September 28, 2012

Cricket's top eight need to be challenged more

And for all the resources and chances they have got, Bangladesh haven't done it yet

It took eight days for the World Twenty20 to get to the eight teams we knew would play the next stage. We yearned for the established teams to squirm a bit, maybe even get embarrassed. Why, we wouldn't even have minded if one got knocked out because it would have meant the game had got more competitive. But apart from a tiny little period of play from the spirited Afghans against India, we yearned in vain. There is still no challenge to the established forces, and that isn't great news for a global sport. A hundred countries may play cricket but it is still really only eight.

Of the four countries that made early exits, two (Afghanistan and Ireland) need more cricket and two (Zimbabwe and Bangladesh) need to be challenged.

I think Ireland have a point when they say they don't get enough cricket against better teams. It is an issue that needs to be addressed immediately because otherwise they will continue to lose players to England. Eoin Morgan has been lost, now Boyd Rankin has quit, and at some point George Dockrell is going to think about whether he can fulfil his dreams with the limited opportunities he gets.

We saw too that in the limited cricket world they have seen, Afghanistan have made impressive strides. They deserve to be tested more at another level. They looked far from ready against England, and they will continue to be that way against teams with pace and bounce, but they have shown spirit, and a couple of players have caught the eye.

But the problem in world cricket outside the top eight is not as much with Ireland or Afghanistan or Netherlands or anyone else seeking to break in but with those already in but not looking the part. Zimbabwe and Bangladesh were terribly disappointing and I suspect for their own development they need to be asked some hard questions. At least Zimbabwe can point to political and allied issues but Bangladesh can't. They have the funds, the facilities and the opportunities but not the results.

Like Indians and Pakistanis, Bangladeshis are great cricket lovers. They love watching cricket, they support it well, and they deserve more from the team that is out playing for them. It is now 12 years since they played their first Test and their win-loss record is 3-63. Losing 63 out of 73 Tests played, many at home, is a woeful record. They do a bit better in one-day internationals with 72 wins to 188 losses but if you take the top eight cricket nations only, their record plunges to 20 out of 152. In their Test batting averages only four players (who have played ten or more Tests) make it past 30. Two of those don't reach 31 and no one is close to 40. Only one of their bowlers averages in the vicinity of 30. It gets worse. Of the three slots left (batting average over 30, bowling average around 30) Shakib Al Hasan fills two.

At a similar stage in their development, Sri Lanka had a win-loss figure of 4-27 out of 55 Tests, which wasn't great but was better. But, critically, they had already produced Roy Dias, Duleep Mendis, Aravinda de Silva, Arjuna Ranatunga, Roshan Mahanama, Sanath Jayasuriya, Asanka Gurusinha, Hashan Tillakaratne, Muttiah Muralitharan and Chaminda Vaas. The base had been laid and they were ready to move on. Bangladesh have Shakib and occasionally Tamim Iqbal, and really, that's it.

I got the feeling here that everyone other than Shakib was batting two places higher than ideal. In good teams batsmen seem to be batting one position lower than where they are capable of playing. With Bangladesh it was the other way around. Mushfiqur Rahim and Mahmudullah at Nos. 4 and 5 suggested there aren't batsmen to fill those positions.

They spark sometimes, do Bangladesh, like they did at home during the Asia Cup, when they beat India and Sri Lanka and almost beat Pakistan in the final. But their next world-class player isn't yet in sight and I think it might benefit their cricket if they are challenged a bit more; if it is suggested to them that they need to prove they are closer to the top eight than to the next four, or that else they might have to play more in the little league. A small threat might jolt them into looking at the system that produces cricketers and in being fairer to their many fans who so dutifully and admirably sustain the game there.

World cricket needs the top eight to be challenged more if ICC events have to be more competitive. In two and a half years we will again have 14 teams at the World Cup in Australia and New Zealand, and you cannot have a competition that is waiting to begin halfway into its fixtures.

I had thought that T20 would make world events like this one more competitive. It didn't happen in Sri Lanka.

Harsha Bhogle is a commentator, television presenter and writer. His Twitter feed is here

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Muhammad Rakibul on October 1, 2012, 18:33 GMT

    Well, it's little bit unfair to compare BD only with Asian test sides. Harsha might've forgotten Kiwis! Now come to the point. BD lacks Test skills & everyone knows why it is happening. BD have funds, facilities but not a good First Class Tournament yet, that's it. Only a good & structured domestic circuit can change BD. Otherwise BD will struggle to find their next world class player after Shakib throughout this decade.

  • Dummy4 on October 1, 2012, 4:31 GMT

    India was granted test status1932.India achieved its first ever Test victory in 1951-52 when it beat England in Madras. Having made its Test debut in 1932, India had to wait for 20 long years in the sidelines before making its mark in the big stage. India had the wait another decade to register another test win after that.India has about 1.5 billion population with annual GDP of $4.457 trillion, but failed produce quality fast bowler like Pakistan and Sri lanka. Indian batsmen's knee wobbles when they go to play overseas. Bangladesh made them early exit from some major tournament including this year Asia cup where Pakistan was champion and Bangladesh was runner up. Against Pakistan they have 121 ODI Matches - 48 won by India, 69 won by Pakistan. No result 4. Test 59 Matches - 9 won by India, 12 won by Pakistan. India was beaten by Australian in 15 overs in current T20 world cup. Please sniff your own armpits before sneaking into other

  • Dummy4 on September 30, 2012, 23:20 GMT

    Hello Mr. Similarly I'm also shameful to compare Indian cricket team to cricketing powerhouse Australia or South Africa. When Indian cricket team plays against them I feel myself watching a comedy show.

  • M.G. on September 30, 2012, 22:35 GMT

    all true Mr. Bhogle, but only if big eight would agree to play more often with the so called minnos for the sake of improving and popularising cricket throughout the world...

  • Daison on September 30, 2012, 11:50 GMT

    Players like Ashraful gets selected over and over again no matter what he does in middle. Every time I see him bat its the same old story - one or two boundaries. Then throw the bat at everything, perish and then a grandstanding of shaking head, beating the pads and walk of shame to the stands. They need more mental training too.

  • Twohedul on September 30, 2012, 11:39 GMT

    @ Dhutugemunu- its good to see that you have accepted the India v Bang comparison, the questions one need to ask now if BD gets this criticism why not India with the relative performance (in comparison with their resources) they show? Now coming back to Srilanka comparison. Yes, Srilanka done well if you look at the time with the resources thay have. But, if you look at their history you would see that they have been playing first class /or similar cricket for over 100 years. That means they were preparing themselves way before than getting in to test arena. The other things about Srilankan is that they are better athlets than Indian/BD/Pak. Actualy, you have now prompted me to ask for a comparison between India & Srilanka? I know that if you are an Indian fan that would not bring any smile on your face for sure considering the volume, time, and other resources India had on offer compared to that tiny Island?

  • Dummy4 on September 30, 2012, 9:52 GMT

    But I do agree that we have a long way to go to b a potent force in World Cricket. Bt certainly it is nt very nice to see Indians and Pakistanis insulting our team for no apparent reason.

  • Dummy4 on September 30, 2012, 9:49 GMT

    And yes, stats for u Harsha. India have not won a single match in Super 8's in T20 World Cup since IPl started in 2008. Bangladesh, too haven't, but if India, despite all their focuses on IPL and Champs League cannot do well in T20WC, why blame Bangladesh? Ppl need to look at themselves in the mirror b4 criticising others.

  • Dummy4 on September 30, 2012, 8:46 GMT

    After seeing the India-Australia one sided match someone may consider writing the story about India saying, "India should try to challenge the top teams in overseas". Mr Harsha, u may try the same!

  • Waseem on September 30, 2012, 8:43 GMT

    i remember watching as a kid when Srilanka came to Pakistan in 1983 on their first full series after gaining test status (incidentally it's the series when all Pakistani senior players revolted against Javed Miandad's captaincy and refused to play for the first two test). But one could instantly see that they had some serious talent Mendis,Whittamany,Dias,Demel,Gonatalaikae,Ratnayeke all were very good.i Remember Dias scoring a cracker of century in a one day international against Imran Khan at his peak. Unfortunately it has taken more than a decade for Bangladesh to produce a lone world class player such as Shakib ul hassan but never the less they have produced one and the game would be poorer with out his talent not being on show case. The Bangladesh might not have the natural flair and talent but they make it up with their passion and the world cricket needs to respect that and be more patient.

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