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The author looks back at the year that was for Bangladesh cricket. This first part of a two part series focuses on the international arena.

Bangladesh Cricket in 2006: A definite leap in right direction - Part 1

Published: 1st January, 2007

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Considering its performances in the last five years (2000-2005) after gaining Test status, Bangladesh enjoyed a remarkable year of success in 2006. A number of cricket pundits were very much critical about Bangladesh's future as a cricketing nation after the infamous debacle of the 2003 World Cup. Bangladesh has managed to silence many of these critics and is well on the way to silencing others. Many esteemed cricket journalists are now strongly supporting Bangladesh as an emerging cricket nation and Bangladesh has gained welcome space in Wisden's review for its positive performance. In this article I will review the advance of Bangladesh Cricket in 2006 in two parts. In Part 1, I will concentrate on the International arena and in Part 2, I will focus on domestic cricket.

Before 2006, Bangladesh was a success hungry cricket nation which enjoyed minimal success in world cricket compared to other top-flight nations including lowly-ranked Kenya and Zimbabwe. The notable successes before 2006 were all one-offs. Bangladesh failed to impress world cricketing arena with these successes because in all cases our successes were followed by dismal and shattering defeats. Now I am trying to remind you about the high points of Bangladesh cricket before 2006.

Over the years

1998
First ever ODI win against Kenya at Hyderabad

1999
First ever ODI win against a Test playing nation. (against Pakistan in World Cup 1999)

2000
Gaining of Test status and good performance in the debut Test match. (against India at BNS, Dhaka)

2003
Bangladesh came very close to their first ever Test victory against Pakistan. Finally lost by one wicket

2004
First ever drawn Test match against West Indies and first ever innings declaration at Gros Islet. In March, Bangladesh managed to defeat the full strength Zimbabwe side in the 3rd ODI of the series at Harare. In December, Bangladesh defeated India in their 100th ODI, this being only the third time that they have beaten a Test playing nation.

2005
Bangladesh enjoyed a rather eventful year in 2005. They secured their first ever Test victory in their 35th Test match against Zimbabwe at Chittagong.

Bangladesh also enjoyed their first ever ODI series win against the same opposition. Despite losing the first two matches of the five-match series, they recovered to win the series 3-2.

On June 18 of the same year, Bangladesh scored an upset victory over mighty Australia in the Nat-West Series. Australia scored 249 runs for 5 wickets in 50 overs. In reply, Bangladesh reached 250 runs with 4 balls to spare. Mohammad Ashraful scored 100 runs, his first one-day century, off just 101 balls, while Aftab Ahmed hit a huge six in the first ball of the final over, and hit a single for the next ball to win the game.

In their journey from 2000-2005 Bangladesh was deprived of any sort of success for more than three years (31 may 1999 to 10 March 2004). We as a cricket team wobbled more often than not and that has continuously provoked some harsh comments from different corners.

2006

Now, let us focus on 2006. I will analyze Bangladesh's performance series by series.

Sri Lanka in Bangladesh

Bangladesh prepare themselves for the series against Srilanka
Bangladesh prepare themselves for the series against Sri Lanka

Bangladesh started 2006 rather quietly after a dismal away series against Sri Lanka in the last part of 2005. Bangladesh Captain Habibul Bashar termed the tour 'The Worst Ever' for Bangladesh. Bangladesh started their campaign in 2006 against the same opposition at Bogra. Bangladesh were bundled out for a miserable 118 which further escalated Bangladesh's worry about playing other Test nations. Bangladesh came back strongly in the second ODI and enjoyed their first ever success against the islanders. With a disciplined bowling performance Bangladesh restricted Sri Lanka to 212 and won the match comfortably with 18 balls to spare. Good batting performance from Mohammad Ashraful (51), Javed Omar (40), Habibul Bashar (33) and Aftab Ahmed (32) made the win an easy one. Bangladesh lost the 3rd ODI and lost the series 2-1.

Bangladesh continued their impressive form in the Test series. With a masterful innings of 136 by Mohammad Ashraful, Bangladesh posted 319 in the first innings of the first Test and restricted Sri Lanka to 338. Their usual second innings batting debacle cost them the match. Bangladesh also lost the second Test match and lost the series 2-0. Bangladesh's strong point in the series was the impressive bowling by Shahadat Hossain (9/251) and Ashraful's 136.

Kenya in Bangladesh

Bangladeshi players celebrate series win vs Kenya

Bangladesh encountered Kenya in their second campaign of 2006 for a 4 match ODI series. Bangladesh headed into the series with a head to head record of one win against six losses. This series was monitored closely by the cricket world to judge the progress of Bangladesh. Mixed expectations were aired, with some predicting a series win for Bangladesh while others predicted a closely fought series to be won by Kenya. Many distinguished members of BanglaCricket forum predicted strong performances from Kenya and heated debates were on about possible Bangladesh's failure. Bangladesh silenced their critics from both home and abroad by sealing the series 4-0. Their first ever whitewash in any ODI series. Kenya was comprehensively beaten in all four matches except the third one in which they showed some sign of resistance. Aftab Ahmed (154 runs @51.33) and Shahriar Nafees (196 runs @ 49.00) led the run feast while Mohammad Rafiq (10 wicket @ 16.60), Syed Rasel (7 wicket @ 18.85) and Mashrafe Mortaza (7 wicket @ 19.42) led the bowling department to a clinically executed whitewash.

This home series against Kenya was the first sign of consistency from the Bangladesh cricket team that had been lacking since its introduction to the world cricketing arena.

Australia in Bangladesh

Rafiq created panic in the Aussie dressing room with career best 9/100
Rafiq created panic in the Aussie dressing room with career best 9/100

Bangladesh's real progress in Test cricket was exhibited very strongly in the Test series against Australia. For the first time in six years of Test status, Bangladesh finally succeeded in silencing their critics. It was a series between the best versus the worst (according to rankings) and everyone expected a very one sided and boring Test series. Bangladesh thought differently, and with an extraordinary performance took Australia to the wire in the very first Test. After gaining a remarkable first innings lead of 158, Bangladesh lost the Test by 3 wickets after Mashrafe Mortaza dropped Ricky Ponting what could possibly have been a catch to turn the match around. Once again, Bangladesh's second innings failure made the way for the famous Aussie win. Shahriar Nafees declared his presence in Test cricket with a mighty 138 in the first innings which laid the foundation of the first innings total of 427. Mohammad Rafiq, the master class in left arm spin bowling fought hard for a Bangladesh win and ended with career best figure of 9/160. Two masterful innings by two great batsmen Adam Glichrist and Ricky Ponting saved the blushes for Australia.

So close yet so far. First Test defeat by 3 wickets took its toll in the mind frame of the young Bangladeshi side and they lost the second Test by an inning and 80 runs. Jason Gillespie’s unbeaten double ton further added misery to the Bangladesh team.

The fragile mindset of young Bangladesh team failed to recover in time and they lost the ODI series 3-0 without much fight except in the first ODI. The performance of Bangladesh in the series was well summarized by Andrew Miller's article 'When glory got away'. Mohammad Ashraful was miserable with the bat throughout the series and his performance was heavily criticized.

Despite the poor ODI series, Bangladesh's first home series against the mighty Aussies is considered as the strongest sign of progress made by the Bangladesh team in recent past. Bangladesh was denied to show the potential to the next level as the FTP finalized by the ICC barred Bangladesh from featuring in any Tests for the next 12 months.

Bangladesh in Zimbabwe

Bangladesh showed the worst part of their cricket in the away series against Zimbabwe in July-August 2006. This was the first away series against a full member nation to which they started as favorites. Bangladesh lost the first ODI by 2 wickets and leveled the series in the next match by winning it by 62 runs. Unfortunately they lost their captain in the second match due to a thumb injury and that made the way for Khaled Mashud to lead Bangladesh for the rest of the series. Khaled Mashud failed to lead Bangladesh with example and Bangladesh lost the series 2-3. The series deciding win came in the third ODI in which Bangladesh's leading bowler Mashrafe Mortaza conceded 18 runs in the last over with 17 runs required for Zimbabwe to win. Brendan Taylor scored 6 from the last delivery to ensure Zimbabwe's win. This series loss attracted heavy criticism from both home and abroad. Bangladesh Cricket Board even launched an investigation amid reports of 'Conflicts in the team management'.

Bangladesh had few high moments in this series. Shahriar Nafees scored an unbeaten century and was the highest run getter of the series (248 runs @ 62.00). Shahadat Hossain earned the first ever ODI bowling hattrick by a Bangladeshi bowler and was the highest wicket taker of the series (9 wickets @ 19.00). Abdur Razzak and Mashrafe Mortaza showed some good performance with ball (6 and 5 wickets respectively) while Rajin showed some good all-round performance (102 @ 34 and 6 wicket @ 8.50).

Bangladesh in Kenya

After the miserable tour against Zimbabwe, the wounded Tigers met the equally wounded African Lions (after the whitewash they conceded against Bangladesh). This was a series to restore some pride for both teams. At the end, Bangladesh proved to be too strong for Kenya. Bangladesh expressed their tour misery against Zimbabwe as a one-off and showed the real difference in cricketing class between Bangladesh and Kenya. After conceding 18 runs in the final over in 2nd ODI against Zimbabwe, Mashrafe Morataza came back in the series like a real wounded tiger. He performed extraordinarily well with both bat and ball. Bangladesh registered their first ever away series win with a comprehensive 3-0 rout of Kenya.

Bangladesh sent Alok Kapali and Javed Omar back from the Zimbabwe tour and tested some promising young players for the Kenya tour. Sakib - Al - Hasan and Farhad Reza fully utilized their opportunity with some brilliant performances. Farhad Reza (90 runs @ 90.00) and Mohammad Ashraful (88 runs @ 44.00) led the batting while Mashrafe Mortaza led the bowling (12 wickets @ 8.66) with his career best bowling of 6/26. Mashrafe Mortaza was well supported by Abdur Razzak (6 wicket @ 12.00) and Syed Rasel (7 wicket @ 11.57).

ICC Champions Trophy 2006

ICC trophy bound Bangladesh National Team
ICC trophy bound Bangladesh National Team

Bangladesh's next assignment was the 2006 ICC Champions Trophy held in different venues of India. Bangladesh went to India with the aim of qualifying for the main round of the Champions Trophy. Bangladesh played the qualifying round along with the West Indies, Sri Lanka and Zimbabwe. Bangladesh defeated the Punjab President's XI in the practice match which further bolstered their morale. Bangladesh posted an impressive performance against Sri Lanka in the first match but lost the match by 37 runs. Despite the loss, Bangladesh's performance was noteworthy, as 265/9 was their highest ever total against Sri Lanka. Bangladesh failed miserably in the deciding match against the West Indies and lost the match by 10 wickets. Bangladesh eased past Zimbabwe for the consolation win in the third match. They outplayed Zimbabwe by a huge margin of 101 runs. Shahriar Nafees posted a gritty 123 and the slow left arm spin army of Bangladesh took 7/56 runs in 26.4 overs to cause the Zimbabwe collapse.

Bangladesh bowed out of ICC Champions trophy with some good performance which set the tone for their clinical finish of 2006 calendar year.

Zimbabwe in Bangladesh

Bangladeshi players celebrates series whitewash Vs Zimbabwe
Bangladeshi players celebrates series whitewash Vs Zimbabwe

Zimbabwe came to Bangladesh for a return tour in November 2006. This tour included the first ever Twenty20 International match for Bangladesh and a 5 match ODI series. Just before the series, Bangladesh cricket received a huge money boost due to the record breaking TV deal with Nimbus. Due to political unrest the deal was signed amid some hue and cry from a vested political quarter.

The ODI series was marked with some controversies due to squad selection. Mohammad Ashraful was left out of the squad for the first three matches of the ODI series which stirred a lots of criticisms from different segments of the media and fans. Mohammad Ashraful stormed into the squad from the first ODI after he scored two consecutive centuries in the domestic first class tournament, one of which was the highest ever score (263) by a Bangladeshi batsman.

Bangladesh managed to win their first ever twenty20 international comfortably by 43 runs at Khulna. Abdur Razzak was extraordinary with ball (17/3 in 4 overs).

After the inaugural twenty20 win, Bangladesh registered a 9 wicket win in the first ODI with a very strong performance. Shahriar Nafees continued his run feast against Zimbabwe with an unbeaten century of 105. This was his third consecutive century against Zimbabwe. In the second ODI, Bangladesh cantered to an easy 6 wicket win with 7.3 overs to spare. A good opening performance (104) by the new opening pair of Shahriar Nafees and Mehrab Jr. created the platform for the win. Bangladesh won the 3rd ODI by 26 runs. In this ODI, Zimbabwe showed some signs of resistance. Bangladesh completed the clean sweep by defeating Zimbabwe in the next two ODIs by 8 and 3 wickets respectively.

Shahriar Nafees once again led the batting party with a remarkable 274 runs with an average of 67.50. He was well supported in the batting department by Aftab Ahmed (150 runs @ 50.00), Mehrab Hossain Jnr. (163 runs @ 32.60) and Habibul Bashar (66 runs @ 66.00). Abdur Razzak led the charge in bowling with 11 wickets with an average of 13.25. He was well supported by Mashrafe Mortaza (11 wickets @ 15.18). Shahadat Hossain, Sakib-Al-Hasan and Mohmmad Rafiq also made some impressions with ball.

The 5-0 result against Zimbabwe was welcomed by critics and fans. This result was well expected and with this result Bangladesh managed to permanently bury many ghosts about inconsistent performances.

Scotland in Bangladesh

The final assignment for the Bangladesh cricket team was the home series against the associate nation of Scotland. Bangladesh share a somehow bitter memory with Scotland as they managed to beat Scotland in a very closely fought match in the World Cup 1999 at Edinburgh. Scotland came to Bangladesh with a lot of hype and expressed strong desire and determination to pull of one or two win against the home side. Bangladesh outplayed Scotland in both matches and Scotland failed to translate their words in the press into performances in the field. Bangladesh won the first ODI by six wickets with 20.1 overs to spare. Thanks to some scintillating batting display by Aftab Ahmed (66 of 50 balls). Bangladesh managed to win the second ODI by a huge margin of 146 runs (their highest in ODI history). Aftab Ahmed again top scored with 52 runs.

In the short ODI series, Aftab Ahmed led the batting with 118 runs with an average of 59.00. He was well supported by Sakib-Al-Hasan, Shahriar Nafees and Mashrafe Morataza. Shahriar Nafees became the first Bangladeshi batsman to score 1000 runs in a calendar year. Mohammad Rafiq and Sakib-Al-Hasan led the bowling with 4 wickets each.

This is how Bangladesh featured in different series and tournaments in 2006. Bangladesh played 4 Tests without a single win (along with West Indies who also failed to win a single Test). On the other hand, Bangladesh enjoyed a remarkable success in ODI cricket in which they won 18 out of the 28 matches played.

Critical analysis of 2006

Test Cricket

Bangladesh only played 4 Tests in 2006. They played two Tests each against Australia and Sri Lanka. Apart from the first Test against Sri Lanka and first Test against Australia, Bangladesh failed to show a consistency in performance. In all Test matches, Bangladesh showed weakness in mental strength to withstand pressure of second innings batting.

In 2006, their average first innings total was 293.5 and this ia definite improvement from 2005. In 2005, their average first innings total was 215 (including two Test against Zimbabwe). In 2006, their average second innings total was 208.5 while in 2005 it was 207.83. Both numbers are pretty similar. Keeping in mind that Bangladesh has played two Tests against Zimbabwe in 2005, their second innings debacles seems to be continuing. To improve as a Test nation, Bangladesh has to improve their second innings batting in Test cricket.

In 2006, Habibul Bashar (327 runs, avg. 40.5), Shahriar Nafees (330 runs, avg. 41.25) and Rajin Saleh (176 runs, avg. 44.00) performed well with the bat. Despite his brilliant century against Sri Lanka, Mohammad Ashraful had a mediocre year with bat (avg. 30.25). Mohammad Rafiq showed a remarkable all-round performance in Tests. He was the third highest run scorer for Bangladesh (257 runs, avg. 32.12) and was the highest wicket taker (14 wickets @ 37.50). He is undoubtedly the brightest star of Bangladesh cricket. Shahadat Hossain grabbed 10 wickets in 2006 with an avg of 50.90. Enamul Haque Jnr. missed one Test match and took 8 wickets with an average of 47.37. No other bowlers made significant impact in 2006 with the ball.

In general, bowling remained the same in Test cricket, bowling average of 44.5 vs. 48.6 while batting average was a bit better 25.2 vs. 22.5.

Some individual Test performances in 2006

Batting

Mohammad Ashraful - 136 against Sri Lanka at Chittagong
Shahriar Nafees - 138 against Australia at Fatullah
Shahriar Nafees - 79 against Australia at Chittagong
Habibul Bashar - 76 against Australia at Fatullah
Habibul Bashar - 69 and 73 against Sri Lanka at Bogra
Rajin Saleh - 67 against Australia at Fatullah
Rajin Saleh - 71 against Australia at Chittagong

Bowling

Mohammad Rafiq - 9/100 against Australia at Fatullah
Shahadat Hossain - 4/83 against Sri Lanka at Chittagaong
Shahadat Hossain - 5/86 against Sri Lanka at Bogra

Bangladesh played with the two best performing Test team of 2006 (Australia and Sri Lanka) and yet ended with some commendable performances. This is definitely a good step in right direction. When Bangladesh will again play Test cricket in 2007 against India in May 2007, Bangladesh will definitely be a different Test team.




A happy looking Habibul Bashar
was a regular feature in 2006

One Day Internationals

Much has already been talked about Bangladesh's recent success in the ODI arena. Bangladesh have won 18 out of the total 28 match played. A common criticism about Bangladesh's success is the quality of opposition they played. 20 out of the 28 match were against minnows (Zimbabwe, Kenya and Scotland). Other than these countries, they managed to win only one ODI against Sri Lanka. One has to admit that Bangladesh had no choice about their opposition. ICC devised the schedule and Bangladesh followed that. Bangladesh grabbed every opportunity offerred and performed consistently enough to win those 18 matches. Winning means a lot to a Bangladesh team who have only won 10 out of their previous 125 matches (and these matches include defeats against the very same Zimbabweans and Kenyans). Bangladesh had never been this consistent with their performance since their very first ODI in 1986. In 2006, Bangladesh seems to have developed herself into a consistently performing team. Coach Dave Whatmore and the selectors have drafted solid performers from the U-19 block into the team and they have performed as per expectation. Performances from these young players have proved crucial for the recent successes.

In batting, Shahriar Nafees enjoyed a remarkable year with 1033 total runs (avg. 41.31) in one calendar year. These runs included with 3 centuries and 4 fifties. Aftab Ahmed got brilliant starts in most of the games but failed to capitalize on them. He is the second best performer with 784 total runs and an average of 34.08. Two other batsmen who ended the year with 30+ averages are Habibul Bashar (30.75) and the new kid Sakib Al Hasan (45.15).

In 2006, the bowling department was remarlable in ODIs. Each and every frontline bowler performed to their potential. Mashrafe Mortaza set the record for Bangladesh by becoming the top most ODI wicket taker of 2006 with 49 wickets and an average of 20.46. The spin bowling star Abdur Razzak became the 3rd highest wicket taker of 2006 with 45 wickets and an impressive average of 17.95. The grand old man Mohammad Rafiq (34 wickets, avg. 25.88) was equally brilliant with the ball. Sakib Al Hasan (15 wickets, avg. 24.93), a new addition to this spin bowling army, enjoyed some successes in his brief ODI career. In 2006, Shahadat Hossain was one of the top performers with the new ball. While he took only 21 wickets from 16 matches, he proved his potential to be the first choice strike bowler for Bangladesh in near future. This tall young lad has got the pace, bounce and aggression to become one of the leading pace bowlers of world cricket. Syed Rasel, too, played his part well with 23 wickets in 15 matches and an average of 23.21.

Due to the combined good performance of bowlers, the bowling department made extremely steep progress compared to 2005. In 2005, the team bowling average for Bangladesh was 40.3 while in 2006 it was 23.8. In fact, it was the third best ODI team bowling average for 2006.

The team batting performance in 2006 was not much better compared to 2005. It improved somewhat but not as much as expected. The team batting average in 2005 was 25.1 while in 2006 it was 30.1. To win consistently against Test playing nations or to challenge them, we need the team batting average to be around 35-40.

Without a few words about coach Dav Whatmore, this review will be incomplete. Dav attracted more media attention due to his influence in the team management than the success of his boys. This is unfortunate and an injustice to the mentor of Bangladesh's recent successes. After taking charge of the lowly Bangladesh team in 2003, Dav promised better individual show leading to a core Bangladeshi team before World Cup 2007. Through experimentations and his reliance on young blood, Dav has finally got a suitable combination ahead of World Cup. It is unfortunately true that the world media acknowledges Dav's contribution more so than the Bangladeshi media. It is time to give credit where it is due. I personally thank Dav for his belief in the lads and for turning Bangladesh into a winning side.



A determined Dav Whatmore discusses techniques with his boys
A determined Dav Whatmore discusses techniques with his boys

What's next?

Cricket is the sole national glory for Bangladesh and in 2007 Bangladesh is promising to display their national flag even higher
Cricket is the sole national glory for Bangladesh and in 2007 Bangladesh is promising to display their national flag even higher

Bangladesh's next target will be consistent performance against all opposition in both forms of cricket.

In Tests, the West Indies and New Zealand are ranked above Bangladesh in 8th and 7th place respectively. In 2006, West Indies Test team have team batting average of 30.4 compared to Bangladesh's 25.1 and team bowling average of 40.6 compared to Bangladesh's 48.6. Not a huge difference. I believe with the type progress Bangladesh is showing, it is just a matter of time to before we catch up to the West Indies in Tests. New Zealand has pretty similar team batting average of 28.1 while they have a much better team bowling average of 28.1. The higher ranked teams have much better averages in both batting and bowling.

In ODIs, Bangladesh is currently 9th and England, West Indies and India are sitting above Bangladesh in 8th, 7th and 6th place respectively. Bangladesh went past Zimbabwe and Kenya (previously ranked higher than Bangladesh) in ODIs. Bangladesh should now focus on the teams above Bangladesh in the ICC ranking table. In 2006, the England ODI team have a team batting average of 27.4 compared to Bangladesh's 30.2 and team bowling average of 38.5 compared to Bangladesh's 23.8. Bangladesh showed much better performance in both departments. Keeping the opposition in mind, I am pretty hopeful to see Bangladesh above England in coming years. It is interesting to note that two other ostensibly strong teams had averages not too far from that of Bangladesh: the West Indies (batting average 38.6 and bowling average 28.3) and India (batting average 29.7 and bowling average 29.9).

Bangladesh is entering 2007 with a lot of promise and they have their performances to speak for them. For the first time in its cricketing history, it is the performance of the Bangladesh cricket team which is doing the talking for them and not the fans, administrators or the journalists. This is a definite leap in right direction for Bangladesh Cricket. Bangladesh is currently ranked 9th in ODI cricket and still 10th in Test cricket. Now, Bangladesh needs to plan her future carefully and follow this plan. Bangladesh has all the potential and performers to be ranked 7th-8th in ODI cricket and 8th-9th in Test cricket by the end of 2007. I will be eagerly waiting to write that review for BanglaCricket.

 

About the author(s): Khondaker Mirazur Rahman spends as much time on BanglaCricket as on his Post-Doctoral research on Gene Targeted Drug Design. Like a true scientist his articles are all well researched. He goes by the nick "Miraz" on our forums and is also a BanglaCricket editor.

 

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