Saturday, 3 March 2007

Bangladesh Cricket: Where Do We Stand Now?

Bangladesh started their campaign in international cricket with a 22 run victory in a low scoring match against Fiji in 1979 ICC Trophy. After playing 41 ICC trophy matches with mixed success (26 wins, 14 losses, 1 no result) and an equal number of ODIs with even less success (3 wins - Pakistan, Kenya, Scotland and 38 losses), Bangladesh was awarded test status in June, 2000.

Bangladesh played first ever test match in November 2000 against India at Bangabandhu National Stadium. After gaining test status they played 44 test matches with a solitary win against Zimbabwe and lost as many as 39 matches. We enjoyed some reasonable successes in ODI and managed 25 wins out of 102 outings.

Awarding test status to Bangladesh is one of the most heavily criticized decisions of ICC and Bangladesh still remains under the microscope of cricket pundits as a test nation.

After obtaining the elite status Bangladesh suffered hiccups with religious regularity raising constant concern about the future of Bangladesh cricket.

After the infamous debacle in 2003 world cup, Bangladesh cricket went for a major overhaul. Dav Whatmore, the mentor of Sri Lanka's resurgence in world cricket was handed the coaching job to lift the sinking Bangladesh cricket. He took charge in June 2003 and since then Bangladesh started to make slow but steady progress in both forms of the game. The improvement is more noticeable in the shorter version of the game (25 wins in 72 matches) compared to the test matches (1 win, 3 draws in 25 matches).

Dav appeared to find success in injecting some confidence in the struggling team.
Bangladesh's cricketing success in 2006 is considered as an indication of definite improvement in the right direction. After taking world champions Australia to the wire at Fatullah test in April, Bangladesh ended 2006 with 18 wins on their side out of 28 ODI appearances. While current achievement is encouraging, the end of Bangladesh’s misery against the top teams remains largely to be seen.

The Bangladesh team is still fragile and can suffer regular defeats against quality oppositions. The success against quality oppositions in ODI's is not really consistent. Apart from the wins against Zimbabwe and one win each against Pakistan, India, Sri Lanka and Australia, we lost all other matches and in many cases without putting up a tough fight. In test matches, the results are even worse. Except for the Fatullah and Multan tests, we continued our failure in taking initiatives and struggle predictively.

According to Dav, the mentor of the team, Bangladesh has a bright future in international cricket and he has already found the core nucleus of the team. It might be true for the ODI but for tests it is still a far cry.

Bangladesh as an ODI team has quite a few quality players in Shahriar Nafees, Aftab Ahmed, Mohmmad Ashraful, Abdur Razzak, Mohammad Rafique and Mashrafe Mortaza. Captain Habibul Bashar largely failed to translate his test form into ODI arena. Sakib Al Hasan and Shahadat Hossain are two promising talents who have been slowly but surely establishing themselves into international cricket.

While the bowling strength of the ODI team shows palpable improvements, a brittle middle order continues to expose the batting limitations. A capable opener alongside Shahriar Nafees at the top with some improvements in the middle together with a competent wicketkeeper batsman can push the limits of any ODI team.

The picture looks gloomier in the longer version of the game. Apart from Shahriar Nafees and Habibul Bashar in batting and Mohammad Rafiq and Mashrafe Mortaza in bowling, we really don't have players to challenge quality opposition, let alone winning. Habibul Bashar scored about one third of all the runs Bangladesh scored in test cricket while Mohammad Rafique took more than one third of all the wickets Bangladesh took in test matches he played.

These simple stats only illustrate the poor show by the rest of the players. Bangladesh showed some encouraging performance in the four tests they played in 2006 but always crumbled under pressure. We almost won a test match against mighty Australia though Mohammad Rafiq's determined fight saw futile end due to the familiar lack of support.

In batting, Bangladesh must find suitable alternatives to veteran Javed Omar, Alok Kapali and Tushar Imran. Neither of them returned enough to keep the faith on and their inclusions make the fragile test batting even more brittle. Mohammad Ashraful must improve his consistency to keep his place in the side.

Aftab Ahmed has so far failed to take the responsibility of test batting. And the rookies Sakib Al Hasan and Farhad Reza lack technique and experience to seal a deal. Rajin Saleh looks gritty at times but again lacks both consistency and technique which cost Bangladesh dearly in some matches. Like the ODI team, Bangladesh must find a decent wicketkeeper batsman.

As mentioned previously, bowling is a major concern in our test side. Apart from Mohammad Rafiq no single bowler has the bite to their bowling to win test matches. Enamul Huq Jr. is a very good bowler but still lacks wicket taking ability against quality oppositions, more so on foreign grounds. Mashrafe Mortaza's success in ODI never really translated in tests mainly due to his fitness problem. There is some real hope in Shahadat Hossain who showed the aggressiveness required to be a successful test bowler. The situation looks even ominous unless someone comes up in style and takes the candle from aging Rafiq on time.

The overall situation might look depressing but it is the painful reality. In this situation the ray of light is the young generations who started playing competitive cricket knowing that one day they will feature for Bangladesh in tests. These young players have dominated their counterparts in age group level and they believe they can continue dominating them in the world arena.

They are declaring their emergence in the domestic circuit as well. It is really encouraging that we have emerging players in almost every discipline. Bangladesh Cricket Board has already taken initiatives to improve domestic infrastructure and formed the Cricket Academy for potential young players. Now, it’s very important to guide and nurture them properly before throwing them in the deep. They are the ray of light, the future of Bangladesh cricket.


Anonymous said...

Excellent analysis.

Anonymous said...

Mr K M Rahman should be highly appreciated by all concerned for his execellent analysis abt BD cricket & it's present status.