Bangladesh's summer of woes
Bangladesh cricket's misery has lurched from off-field controversies to a string of on-field disappointments, as the A team, the Under-23s and the Under-19s have had very little to show by way of results on their tours to England and Singapore this month.
The biggest letdown has been the performance of the A team, which has lost seven out of seven one-day matches so far in England, five of them to county sides. The national selectors picked 13 international players in the 15-man squad, but their frailties have been exposed despite being presented with some good batting conditions. As Bangladesh's senior side will not be touring England till 2020, this was seen as an opportunity for the players to convince the home board that they would be up for the challenge.
The BCB's decision to send a strong team was criticised back home, but the board had little choice, as most of the youngsters had to be sent to the Under-23 side. Moreover, the strong A team also had the potential to emerge victorious against England Lions, whom they had overturned 3-2 at home in early 2012.
But on Thursday, they conceded the three-match series to the Lions after a 191-run thrashing in the second game. On the same day, the Bangladesh Under-23s were eliminated from the ACC Emerging Nations Cup after losing to UAE by 59 runs, while earlier this month, the Under-19s failed to qualify to the final of a tri-nation series in England.
After Bangladesh A's massive 202-run loss to the England Lions on Tuesday, Bangladesh's batting and fielding coach Corey Richards, who is leading the side on tour, conceded that they just hadn't been competitive. The team showed little signs of improvement on Thursday and leaked 367 in 50 overs. Richards hoped that the lessons learned from the tour would serve them well in the upcoming 2013-14 season.
"We prepared really well for this tour as we knew what conditions we would likely face," Richards said. "Unfortunately we just haven't competed with either bat or ball for the full game which has been disappointing.
"It has been a big learning curve for a few players on this tour, being out of their comfort zones with regards to the conditions. As a coach I can only hope that they have and are learning from the experience and come back to Bangladesh and apply what they have learned."
On Tuesday, Luke Wright and Gary Ballance annihilated the bowling attack by adding 186 runs in the last 13 overs of the innings. This shredded the confidence of the Bangladesh bowlers, resulting in another run-fest from the home side in the second game, as Michael Carberry cashed in with 146.
"Unfortunately we just haven't been able to execute our game plans for any length of time, which has made bowling in the last 10 overs even more difficult," Richards said. "We didn't bowl intelligently during the Powerplay overs, which can create problems when you are bowling to quality batsmen."
Only Anamul Haque has more than 200 runs on tour, and has also scored the team's only century. Five centuries have been scored against them, four during the Lions matches and the other by Daryl Mitchell of Worcestershire. Elias Sunny is the most successful with the ball, but he conceded 95 in his nine overs on Thursday.
The two age-group tours mirror the A team's performance, particularly the Under-23s' - they lost to Sri Lanka Under-23s by 62 runs before succumbing to UAE. With just one win against Singapore, Gazi Ashraf Hossain, BCB's game development committee chairman, expressed his shock at the team's showing.
"It is not always wise to call cricket results as unexpected, but the way the Under-23s went down to UAE was really not what we wished for," Ashraf said. "We will have a discussion with the team management in the next two days when they return home. It is fair to say that the Under-19s are a new side, so I am only concerned about why they batted in the morning or afternoon."
All of the Under-23s and Bangladesh A players will now have a chance to redeem themselves in the well-known Dhaka Premier Division Cricket League, scheduled for a September 3 start. The tournament has already been postponed five times and if there's any further delay most of the players will have to rely on their mental strength, rather than form, come the New Zealand series in October.
Mohammad Isam is ESPNcricinfo's Bangladesh correspondent. He tweets here