Rising Bangladesh’s big Test in India
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Top-ranked India is the last of the full-member cricketing nations to host Bangladesh for a Test match, with the neighbours arriving for a one-off Test starting today in Hyderabad. It’s been over 16 years since they hosted India in their inaugural Test match, amidst much fanfare, at the Bangabandhu National Stadium in Dhaka.
Bangladesh’s maiden Test in November 2000 will also be remembered as Sourav Ganguly’s first as Test captain; he took over the top job after the match-fixing scandal, a difficult time in Indian cricket.
India went on to play seven more Tests over four tours of Bangladesh, but it was only last August that the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) confirmed Bangladesh’s maiden Test visit as part of the packed 13-Test home season. In all, India has won six of the eight Tests against Bangladesh, with the other two ending in draws.
“It has taken a long time to come. Maybe it wasn’t commercially feasible all this while. But the BCCI has been good to us, and helpful over the years,” former Bangladesh Test captain Habibul Bashar says.
“Playing a Test in India was a dream for many of us. I am happy that the moment has arrived for the current bunch,” adds the 50-Test veteran, who also played in the inaugural Test.
Bangladesh have won only eight of the 97 Tests they have played, losing 74; 15 ended in draws. Five of the wins came against Zimbabwe, two over a struggling West Indies in 2009, but the biggest victory was at home in October against a full-strength England that helped them square the two-Test series 1-1.
Although the Tigers from Bangladesh, ranked ninth among 10 Test-playing nations, returned winless from the recent tour of New Zealand, the bright side was that they dominated major passages of play in both Tests.
“It’s not all doom and gloom…. There are a lot of positives to build on,” Bangladesh coach Chandika Hathurusingha told ESPNCricinfo at the conclusion of the New Zealand tour.
“We are still not mentally strong enough or maybe it is a physical thing, which I don’t know yet, to play five days in high-intensity cricket,” added the former Sri Lanka all-rounder, referring to second innings collapses in both Tests.
The Tigers have improved as a Test batting unit over the past five seasons. Their six team totals of over 500 in an innings came during this period, with the best being 638 while batting second against Sri Lanka in Galle in March 2013.
The second highest is the impressive 595-8 (declared) that they posted in the first innings of the opening Test against New Zealand in Wellington in January, on the back of a sensational 359-run, fifth-wicket stand between Shakib Al Hasan (217) and skipper Mushfiqur Rahim (159).
All three individual double centuries—Al Hasan, Tamim Iqbal (206 vs Pakistan, Khulna, April 2015) and Rahim (200 vs Sri Lanka, Galle, March 2013)—also came during this period, as did four of six other 150-plus scores.
“We’ve not been playing much Test cricket in the last two-three years, but hopefully, following the win over England, we will get to play more Tests in the future,” says Bangladesh’s first Test captain, Naimur Rahman.
“We lack depth in bowling to be competitive in Test cricket. We are still a better limited-overs unit,” the former national selector adds.
The Bangladesh Cricket Board roped in West Indian pace great Courtney Walsh as bowling coach on a three-year contract in September to help sharpen the skills of emerging seam bowlers in a spin-strong country.
The participation of foreign players in the Bangladesh Premier League has also raised the quality of players coming through the pipeline, Bashar says.
The side has several talented individuals. Left-hander Al Hasan figures among the leading all-rounders in contemporary cricket, with over 3,200 runs and 165 wickets in 46 Tests.
Interestingly, 24 of Bangladesh’s 45 Test centuries have come from the blades of Tamim Iqbal (8), Al Hasan (4), Mominul Haque (4), Rahim (4), Imrul Kayes (3) and Mahmudullah (1), who form the bedrock of the current batting, raising hopes of better Test results in the coming years.
“Bangladesh as a batting unit is a lot more competitive…has started to push big teams, begun to think about winning,” Bashar says. “We lack firepower in our bowling, but once we develop that we can hope to win more often.
“Beating England is a huge confidence boost. We could have also won the first Test. The New Zealand series was a learning experience…. If we play more Tests, we are bound to get better.”
Sanjay Rajan has written on sport for over two decades. He tweets at @SeamUp.