WASHINGTON DULLES INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT, 7:33 pm. Nine hours after landing in the United States, the Bangladesh cricket team remained in a quagmire of passport verification and questioning by border control officers. While opener Tamim Iqbal was the first to clear customs and make his way to an Auntie Anne’s kiosk for a helping of buttered pretzels, his teammates were subject to a barrage of questions comparable to a new-ball spell on an English greentop.
Off spinner Mohammad Mahmudullah’s frustration boiled over from having to reiterate that he was not the Afghan fighter Mohammad Mahmudullah who was released last year from the Guantanamo detention facility. “Like facing four maiden overs in a row,” he grumbled. Aspiring all-arounder Mohammad Nasir Hossain was questioned about the family trip he took last year, which included a visit to the Islamic holy site of Mecca. He was overheard responding to a question, “No, I only prayed. I did not speak to anyone about airplanes or flight lessons!” Pace bowler Mohammad Rubel Hossain was asked to play the full selection of MP3s on his iPod for agents who, with the aid of a FBI translator, sought to verify that he was not smuggling fatwas or secret instructions to a terror cell within the United States. In line at the food court Burger King the former captain, Shakib al Hasan, commented, “When I heard them playing Rubel’s tracks, I actually felt bad for the officers. He can conjure up the occasional magic yorker, but the man hasn’t figured out when to drop the bass.”
Airport officials noted that their security software flagged the passenger manifest of the flight carrying the Bangladesh cricketers. Said Agent Robinson, “Well, of course we were going to look closely at the travelers among this planeload of Mohammads, and that was before we saw them coming down the concourse behind this beard.”
Despite the frustrations, some among the traveling party were able to keep their mood up. U.S. Border Control officer Raul Trujillas noted, “Their batboy worked hard to keep everyone cheerful. Every now and then you’d hear him exclaim, ‘Come on, lads!’ When it was his turn, he answered all of my questions and chirped a quick ‘Thanks!’ as I handed him his passport.”
It’s possible that this textbook example of ethnic profiling could have been avoided had Bangladesh included their token Hindu spinner, Sachin Choudhury, in the touring party.
Due to continued questioning by Homeland Security agents, pace bowler Shafiul Usama bin Caliphate al Islam was not available for comment.