Dhaka, Bangladesh – In Magura, a sleepy town in southwest Bangladesh, about 168km (104 miles) from capital Dhaka, more than a thousand people are gathered outside a circular-shaped auditorium.
The crisp winter air barely cut short their enthusiasm as they waited for Shakib Al Hasan – their “boy from the hometown” and arguably the biggest sporting icon in the South Asian nation of some 170 million people.
Hasan arrived in a swanky SUV, waved his hand like a seasoned politician, and quickly went inside the auditorium where again a couple of hundred people were waiting for him as he appeared for an interview with a popular YouTuber and talk show host, Rafsan Sabab.
The event was part of a PR campaign ahead of the national election in Bangladesh, to be held on January 7, in which Hasan, still an active player in the national cricket team, is contesting from his hometown constituency for the incumbent Awami League (AL) party.
As the interview began, Sabab asked, with a smile: “Every district of Bangladesh has its own speciality, be it food, garment or a monument. Here in Magura, when I ask anyone about its speciality, they unanimously say: Shakib Al Hasan.”
“Yes, I would have said the same,” Hasan wryly replied. Sabab laughed, as did the audience.