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“On the eve of the inaugural Test match, the lobby of the main entrance to the pavilion building was transformed into a gallery of historical sketches”

With the start of the recently concluded Test match between Zimbabwe and Bangladesh, the Sylhet International Cricket Stadium became the newest official Test centre in world cricket.

In gearing up for this occasion, the Sylhet Cricket Association brought forth a look and feel to the venue that was both apt for the epochal event and unique in concept, at least in this part of the world

On the eve of the inaugural Test match, the lobby of the main entrance to the pavilion building was transformed into a gallery of historical sketches.

A brainchild of Cricketsoccer.com, who have presented the set of sketches to the Sylhet Cricket Association, it was a triumphant venture undertaken by the said website along with the organisers of the Sylhet Cricket Association. The project received the full support of Shafiul Alam Chowdhury Nadel, the BCB director and general secretary of Sylhet Divisional Sports Association, and Joydeep Das Sujak, the venue manager of the Sylhet International Cricket Stadium.

The hand-drawn and exquisitely framed sketches depict the history of Bangladesh cricket from the distant days of the Maharajah of Natore, covering the major steps of its journey towards Test cricket, and finally ending with some of the momentous triumphs of the last few years.

Also read: Natore and its relation to cricket

The first sketch shows the Maharajah of Natore with his painstakingly assembled team of major star cricketers. On further perusal of the artwork on the wall, one embarks on a historic journey down the memory lane. There is the Bangladesh side assembled to take on the MCC in 1976-77, the first international side to visit the independent nation. One can also see Raqibul Hasan tossing the coin alongside MCC skipper Ted Clark in the first-ever international match played in the newly formed nation of Bangladesh.

Artwork of Sylhet International Cricket Stadium
Artworks of Natore Cricket Team during the British Raj (right and The Bangladesh Cricket Team, which played against MCC in 1977. Image Courtesy: Cricketsoccer

The historic pre-Test pictures deliberately sketched on paper with a sepia tint, also show the famous triumph in the 1997 ICC Championships, with Akram Khan holding aloft the coveted trophy.

Artwork of Sylhet International Cricket Stadium
Artwork of Akram Khan lifting the ICC Trophy in 1997. Image Courtesy: Cricketsoccer

The biggest star of the pre-Test era, Raqibul Hasan, is present across multiple images.

Atwork of Sylhet International Cricket Stadium
Artworks of above, left: Shahid Jewel, Basil D’Oliveira and Raquibul Hasan. Above right: Raquibul Hasan. Below left: Ted Clarke and Raquibul Hasan and below right: Yousuf returning to the pavilion after scoring a half-century against MCC in 1977. Image Courtesy: Cricketsoccer

The journey of the pre-Test era stops with the iconic moment of Saqlain Mushtaq being run out to mark Bangladesh’s win against Pakistan in the 1999 World Cup.

Artwork of Sylhet International Cricket Stadium
Artwork of Khaled Masud running out Saqlain Mushtaq, ICC World Cup 1999. Image Courtesy: Cricketsoccer

As one moves to the other side of the gallery, he can find the greatest moments of Bangladesh’s Test history captured on canvas.

Artwork of Sylhet International Cricket Stadium
Artworks of Naimur Rahman and Sourav Ganguly during first ever Test of Bangladesh (left) and Aminul Islam after completing his historic hundred in the same Test (right). Image Courtesy: Cricketsoccer

There is Naimur Rahman Durjoy and Sourav Ganguly during the debut Test of the nation, and underneath one can see Aminul Islam Bulbul reaching for the sky after becoming the first Bangladeshi Test centurion.

Artwork of Sylhet International Cricket Stadium
Artwork of Bangladesh Cricket Team’s celebration after their first ever Test victory in 2005 at Chottogram. Image Courtesy: Cricketsoccer.

This is followed by the striking image of the celebration of the Tigers after their first ever Test match win, against Zimbabwe at Chittagong in 2005.

Artwork of Sylhet International Cricket Stadium
Artworks of Mehidy Hasan Miraz in joy after claiming the last wicket of England, which ensured a series-leveller victory against the English in 2016 at Mirpur (left) and Bangladesh celebrate the fall of Josh Hazlewood, which ensured their first ever win against Australia in 2017 (right). Image Courtesy: Cricketsoccer

The final blows that led to two of the greatest wins managed by the nation so far have also been etched in the frames with a great eye for detail. There is Mehidy Hasan Miraz and the rest of them starting off in their winning sprint as Steven Finn is trapped leg before wicket to give Bangladesh their first ever win against England in 2016. Also captured is the defining moment of Josh Hazlewood being trapped plumb to clinch the magnificent victory against Australia in 2017.

Artworks of Mashrafe Bin Mortaza and Shakib Al Hasan. Image Courtesy: Cricketsoccer

In between the pre-Test and Test-era images, there is another section where current day heroes of Bangladesh cricket, such as Shakib Al Hasan, Mashrafe Mortaza, Tamim Iqbal and Mushfqur Rahim are framed in their triumphant moments.

Artwork of Sylhet International Cricket Stadium
Artworks of Tamim Iqbal (left) and Mushfiqur Rahim. Image Courtesy: Cricketsoccer

The selection of the subject matter for the exhibition was a joint effort of Faisal Caesar, the chief cricket editor of Cricketsoccer.com, and Arunabha Sengupta, the Amsterdam-based cricket historian and a regular contributor to that same website.

The moments were specifically selected by the duo by delving through the historical archives online, as well as the artefacts of the MCC Library at Lord’s.

The sketches were developed by Maha, the London-based artist, who forms the Blinders team of sports sketches and illustrations alongside Sengupta.  The drawings use graphite as a medium, and have been carefully executed using negative space techniques.

Artworks of Sylhet International Cricket Stadium
Team Cricketsoccer at Sylhet International Cricket Stadium’s lobby with the artworks behind. From the left, Tanoy Kanti Dutta, Faisal Caesar, Soumya Ganesh Maha and Arunabha Sengupta. Image Courtesy: Cricketsoccer

Almost uniformly black and white, there are some splashes of exciting colour as well, such as when the Bangladesh flag makes its appearance during one of the images of celebration.

Sketched in London, they were meticulously framed at the Chitrak Art Gallery, Dhaka, by Apurba Ray and Anindita Datta.

The exhibition was inaugurated to the press on the eve of the Test match by  Shafiul Alam Nadel, the BCB Director.

The wall standing opposite to this gallery of historic sketches has also been decorated by the local organisers with a series of photographs depicting the Sylhet cricketers who went on to play for the national team.

Artwork of Sylhet International Cricket Stadium
Cricketsoccer’s Arunabha Sengupta receiving a crest from President of SICS Shafiul Alam Nadel. Image Courtesy: Cricketsoccer

The brochure printed for the event also has articles by, among others, Arunabha Sengupta, Abhishek Mukherjee and Faisal Caesar of the Cricketsoccer team, as well as artwork by Maha.

That is not all.

The Cricket Editor of Cricketsoccer, Faisal Caesar holding the five-minute bell at Sylhet International Cricket Stadium. Image Courtesy: Cricketsoccer

Another attraction for this Test match was the addition of the five-minute bell. Manufactured in Dhaka, this bell was placed in front of the Grand Stand. Former Bangladesh skipper Akram Khan rang the bell to mark the start of the first ever Test match at this venue.

The innovative concepts of the historic art gallery and the five-minute bell indeed added a special edge to the venue as it hosted its first ever Test match.

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