a goat and money.
Excitement and joy gripped the audience as families and friends cheered the gallant effort of the elderly players on the pitch.
In fitting with the occasion, team ‘Bangladesh’ won the match and raised the trophy – a replica of the Cricket World Cup – at the end of the evening as the crowd cheered and fireworks were ignited. One lucky player was given the "Farmer of the Match" award and rewarded with some money and a goat.
On 11 February 2011, eight days before Bangladesh played their opening match against India, the farmers’ match was aired on Channel i in a progamme anchored by Shaikh Siraj.