Bangladesh’s promise to do better in the next series seems to be never ending. Bangladesh tasted some ODI successes in 2007 but Test cricket remained a mystery to the young Tigers. After a credible performance in the home series against Australia in April 2006, Bangladesh were forced to take a break from Test cricket for 13 months by the administrators of the game. Bangladesh never looked the same team after resuming Test cricket in May 2007 with a home series against India. Much have been said by the Bangladesh think tanks including senior players about the potential damage done by the unwanted break to defend the awful performances and now this should put to a rest.
Whatever happened after their resumption of Test cricket, Bangladesh is taking too long to settle in the longer version of the game and time has come to put all the excuses behind and perform like an international outfit.
After two poor series against India and Sri Lanka when Bangladesh finally found a coach in Siddons, a change in performance was expected by most of the Bangladesh fans. Bangladesh’s typical roller coaster performance in the New Zealand series, which was his first series with the Tigers, failed to impress the critics for due reasons and the bandwagon against the Test status of Bangladesh is still rife. It can be argued that Siddons didn’t get enough time to make an impact before the New Zealand series which is probably valid, but no such argument can be put forward about the upcoming home series against South Africa.
This time Bangladesh have the home advantage, the freedom to make a suitable wicket for them and Siddons had enough time to gauge his boys, and work on their potential strengths and weaknesses. Siddons also claimed that he has found the core players for a future Bangladesh team; as always everything looks promising except the performance. The “talented” labelled Bangladeshi cricketers should realise the importance of consistent performance over once in a blue moon display of “super talents”. It must start from somewhere and after eight years into the Test cricket, it’s better not to prolong the not-so-pleasing wait of the well wishers and cricket followers.
South Africa is touring Bangladesh with a full strength team and they will be eager to add another series to their bag before travelling to India. Although their series preparation was badly hampered by the “Quota” row, but the quality of the South African cricket should be enough to overcome such hindrances. Bangladesh need to play exceptionally well to make the uneasiness of the Saffers regarding the issue visible.
The series bears a special significance to Bangladesh as it will be the last hurrah for the veteran SLA Mohammad Rafique who was one of the rare Test standard cricketers of Bangladesh. The religious fashion of Bangladesh’s batting failure never offered enough runs to play with, still Rafique produced some exceptional rear guard on numerous occasions with his simple yet venomous spin which are rare fond memories for the Bangladesh fans. He deserves a respectable farewell from his colleagues and there can be nothing better than a good batting total to give Rafique a last chance to exploit the spin weakness of the Saffers.
It’s always difficult to write about Bangladesh batting as they always find innovative ways to get out and rare glimpses of performances are always followed by frustration. The slow and low dusty wickets of Bangladesh should suit Bangladeshi style of batting and they have reasonably good batting line-up to post some challenging totals against the pace dominating South African attack. Ntini, Steyn, Morkel all are devastating fast bowlers in friendly conditions but Bangladesh pitches will offer little assistance to their style of bowling. Bangladesh can take heart from the absence of Paul Harris, who recently enjoyed success against Pakistan, and Shaun Pollock who always enjoyed success in the sub-continent.
South Africans were once dubbed as the “Bunnies of Spinners”; they have come a long way and recently enjoyed success in the spinner friendly conditions, but still have weaknesses against the quality left arm spins. Bangladesh’s recent triumph against the Saffers in 2007 ODI world cup, which is their solitary success in all forms of the game against the Proteas, in Guyana was scripted by the SLA trio who strangulated them in the middle. Mohammad Rafique and Enamul Haque Jr. duo are able to generate similar asphyxiating feeling in suitable conditions and they will be Bangladesh’s main weapon against the formidable South African batting line-up. If the new ball duo Mashrafe Mortaza and Shahadat Hossain can create some early breakthrough, spinners will be able to utilize the conditions and dominate the play. But first of all the batsmen must score some runs to create a sense of competitiveness.
Bangladesh has greater chance to taste success in the ODI series which will follow the Test series, but it’s the Test performance which will come under microscope of the cricket pundits and a good Test series will definitely bolster Bangladesh’s chances to register some ODI wins.
Recently every Bangladesh series starts with some promise and ends with some frustration. Bangladesh seems to end up with more questions to answer after some inexplicable displays on the field. Will South Africa series be the beginning of the end of this unpleasant cycle?