Bangladesh tour to Zimbabwe 2013 April 10, 2013

Bangladesh, Zimbabwe begin bottom-of-the-table scrap

A scrappy series between Bangladesh and Zimbabwe will be an important indicator of the health of Test cricket

In a year of storied rivalries, one contest that is unlikely to turn too many heads will begin shortly. Bangladesh versus Zimbabwe is a bottom-of-the-table scrap, an unglamorous match-up that is unlikely to be remembered for too long. The nine previous Tests have thrown up some uneven battles but the eagerness to gain bragging rights in Zimbabwean conditions and Bangladesh's recent form will make it an even contest.

Since their 130-run loss to Zimbabwe in Harare more than two years ago, Bangladesh have drawn two out of eight Tests. It is a marked improvement, and a better record than Zimbabwe, who lost all five Tests during the same period, including two against West Indies last month. Around the same time as Zimbabwe's West Indies tour, Bangladesh were making Sri Lanka sweat in their backyard.

Shakib Al Hasan's return is a major boost for the visitors, too. The allrounder will probably play as a batsman in the first Test, but it is unlikely that he can be kept out of action as a bowler for long. Tamim Iqbal could also recover in time for the first Test, while the competition for the other opening batsman's position will help Bangladesh. A settled middle-order and some good spinners are their other strong areas.

But Zimbabwe have a chance to hit back through Bangladesh's weakness - pace bowling. Rubel Hossain, Shahadat Hossain, Robiul Islam and Sajidul Islam are not automatic choices and in Harare, where the surface is hard and offers true bounce, the home side could start well against a weak new-ball attack. They already have a 3-0 record in three Test matches against Bangladesh at the venue, where both Tests will be played.

In previous Tests, Bangladesh have struggled to handle the Zimbabwe pace bowlers and even newcomers like Brian Vitori and Kyle Jarvis have used pace and seam movement to good effect. Over the last two years, however, the perception about them being poor players of pace has changed. By failing and succeeding against pace bowlers from West Indies, Pakistan and Sri Lanka, although in sub-continental conditions, they have learned much to take to Harare.

The visitors will be eager to live up to their competitive reputation. With the advances in their stature, especially those who have become regulars in various domestic Twenty20 leagues, the expectations from some high-profile Bangladeshi cricketers will be sky-high. The fans back home understand that the team has improved since their last series against Zimbabwe, and will expect a series win.

For the average Bangladesh fan, the disappointment of a loss to Zimbabwe is as acute as that of an India or Pakistan fan when the two arch-rivals play. While there is no cultural or historical reference to the contest between the two countries, there is plenty of competition. The grainy YouTube video where Mahmudullah and Brendan Taylor are in a sledging battle looks tame but their last encounter will lend some context to the off-field battle. The Zimbabwe pace bowlers were slighted when Tamim had branded Jarvis "ordinary" and reacted gleefully after the victory.

While the stakes will not be as high as the Ashes or the other summit battles, the series provides cricket with another dimension of sporting rivalry, which doesn't need the best of conditions, or the best players. A scrappy, less-than-perfect competition between two less-than-perfect teams will be an indication of how healthy cricket is around the edges.

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

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • MH on April 15, 2013, 12:52 GMT

    BD's are very strong position in batting side if you compare with Zimbabwean bating order, but they're very poor in pace attack compare with Zimbabwean, BD's should find a solutions to solved that problem as soon as possible, b-coz pace attacking is a importing roll in cricket. Zimbabwe has some good pacer like brain, zervis, Mpopo, in that way zimbabwe is Favorit in this series. .... Any way wishing all the very best to Bangladesh cricket team. Good luck.

  • Dummy4 on April 15, 2013, 11:38 GMT

    its really nice to see indian fans are also backing Bangladesh Cricket Team. I'm really looking forward to this series. there has been lot of critics against Bangladesh regarding their test status. But all of a sudden after last Asia Cup, Bangladesh is a different team all together. I was really waiting for this period. BD was always good in Under 19 and there were plenty of talents. The difference between BD team in 2006/07 and 2012/13 is there are plenty of performers now and a reasonable pipeline. The home series against WI was a huge achievement for BD. But the away series against Srilanka was even better. on the other hand Zimbabwe had a real bad series against WI. the BD fans are expecting 2-0 in the test series and of course win the other series as well.that is added pressure to the team. but i believe, BD is now good enough to handle pressure. Best of luck to Bangladesh Cricket Team.

  • Ken on April 14, 2013, 9:09 GMT

    What's so "scrappy" about this series? Its a series between 2 of the weaker teams in world cricket, but it still should be a competitive tie nonetheless. Just because the series doesnt include Australia or India or someone else, it doesnt mean it is less important or less appealing. Millions of people in Bangladesh will be following it as will many people from Zimbabwe. More respect should be given to both sides, they've earned the right to play in Tests despite what some people may say.

  • Dummy4 on April 14, 2013, 6:44 GMT

    It's a good battle to look forward to. Zimbabwe doesn't have the best players nor does Bangladesh but when the two meet, it's always a tussle. After their last meet up, Bangladesh have been on a sort of impressive run duking it out with Sri Lanka and West Indies. I doubt that will be important heading into this one, the last time Bangladesh got beaten, they had demolished New Zealand 4-0 (ODIs). The main weakness of Bangladesh cricket is uncontrolled ambition. When they play against Zimbabwe, it's as if they want to make a point. They go into battle too cocky and by the time they realize Zimbabwe is not a pushover (for them), it's usually too late to do anything. Last tour Tamim got too vocal, and they were embarrassed, losing all test matches played including the warm up games. This series will be a little bit different, I see Bangladesh fighting harder but I don't see them winning the series.

  • Chris on April 12, 2013, 23:38 GMT

    Bangladesh have better spinners and batsman than Zimbabwe but Zimbabwe have better fielders and fast bowlers than Bangladesh. Tamim, Shahriar, Ash, Shakib, Rahim, Nasir, Mahmudullah, Gazi, Sajidul, Rubel and Enamul. 7 batsman which is plenty plus 5 main bowlers a good balance and no excuses from us shall we lose.

  • Turan on April 12, 2013, 22:22 GMT

    As an indian fa im intrested in this series as it will show how bangladesh hve much more class than zimbabwe and theyre ready to play the top teams. all BD need is one 140k qnd one 135 k bowler to become a force my team for BD in the future: 1)tamim2)ashraful 3)anamul haque 4)shakib 5)monimul haque 6)nasir 7)mushfiqur 8)gazi 9) fast bowler 10 fast bowler 11) fast bowler I am not sure about mahmadullah feel hes not a good enough batter or bowler (eg samit patel) good ODI player

  • ashrafur on April 12, 2013, 21:10 GMT

    Considering the dimension of sporting rivalry with the bat, I like the comment of Shahid Afridi most. He said after coming back in the team getting scored few runs before last WC, "I started to score runs, when I started to respect the bowlers again". Tamim should keep that quote in mind. We all know if he determines, he can change completion of the game and of himself as well. I think very few players in the history, scored ton in Lords, by saying it "I will not go back this time without writing my name on the honor board" before the day of the match to be played.

  • Dummy4 on April 12, 2013, 15:49 GMT

    BD's batting order needs to be re-shuffled to produce the best results in a test cricket. I think following order 1) Tamim 2) Ashraful 3) Nasir 4) Shakib 5) Mominul 6) Musfiq 7) Mahmud will produce better results. I really think Nasir should bat at 3 to stabilize the innings if top 2 batsmans fail. Shakib should bat at 4 as he had done well when he first started to play for national team. Mushy/Mahmud play better if they bat down the order rather than bat top of the order. If Tamim can not go then Nafees should take his place. Combination of Robiul, Sajedul, Ghazi, Enamul will have more balance attack rather than including Shadat/Rubel. Selectors/coaching staff/captain all need to think, same players same batting order, same bowling lineup will produce same results. If you wannna go for win the you must make some changes otherwise results will be same.

  • Jonny on April 12, 2013, 15:06 GMT

    I doubt Bangladesh can win 2-0 in the test series that's a bit too much in that format for them. 1-0 will be terrific but we cannot lose any ODI or T20 matches.

  • Dummy4 on April 12, 2013, 11:50 GMT

    This is BD's chance to cement the fact that they are a much improved team than what they were in the past. Skepticism about their ability will remain unchanged unless they prove something solid here. Pressure will be on them and it will be interesting to see how they will meet up that challenge. Pace attack and injury management are two of their biggest worries. One skill all players need to get trained at as part of their game is how to not get injured. I wonder if there is such scheme in place. It isn't anymore, "normal and a part of the game to get injured " . There is better technology, preventive method and know-how available now and the incidence of injury can be limited to a miniscule number. As far as pace bowling goes, speed is one big element but it may not be the only element to focus on. There is lot more to pace bowling than just speed. You don't have to have the fastest bowler (well it can be a plus) in the planet to help you win games. I will be worried about Shahadat.