Sri Lanka in Bangladesh 2013-14 January 25, 2014

A Test series before a testing future


Two weeks ago, the biggest question in Bangladesh cricket was whether Shamsur Rahman could become only the second batsman from the country to score a first-class triple hundred. When he failed to do so, everyone wondered if his 267 would earn him a Test call-up. All of that is now a distant memory, after a leaked document has reopened age-old questions about Bangladesh cricket's future.

To consider all factors of this 'position paper' and to implement them will certainly take some time, but just the thought of being pushed off the precipice is a worry.

Bangladesh's captain, Mushfiqur Rahim, has already voiced his disappointment over the plan to send the team down to the Inter-Continental Cup as early as next year. Whether cricket in the country will remain at the same level is a general question, but what will happen to the players? Someone like Mushfiqur may have a Masters' degree to fall back on, but what about others?

What must have been most difficult for Mushfiqur was for all this talk, about such a complicated matter, to engulf his team less than two days before a Test match. As the captain of the lowest-ranked Test team, he already deals with more difficult questions than the average international captain. On one day it is about selection and on another about how secure his country is for visiting teams. Now it is about the most basic of things: his and his country's standing in cricket.

But the cricket itself must go on, and Bangladesh will take on Sri Lanka from Monday, despite the cloud hanging over the host country. The good news for Bangladesh is that they have a settled squad to choose from, containing exciting players apart from Tamim Iqbal and Shakib Al Hasan. Shamsur has indeed earned a place in the squad and is likely to make his debut in Mirpur, and a refreshed Imrul Kayes is another batsman to keep an eye on.

Marshall Ayub and Mominul Haque are the youngest and least experienced Nos. 3 and 4 in world cricket, but are not far behind most in potential. Mominul has made the No. 4 position his own very quickly with two centuries against New Zealand in Bangladesh's last two Test matches while Marshall is a strong-willed batsman trusted to do an important job.

Bangladesh has little to worry about the rest of the batting order or bowling attack, as the selectors have picked the best possible players. Sohag Gazi and Robiul Islam will provide adequate support to Shakib Al Hasan, while Rubel Hossain has a point to prove and a bowling average to bring down. The back-ups are also raring to go, for differing reasons. Mahmudullah has lost the vice-captaincy. Al-Amin Hossain has recently taken five wickets in an over in a domestic Twenty20 match.

Bangladesh have a new fielding coach as well, following the surprise appointment of Mohammad Salahuddin. He has mentored Shakib, Tamim, Nasir Hossain and Mominul, and it looks like he could be a short-term but effective addition to Shane Jurgensen's increasingly efficient workforce.

Last year was a good one, relatively, for Bangladesh, who won one Test, drew three and lost two. Their progress has been slow over the last 13 years, but it is not the fault of the current lot to suffer the consequences of what happened in the past. And having said that, it is not much of a past.

Bangladesh haven't been given several decades to bed into Test cricket as some other countries were. It can be argued they were admitted to the highest level of cricket a few years too soon, but had the ICC been more proactive than political at the time, they could have told the BCB a lot earlier that they were being considered for Test cricket. First-class cricket might have started much earlier than 1999, a mere year before they played their first Test.

While there have been endless debates about Bangladesh's future, it has never before surfaced as such an institutional question. In the past it had been the odd former cricketer trying to be funny or trying to outrage the media, but generally, the powers that be let their reservations about Bangladesh cricket stay within the confines of their boardroom.

But now that it has come out in the open, it has been disappointing and embarrassing for Bangladeshi cricketers. They now have to deal with ideas and thoughts that should have been the BCB's headache. Instead, the board directors' hasty stance has brought in more criticism and worried cricketers further.

Ahead of their last Test series against Sri Lanka, a string of injuries had thrown Bangladesh's preparations off kilter. Mushfiqur Rahim and Mohammad Ashraful had then changed the course of the game, bringing up the team's first ever drawn Test against Sri Lanka.

It remains to be seen if Mushfiqur and the rest of the team can bounce back in a similar manner from all the mental commotion they must be facing now. Bangladesh cricket has often done well when faced with questions, controversy and injury. This one seems right up their alley.

Mohammad Isam is ESPNcricinfo's Bangladesh correspondent. He tweets here

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Dummy4 on January 26, 2014, 22:04 GMT

    @ Little_Aussie_Battler I agree with most of what you have said. There is nothing that is stopping both teams from playing a 3 or a 4 test series. OK, there is the Asia Cup and the T20 thing afterwards, but even if there was time, these two teams would have never played more than 2 tests. In fact, they are only playing these 2 test matches because of being forced to by the ICC FTP and by its requirement that a minimum of 2 tests played. Take away the FTP, and Bangladesh by its own free will would have preferred 5 or 7 ODIs instead of the 2 tests. So why are Bangladeshi fans complaining about their possible loss of test status, when so far they have been playing test cricket after only being forced to do so via the FTP?

  • Dummy4 on January 26, 2014, 21:44 GMT

    Another 2 test series. When will they ever stop playing these 2-test rubbers? If Bangladesh love test cricket and want to keep playing it, then why not play 3 or even 5 test match series? A Bangladesh v Zimbabwe 5-test series wouldn't hurt either series. It is best not to insult test cricket anymore by playing such silly 2 test encounters. What is the point of such series?

  • Nasim on January 26, 2014, 20:43 GMT

    Too much hue and cry for funds and revenues in cricket. Cricket isn't the only game that is coping with the commercial world. Tennis never complains of it, let alone football. Never heard Federar or Nadal say, 'I have been top ranked for last few years so I won't play the qualifiers anymore because it is a lose of energy for me... I don't have to play as others do to get paid because my blood is blue...'

    The reason football doesn't have to worry about revenues because of its huge popularity. The popularity in turn comes from the excitement of uncertainty and the fact it has united the football nations with true spirit of sports eliminating other worldly discrimination.

    Cricket on the other hand has developed very little. It still has no universal championship for its original format. Even the limited-over championships aren't beyond question. England & Australia, the founders of cricket, now with flunky India, are filling it with politics instead of sportsmanship to destroy it soon.

  • sohail on January 26, 2014, 18:19 GMT

    Malcolm Speed ( not sure how he spells his last name ) and Malcolm Grey of CA is darn wright. If ICC is that desperate to increase it's revenue by any means then try to establish Cricket here in USA and CHINA, some of these countries are the strongest financial power in the world and that should help big time than creating a 2 tier system. Very realistic thought indeed.

  • Athul on January 26, 2014, 14:58 GMT

    @Muhammad Jesus.." BD is playing much better. interms of % they won more matches than India".........great comment my friend...ind's odi series lose in SA was after 6 series wins in a row..which include CHAMPIONS THROPY in which they where can argue BAN is playing also agree to that..but most by saying stuffs likes those....will see how BAN goes in this series..NZ and WI are generally not good players of spin..infact ever ordinary players...but SL are..

  • Avais on January 26, 2014, 13:52 GMT

    If BD succeded in taking the test to 5th day, then they shoul be allowed to keep their test status. If lost within three days, their test status should be put on hold for two years and give it to Ireland or even Afghanistan.

  • Kaushik on January 26, 2014, 11:38 GMT

    To ALL BD FANS, All the team who started playing cricket in 1930, they took years to win a test match, because in 40's there was soemthing called world war 2. Becaue of that there was almost no cricket. When INDIA won their first test (in 1952) it was against the Mighty Englishmen (in chennai (MADRAS at that time)).

    I agree that this two tier system is very BAD, and should be immediately withdrawn. BD team a Good team in ODI and in their home soil they are hard to beat.

    Take this AISA cup as your chance to reply to everyone by beating PAK, SL, IND (although it wont be easy). SL, IND will be raring to go against you.

  • Shafin on January 26, 2014, 6:13 GMT

    @Cpt.Meanster: I would request you not to bring up the past too long back. If you must then I would like to bring up past for every single newer Test playing country and for the first 10-15 yrs, none of them had a significant accomplishment either. On their first Test BD did score 400 against mighty IND. BD's recent performance is very consistent in Test. They drew with WI, drew with SL in SL, just had a drawn series with NZ and beat ZIM in ZIM which ended up beating PAK. Instead of being a blind basher of BD cricket please review the performance actually played on field and you will see BD did pretty well since 2009 that includes beating WI in WI in Test as well.

  • Dummy4 on January 26, 2014, 5:34 GMT

    Bangladesh will give a very good fight to Lankans and might won or draw series if they play following team 1. Tamim 2. Shamshur 3. Marshall 4. Monimul 5. Shakib 6. Naseer 7. Mushfiqur 8. Mahudullah 9. Sohag 10. Robiul. 11. Rubel

  • S.M on January 26, 2014, 4:11 GMT

    @Cpt.Meanster: This is called - kicking away the ladder, a colonial mentality now subscribed by India, England and Australia. Shame on them. Here are the years of test experiences: England - 137 years, Australia - 137 years, India - 82 years, SA - 125 years, WE - 86 years, NZ - 84 years. So it is completely unfair to compare BD with 14 years of experience. WE and NZ with nearly 7 times the experience still fail to perform competently. Loosing is a part of any sports and must not be the sole criteria to judge. BD cannot also be compared with Ireland, UAE, Kenya, Afghanistan or Canada as they are no match with BD as regards to cricketing infrastructure, audience and ability to grow revenue.

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