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By Partab Ramchand
That Bangladesh is a side not to be taken lightly in limited overs cricket is well known by now. England became the latest casualty at their hands last week in Bristol which means that Bangladesh have beaten all the leading nations while victories over West Indies and Zimbabwe are taken as routine. Indeed these are the two countries against which Bangladesh have won a Test series and their three victories have been notched up against these two teams.
However the fact remains that Bangladesh are ranked ninth in both Tests and ODIs. They do manage the odd outstanding victory over teams like Australia, South Africa and India but what they lack is consistency. After they were given Test status in 2000 – which followed a victory over Pakistan in the 1999 World Cup that later came under the match fixing scanner – they did little to enhance their reputation. They were undeserving of Test status was the general opinion and after just three victories in 68 matches it is difficult to disagree with this view.
Unfortunately Bangladesh have not been able to maintain an upward graph even in limited overs cricket. Every time there is a creditable performance – like in the 2007 World Cup where they got the better of both India and South Africa or when they registered a shock victory over Australia in the NatWest Trophy game in England two years before – there is talk about Bangladesh shaking off the underdogs tag and graduating into the big league. But then comes another abysmal showing or two and they slip down in the rankings and in the expectations of their own cricket crazy fans back home.
The two Tests against England last month were a case in point. After providing much resistance before going down by eight wickets in the first match at Lord's, they succumbed meekly in the second game at Old Trafford the following week losing by an innings and 80 runs in three days. The manner in which they collapsed losing ten wickets each time in consecutive sessions on the second and third days was mystifying to say the least. Such shattering collapses do no good for the image of Bangladesh cricket and only adds fuel to the fire for those who question why they sit at cricket’s elite table with so little to show for a full decade’s work. Incidentally the defeat at Old Trafford was Bangladesh’s 34th innings defeat in 68 Tests an embarrassingly high ratio.
Bangladesh have produced a number of very good players over the years in Habibul Basher, Md Raffique, Mashrafe Mortaza, Shakib Al Hasan and Mohd Ashraful. However no Bangladesh player has caught the imagination of cricket followers as Tamim Iqbal. His 94-ball hundred at Lord’s followed by a run a ball century at Old Trafford confirmed his reputation as Bangladesh’s first real world class performer. ``A global star has been born’’ was the general verdict. There was praise too for Imrul Kayes his opening partner who has shown considerable improvement of late. But that is where the problem lies with Bangladesh cricket. One or two star performers will not do. And when the remaining players are well short of international class the Bangladesh team is exposed. This is the main cause of their inconsistency.
Md Ashraful is a case in point. Five years ago he emerged as the country’s big hero when with a century he starred in Bangladesh’s totally unexpected victory over a full strength Aussie side in the NatWest Trophy match in England. He was hailed as a new and exciting star and seemed to symbolize the new generation of Bangladesh cricketers – ambitious, hungry for success, an infectious zeal. In an interview he made his intentions clear. ``I want to average more than 40 in both forms of the game,’’ he said. The fact remains that he now averages 22 in Tests and 23 in ODIs. His failure somehow symbolizes Bangladesh’s inability to make much progress even as they complete ten years of Test cricket in November.