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Is Bangladesh really struggling? (2005)

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"On any given day, Bangladesh has the capability of making any of the Test playing nations sweat ..." - the author had penned in this article in response to a recent (June 3, 2005) article by S. Rajesh in his Friday column in Cricinfo. In light of the win against Australia, this article is timely and somewhat prescient.

Is Bangladesh really struggling?

Published: 18th June, 2005


In his weekly column in www.cricinfo.com, while addressing Bangladesh?s struggle, S. Rajesh provides a comparison of several parameters between the first 19 Tests and the following 16 Tests that Bangladesh had played so far. In his calculations, despite excluding the results from playing a ?weak? Zimbabwean team, he points out several areas of progress that Bangladesh had made.

I would like to rectify Mr. Rajesh on his point of ?Bangladesh have reduced the deficit between runs scored per wicket and runs conceded per wicket by ten - that's a 25% improvement?. I think he meant Bangladesh has increased average runs scored between wickets from 18.55 to 21.38 and reduced the average number of runs conceded to an opponent between wickets. However, I calculate those improvements at 15% and 12% respectively. I have also provided the percentages of improvement in other categories below. The most significant improvement is the average number of overs batted by Bangladesh in the 1st innings: an improvement of 28% in sustainability. Another, improvement is a 39% reduction in the number of runs conceded on average in a first innings lead by an opponent. Although the results may not align with our expectations as die hard Bangladeshi supporters and that of the rest of the world, the progress has been steady. Furthermore, there has been no deterioration in any of the categories mentioned below.


Improvement between first 19 and next 16 Tests

Runs/wkt scored 15%
Runs/wkt conceded 12%
Ave no. of overs batted 28%
Ave 1st-innings lead conceded 39%
Runs/over scored 4%
Runs/over conceded 9%

S. Rajesh then brings the statistics of the first 37 Tests played among all Test playing nation and points out how dreadful our statistics have been. In trying to prove the gulf of difference between Bangladesh and the rest of the Test playing nation, he states ?it's easily the worst of all teams? as ?their 32 defeats after 37 Tests is by far the poorest - South Africa, with the second-worst record, had only lost 23 at the same stage in their Test career.

However, I think that the tendency to compare Test playing nations at the juncture of first 37 Tests is flawed. An example of this is the manner where wins are trivialized as wins against weaker nations (case in point home series win against Zimbabwe). The fact remains that it was an official Test match, unless ICC deemed it otherwise. Similar wins against weaker opponents and 2nd string teams in guise of a team carrying the national flag (see West Indies section below) or drawn Tests when maximum 3 days were alllocated for a Test match in the early days of a nation's cricket history are well documented. If we scrutinize the backdrop of the first 37 Tests played by the other 9 Test playing nations, it will be reasonable to say that the Media and some of the so called pundits have been and are reckless when it comes to criticizing Bangladesh's Test status and record.

South Africa
South Africa in its first 37 Tests only played England and Australia. They first played a Test in 1888/89 against England and first drew a Test against Australia in 1902, which was a 3 day match. The first time they won a Test was in 1905, at Home, against England. Overall, South Africa played the 37 Tests between 1888/89 and 1913, a span of 24 years.

England & Australia
England first played Test Cricket in 1876 against Australia and played the first 37 Tests through 1892, a span of 16 years. They invented the game and only played South Africa and Australia during the first 16 years. Australia on the other hand only played England between 1876 and 1893 for her first 37 Tests.

West Indies
West Indies played their first 37 Tests between 1928 and 1955, in a span of 26 years. Their inaugural 3 Tests in England were all 3 day matches and England won all 3 of them by inning differences. Their first win against England was in reality against the Marylebone Cricket Club, although it has been considered a win against England. While England did England toured under the banner of MCC, another team was touring NZ at the same time, neither team contained the top players like Hobbs, Hammond, Sutcliffe, Larwood. An analogy will be claiming Bangladesh Under-19 team?s unbeaten record in its recent tour of Australia as that of Bangladesh?s triumph against the mighty Australians.

New Zealand
New Zealand did not have a win in her first 37 Tests between 1929 and 1958/59. The matches it drew between 1929 and 1949 were all 3 day matches. The first 4 day match she drew was in 1950/51 against England. New Zealand drew the first 5 day match against India in 1955. In Pakistan, they drew 1 of the 3 Tests in 1955 as well. All were 5 day matches. However, there was no play in the first 2 days of the drawn Test. Pakistan won by an innings and 1 run in the 1st Test in Karachi.

Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka played their 37 Tests between 1981 and 1991 and won 2 Tests in 10 years. Their first drawn match was against Pakistan and that too Sri Lanka almost won. It should remind the readers of Bangladesh in Multan, Pakistan, where Bangladesh lost to Pakistan by 1 wicket, God knows what would have happened had Mohammed Rafique not been chivalrous and asked Shabbir Ahmed to return to his crease on a live ball or Umpire Ashoka De Silva of Sri Lanka did not make some questionable decisions against Bangladesh.

India played her first 37 Tests between 1932 and 1952 against England, Australia, West Indies and Pakistan. The first Test in England was a 3 day match and India lost by 158 runs. In 1933, India hosted England for 3 Tests, all were 4 day matches. In two of the three Tests, England won by 9 wickets and by 202 runs respectively. The other 4 day Test resulted in a draw after India managed to continue batting in the second innings after forced to follow on. It was not until 1951 that India got her maiden Test win against a second string English team in Madras. The other two wins during that time was against rookie Pakistan in 1952. In their maiden visit to Australia, India lost the 5 Test series 4-0: Australia won by an innings and 226 runs at Brisbane, 2nd Test at Sidney was drawn because of rain as there was no play on Day 3 & 4, Australia won by 233 runs at Melbourne, Australia won by an innings and 16 runs at Adelaide and Australia won by an innings and 177 runs at Melbourne. India also lost a 4 day match to Western Australia at Perth: Western Australia won by 6 runs.

Pakistan had a very impressive entry into Test cricket as they beat India in her inaugural Test series in 1952. However, further scrutiny will reveal that majority of the players in the early years of Pakistani national team played in India?s domestic cricket prior to the partition of the subcontinent in 1947. All the players were either from Lahore, Punjab or Amritsar, Punjab Pakistan with the exception of Hanif Mohammad. He was originally from Gujrat, India and migrated to Pakistan in 1947. Pakistan played her 37th Test in 1962 in a span of 10 years. Nevertheless, Pakistan started playing Test cricket with a competitive advantage, leveraging India's experience since 1932.

Zimbabwe took 7 years to complete 37 Tests and has a reasonable statistics with 3 wins and 19 drawn matches during that period between 1992 and 1999. Recent results have been abysmal with majority of the quality players not playing for the national team due to contract dispute and internal feuds.

Between 1952 and 1971, Bangladesh had been politically and socio-economically ignored by the "central government" of West Pakistan. Bangladesh (then known as East Pakistan), despite being part of Pakistan, saw comparatively little cricket development between 1952 and 1971. Despite winning ICC championship in 1997, Bangladesh did not have the necessary domestic infrastructure to compete internationally until recently. Bangladesh is showing significant promise with the U-15 and U-19 teams. The senior team is relatively competent but still lacks the temperament of applying themselves when it is needed the most and that too will be gained through experience, please keep in mind that the team composition has been relatively volatile and a signifacnt turn around is a negative indicator of organizational development. In that regard, the selection committe needs to show more patience.

As S. Rajesh points out in his opening paragraph: ?? the start was much more than any debut side could have bargained for?, However, I think the cricket-crazy country is putting too much pressure on the cricketers way too soon along with the rest of the world. On any given day, Bangladesh has the capability of making any of the Test playing nations sweat and Bangladesh has shown that in their matches against Pakistan and West Indies. Issues at hand are Bangladeshi players' patience and shot selections. The fact that Bangladesh on the average is increasingly spending more time on the crease during the first innings of Test matches is promising. The comparison of the first 37 Tests among all Test playing nations do not do justice to Bangladesh as the timeline, frequency, diversity of opponents, durations vary significantly among Test playing nations when respective first 37 Tests are concerned. We must be patient while asking the players to be patient.

I wish the players will be inspired by their second innings performance at Chester le street and only take that memory with them into the Natwest series against Australia and England. All the best wishes to the Tigers! Give us another day besides 1999 world cup and the home series against Zimbabwe and make us very proud - deep inside I firmly believe it is not simply wishful thinking!


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