Can the Tigers emulate Sri Lanka’s growth?


Despite suffering the heartache of losing the first Test against England by just 22 runs, there are plenty of reasons for supporters of Bangladesh cricket to be cheerful.

Since making their debut as a Test-playing nation in Dhaka, against the travelling Indians in November 2000, Bangladesh have recorded seven Test wins – all against Zimbabwe or an under-strength West Indies team.

The numbers make grim reading: P 94 ; W 7; L 72; D 15.

The 22-run loss against England was the narrowest margin of defeat the Tigers have suffered in their 16 years as a Test nation, and shows that they are getting closer to upsetting one of cricket’s big guns.

The most exciting aspects of Bangladesh’s cricket were the performances of two debutants; Mehedi Hasan, 18, and Sabbir Rahman, 24. Mehedi looked every inch the International cricketer and had England in a spin from his first delivery as he went on to take figures of 6-80.

After excelling in ODIs, Sabbir brought his form from white ball cricket to the Test arena as he almost steered Bangladesh to a remarkable run chase in the final innings with a cool and composed 64 not out, before Ben Stokes took the final two Bangladesh wickets in three balls.

Add those two young talents to the established and experienced Tamim Iqbal, Mushfiqur Rahim, Shakib-Al-Hasan, and Mahmudullah, then Bangladesh are starting to look like a useful side, certainly in sub-continental conditions.

Despite only winning seven of their first 94 matches in Test cricket, three of those victories have come in their last nine Tests. Of those nine Tests, four have been drawn, the evidence suggesting that the Tigers are becoming a tougher nut to crack. It could so easily have been four wins in their last nine Tests but for the magnificent Stokes.

Bangladesh can take solace in the fact that Sri Lanka also suffered a slow start to their career as a Test side. Sri Lanka were granted Test status in 1981 and played their first Test against England in 1982. It wasn’t until 1985 and their fourteenth Test outing that they finally won their first Test match, against India by 149 runs in Colombo.

Another 10 years passed before Sri Lanka recorded their first Test win overseas when they beat New Zealand at Napier in 1995. A year later they were celebrating victory in the 1996 World Cup after beating Australia in the final at Lahore.

With bowlers of the quality of Chaminda Vaas and Mutthiah Muralitharan, and world class batsmen such as Sanath Jayasuriya, Mahela Jayawardena and Kumar Sangakkara, Sri Lanka became a force across all formats of the game.

The talent is there in the Bangladesh squad to emulate what Sri Lanka achieved and become more competitive in Test cricket.

Of the XI that featured in the first Test against England, only Mahmudullah is over 30 years of age. Their key players; Tamim, 27, Mushfiqur, 29, and Shakib, 29, should all be entering their peak years.

There is no question that Bangladesh’s strength lies in their experienced middle-order batting and their spin bowling department. In order to compete around the world in England, Australia, and South Africa, where there is less help for the spinner, they will need greater depth in their seam bowling department.

The fast-bowling cupboard isn’t completely bare. The 21-year-old right-arm paceman Taskin Ahmed, bowled with good pace and carried a great threat in the recent ODI series against England. He has taken 21 wickets in 14 ODIs but has yet to play a Test match, mostly due to injury.

Another great fast-bowling talent is Mustafizur Rahman aka ‘The Fizz’. The Fizz has made his name for Bangladesh in white ball cricket where he has taken 26 wickets in just 9 ODIs at an average of just 12.34. Injury has limited him to just a solitary Test-match against South Africa where the left-arm quick snaffled four wickets.

If Bangladesh can get their big Fast-bowlers fit and firing in Test matches, they will have a side that is capable of competing anywhere in the world.

 Potential Bangladesh Test XI

Role Age Tests Bat/Bowl Avg
Tamim Iqbal Opener 27 43 39.56
Imrul Kayes Opener 29 25 28.00
Mominul Haque Middle-order 25 18 52.96
Mahmudullah Middle-order 30 28 31.22
Sabbir Rahman Middle-order 24 1 83.00
Shakib Al-Hasan All-rounder 29 43 39.42/ 32.64
Mushfiqur Wicketkeeper 29 49 32.58
Mehedi Hasan All-rounder 18 1 1.00/ 19.71
Shafiul Islam Fast-medium 27 9 13.54/ 53.00
Taskin Ahmed Right-arm Fast 21 0
Mustafizur Left-arm Fast 21 2 3.00/ 14.50

James Doan