Does anyone want to play?

In a year when Bangladesh raised their standards, especially at home, it's disheartening that their fixtures list looked so bare
Mohammad Isam December 24, 2013

Bangladesh repeated the whitewash they handed out to New Zealand in 2010 © AFP
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How much longer can Bangladesh endure large gaps between their international matches is a question that everyone from players and coaches to fans is asking. The question becomes more pertinent when you see the team remain unbeaten at home in ODIs and improve in Test cricket.

The ICC has no say in the organising of bilateral tours outside the ambit of the Future Tours Programme, so Bangladesh's playing calendar is often down to the BCB's skill (and the attitudes of the richer boards). They have only played Sri Lanka, Zimbabwe and New Zealand in 2013, and their results should be enough to attract more takers, but neither is the BCB manoeuvring successfully nor are the other boards making any moves.

The cricket year started in March, with almost back-to-back tours to Sri Lanka and Zimbabwe. Bangladesh's next, and last, series of the year began in October, after a gap of five months in the interim, and ended in early November. They played six Tests, winning one. Significantly, they have never lost as few as two Tests in any year when they have played more than five Tests. The three draws were altogether unprecedented, particularly the one in Galle, when they not only pushed Sri Lanka to the fifth day but secured their first-ever drawn Test match in that country. Against Zimbabwe, however, it went pear-shaped, as Bangladesh were crushed in the first Test match. It shook them up, and they turned things around in the second Test, which they won by 143 runs.

It was their first Test win since mid-2009, an outcome that pointed to their increased confidence and stability at home.

In ODIs they posted their first win over Sri Lanka away from home, and continued to beat New Zealand at home. This time it was 3-0, a whitewash that evoked memories of a similar result in 2010.

The T20 performances have once again been disappointing, with just the one win in four games this year.

Winning ODIs without Shakib Al Hasan and Tamim Iqbal has been a point in favour of Bangladesh. The BCB's decision to stick with Mushfiqur Rahim as captain till the 2015 World Cup is another positive move, given the board has tended towards short-term stints for captains in the past. What they will expect from Mushfiqur would be more of the same in terms of results - but not more in the vein of his hot-headed resignation in May. The team will also have to step past the BPL spot-fixing controversy, which dogged them from the time the news broke in May.

High point
There have been a lot of fine individual performances this year, as would be expected when the team does well, but none could top Sohag Gazi's feat.

Gazi became the first cricketer in Test history to score a century and take a hat-trick in the same Test match. The first part of the feat, the unbeaten 101, ensured that Bangladesh didn't fall short of New Zealand's first-innings total, and put them in a position of strength. Gazi's restraint was impressive, particularly his ability to find the gaps and pick up singles; his ability to bat with the tail was also noticeable.

The hat-trick was a mixture of Gazi's use of variations and lengths, and luck. He trapped Corey Anderson with a quicker, fuller arm ball, easily given out leg-before. BJ Watling edged the next one, also an arm-ball, to Mushfiqur. The hat-trick ball, to Doug Bracewell, was another excellent, fuller-length delivery that took the outside edge, smashed into Mushfiqur's shoulder, and was grabbed by a diving Shakib at leg slip.

It enlivened a meandering final day's play, and though the game ended in a draw, Gazi's performance spoke loudly of his ability as a cricketer. Curiously, almost a year to the day, he had done the exact same thing in first-class cricket, playing for Barisal Division.

Low point
Off the field, the year's misery centred around the BPL corruption controversy, particularly the resulting suspension of Mohammad Ashraful, the former captain.

Mominul Haque and Sohag Gazi celebrate James Neesham's wicket, Bangladesh v New Zealand, 2nd ODI, Mirpur, October 31, 2013
Mominul Haque and Sohag Gazi: two to watch © AFP

The more visible low point was Bangladesh's crushing 335-run loss to Zimbabwe in April. Their combined total in the first Test match against Zimbabwe, 281 runs, was just eight more than Zimbabwe captain Brendan Taylor had made during the game in an epic batting effort. That disparity said it all.

The batsmen had no answer to sharp, short-pitched bowling or to the constantly changing lengths. The cavalier approach, particularly not holding a training session at home between tours to Sri Lanka and Zimbabwe, coupled with sub-standard facilities in Harare resulted in the big loss - a harsh reminder of how things can go wrong quickly for Bangladesh, who are unaccustomed to playing short-pitched fast bowling in foreign conditions.

New kid on the block
Mominul Haque's twin centuries against New Zealand provided a sense of assurance about Bangladesh's immediate future in Test cricket. He was adept at changing the pace of his innings according to the need of the situation. During his 181 in Chittagong, he realised quickly that the bowlers didn't know where to bowl at him, and he cashed in on the loose deliveries; when he began to be examined a little more, he contented himself with finding the gaps.

In Dhaka he played with a high fever but displaying an even higher level of maturity. He approached the task of surviving on the fourth day in the best possible manner, and had a great batting partner in Tamim Iqbal at the other end.

This was Mominul's first year in Test cricket, and he understands that he has a long way to go to establish himself in the international game, but his hunger and grounded attitude will serve him and Bangladesh well.

Fading star
Ashraful has featured in this section in 2008 and 2012 for lack of form, but now his days as a cricketer seems over. He has admitted to the ICC's ACSU of his involvement in corruption during BPL. The BCB and the ACSU have set up a tribunal that will hear from Ashraful and eight others, all from the same BPL franchise. The saddest part is that 2013 seemed to offer hope of a revival for Ashraful, particularly after he struck 190 against Sri Lanka in Galle. Even if the minimum punishment is levied, it would likely spell a shameful end for Bangladesh's first big international cricketer.

What 2014 holds
Bangladesh have a busy year ahead, starting mid-January, when they host Sri Lanka in two Tests, three ODIs and two T20s. The Asia Cup is slated to begin four days after the last game of the tour, and a week after the regional tournament, the country hosts the World Twenty20 in March-April.

According to the ICC's Future Tours Programme, India are supposed to tour to play three ODIs in June, after which Bangladesh tour the West Indies in July. The home cricket season renews in 2014, with Sri Lanka and Zimbabwe touring Bangladesh, the latter scheduled to play two Tests in October-November.

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Posted by Arun on (December 24, 2013, 4:59 GMT)

Unfortunately for BD, it's not just about results over the short term. They need to keep winning relatively big tournaments against better sides before the richer boards sit up and take notice. SL was considered a minnow until WC 96, for example. The current perception among supporters of stronger sides is that BD can occasionally stage an upset, but normal service resumes pretty quickly. Such series get fewer eyeballs, and consequently, lesser ad revenue. As boards and production houses are trying to maximize ad revenue, there's no incentive to do anything beyond the bare minimum (FTP), and the onus of creating such an incentive has to be on Bangladesh. BD has to start performing against the big sides in their FTP games before they can expect regular bilateral tours. One can't approach it with a sense of entitlement; respect has to be earned through consistent performances, and the tours will follow. SL, despite current weakness, is no longer seen as a minnow.

Posted by India on (December 24, 2013, 6:25 GMT)

The question that needs to be asked is not "Does anyone want to play" but "Why is BD allowed to play test cricket?" or "If substandard teams like BD are allowed to play test cricket then why not Ireland? Why not Afghanistan? Why not Nepal? Why not Papua New Guinea?". Another question that can be asked is "how long will this abomination go on for where substandard teams are allowed to play test cricket when they even have to play the qualification rounda for a T20 tournament that will be played in their own country??!". Ask these questions.

Posted by Dummy4 on (December 24, 2013, 6:58 GMT)

@IndiaRulesEverybody ,I am an Indian and I believe this comment is totally uncalled for & biased. Bangladesh has improved considerably in the last 2 years and regularly have beaten opponents at home in ODIs. In tests they have not done badly either except for that horrendous 1st test lost at Harare. I also believe Ireland and Afghanistan should be given test status soon (infact Ireland should have got it 2-3 yrs back. However comparing Bangladesh with Papua New Guinea or even Nepal is downright insulting & just shows how much you guys know about associate level cricket standards. Bangladesh have to play the qualifying round in world round they already knew ICC has made an extremely stupid format this time still they did not arrange for more t20 matches for their team. wishing Bangladesh all the best from India

Posted by Salman on (December 24, 2013, 8:25 GMT)

The question should be, "Do they really want to improve"? They were asked to tour Pakistan, they promised, and then refused. Pakistan used to tour Bangladesh regularly, 1st BPL was a success because of several Pakistani players, but their refusal to fulfill THEIR PROMISE, they shouldn't had promised, if it wasn't possible to fulfill it, changed everything. As they say: "As you sew, so shall you rip"!

Posted by Sagarneel on (December 24, 2013, 10:05 GMT)

More than anything else, the greatest strength of Bangladesh cricket lies in its fan following. It takes real passion (as one would expect Bengalis to have in plenty) to continue to support a team, even though the team doesn't perform up to the expected level for a long time.

Posted by Chris on (December 24, 2013, 10:51 GMT)

I'm starting to lose interest now because of the lack of Cricket for Bangladesh. If such teams don't get to play much then Cricket will have a very difficult future I'm afraid. I blame BCB also for not doing enough and we cannot even arrange limited overs series even against associates. Not complaining about test matches since we should consider ourselves fortunate that we are getting to play on average 5 test matches a year considering the failures in that form but really minimum 20 ODIs and 8 T20s against whoever is a must for Bangladesh team in order for good progression. These gaps in the calender is only inflicting heavy damage for Bangladesh and laziness.

Posted by Android on (December 24, 2013, 15:49 GMT)

Ireland is more talented and deserve to be given regular chances than Bangladesh.beating a top team once in a blue moon is not big achievement.if Bangladesh want to play regular cricket then have to produce good results at regular currunt situation;Ireland is more deserving team than BA and ZIM to play against top teams.

Posted by Hasib on (December 24, 2013, 15:53 GMT)

I think the teams that rank higher than Bangladesh are afraid to play against Bangladesh. India, for example, played Zimbabwe this year but did not play Bangladesh due to their "busy schedule". They lost to BD in the Asia Cup and more loss would have lowered their ranking significantly. When a higher ranked team loses to a lower ranked team, they lose more ranking points than they would lose if they lost to a team that ranks sligtly below them. This is the main reason why top teams are reluctant to play the bottom ranked teams, and I think ICC needs to step up and change its policy to save the future of cricket. If nothing is done, cricket will always remain an unpopular sport to other new countries who are willing to give it a try.

Posted by Dummy4 on (December 24, 2013, 16:45 GMT)

We are not the little team in the world cricket anymore, Now we can challenge every team in the world.We already showed how well we can play in test cricket in Sri lanka.We took lead over sri lanka in first innings and scored 600+ runs. I think every body fears us. They think if they lose to us like newzealand and west indies their reputation will go down as a giant team. Specially india are one of them. We will be one of the giants in a 1-2 years. Go on TIGERS.

Posted by Dummy4 on (December 25, 2013, 6:31 GMT)

Reading these comments from haters just shows arrogance and ignorance, Anyways It has been a good year; Its great to see Bangladesh continuing to do wall at the ODI format of the game, since 2012 Tigers have wan 9 and lost 5( which were very competitive); it was all against the'TOP 8'. They have been playing as a team which was the reason for success. They were good in tests as well except the 335 run loss to Zim, they had won a test match and drew 3. Still more improvements are needed, should start performing away from in bouncy and pacy pitches, As always Fast Bowling needs major improvements. These days Team Spirit and Batting isn't a big issue, just needs a better playing XI and a few issues to fix. Bowling in T20 needs more variations. Good Luck Tigers

TO THE HATERS: I have to say that you cant digest our successes in the last 2 years as mentioned above; we are winning more consistently and we didnt collapse badly like Pakistan so TAKE THAT Haters.

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