On November 10, 2000, the iconic Bangabandhu National Stadium in Dhaka played host to the historic entry of Bangladesh into Test cricket. The move to award them Test status was viewed with scepticism by most people as Bangladesh hadn’t done enough to prove their credentials at the highest level, save for the stunning victory over Pakistan at the 1999 World Cup. However, they were up for the contest on their big day and gave India a few nervous moments,until the tourists unleashed their superiority. Twelve years on, Bangladesh are still an enigma — a team that boasts of much promise, but without the necessary consistency.
Naimur Rahman had the honour of captaining his country in their first-ever Test. Interestingly, it was Sourav Ganguly’s first Test as India captain — the start of a journey that saw memorable victories in the years that followed. Apart from the eleven Bangladeshi debutants, India introduced three new players to the Test arena. Shiv Sunder Das was yet another man India tried during that uncertain phase at the top. Syed Saba Karim was making a remarkable comeback to international cricket on the very ground he tragically injured his eye a few months prior to the game. Zaheer Khan also walked into Test cricket following an encouraging performance in One-Day Internationals (ODIs).
Aminul Islam and Habibul Bashar helped Bangladesh pile 400 in the first innings after they elected to bat first. The fluent Bashar — he is one the best-ever batsmen produced by Bangladesh — raced to 71. However, Aminul was gritty and very attritional. Nevertheless, his knock of 145 braved the odds stacked against them and handled the pressure of the occasion very well. That he batted for 535 minutes was a tremendous achievement. His vigil is still is the third highest score for his country.
In reply, India moved along smoothly until they lost wickets in a heap and found themselves at 236 for six. It was a precarious position and India certainly wouldn’t have wanted to suffer the embarrassment of conceding the lead. Sourav Ganguly and Sunil Joshi then reconstructed the innings and took India to 429. What followed was astonishing, but not surprising. Bangladesh were bundled out for 91, leaving India with 63 to win —a task they completed without any worries.
If one looks at the scorecard of Bangladesh’s first Test, it does reflect a lot about their cricket. Even 12 years after that game, it makes an interesting reading and is of immense relevance. The first half of the game shows a good fight from Bangladesh, one that was truly commendable given the fact that it was their first Test. The second half is where it all went awry, as inexperience hurt them and they collapsed. While Bangladesh have improved since that game, they still continue to exhibit such mediocrity with just a few sparks of brilliance.
In all, Bangladesh have played 73 Test matches and have recorded only three victories. One of them was against Zimbabwe while the other two were against a weakened West Indies side that was missing all its frontline players. Through all that they have recorded seven draws — some of them being fighting performances that presented hope for a better tomorrow. However, the figure of 63 defeats is what is worrying and doesn’t justify the move taken in 2000.
There have been occasions where Bangladesh have shown tremendous fight and the intent to make a mark. The most memorable occasion was when they ran Ricky Ponting’s formidable Australians close at Fatullah in 2006. Australia actually had their backs to the wall and ultimately fought back to win the game. Such performances have been few and far in between, lost in the midst of a number of appalling defeats. Bangladesh have lost by an innings and over hundred runs on 19 occasions — a stat that shows they haven’t matched their opponents on a number of occasions.
With the frequency of such performances, they don’t get too many Test assignments and that does impede their growth. Another interesting fact is that they have played a three-match Test series only twice in all these years. Majority of their series have been two match affairs with a few solitary contests. They are yet to tour India, which is surprising considering they have hosted them on a number of occasions. Astonishingly, according to the Future Tours Programme (FTP), they aren’t slated to visit their neighbours anytime until 2020.
The numbers are stacked against Bangladesh and they have a few hurdles to cross before they make a climb. The world awaits their true arrival at the biggest stage. With players such as Shakib Al Hasan, Tamim Iqbal, Nasir Hossain and Mashrafe Mortaza to name a few in their ranks, Bangladesh can hope for a much better time ahead. However, the promise has to be converted into performance and the team has to get their act together as a unit. The last 12 years certainly haven’t panned out the way one would have imagined when they recorded a total of 400 in their very first essay.
(Nishad Pai Vaidya is a Correspondent with CricketCountry and an analyst, anchor and voice-over artist for the site’s YouTube Channel. He shot to fame by spotting a wrong replay during IPL4 which resulted in Sachin Tendulkar’s dismissal. His insights on the game have come in for high praise from cerebral former cricketers. He has also participated on live TV talk-shows on cricket. Nishad can be followed on Twitter at http://twitter.com/nishad_
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