It has been a long journey of 20 years since Bangladesh became the 10th country to attain Test status in cricket, but most observers would agree that the Tigers are yet to find their feet in the highest form of the game.
In these two decades, Bangladesh have played 119 Tests and come out victorious on only 14 occasions, while they had to endure 89 defeats, many of them overwhelming. There are only two teams in the now 12-team tier— Zimbabwe and West Indies— that Bangladesh have beaten more than twice. Five countries are yet to taste defeat against Bangladesh in any cricketing contest extending beyond a day— India, New Zealand, Pakistan, South Africa and newcomers Afghanistan, who memorably won the only Test match in which the two teams faced off, in Dhaka last year. The other newcomers, Ireland, are yet to play them.
These stats are enough to prove that the Tigers yet to spot the light that can guide them towards becoming a better-performing team in the 5-day format.
Remembering the inaugural Test, against India at the Bangabandhu Stadium in Dhaka back in November 2000, former captain Aminul Islam Bulbul, who became Bangladesh’s first centurion in the format with his 145 in Bangladesh’s first innings, said that there was a dire need in that game to prove that their entry into the elite level had been gained on merit, through hard work.
“We were an inexperienced team. We hadn’t played any five-day game before our inaugural Test back in 2000. So it was a big challenge for us. We only had this thinking in our mind that we have to play well and prove that we had achieved the Test status,” Aminul said in a video message published by ESPNcricinfo on the occasion of the 20th anniversary this month.
That challenge of doing well in the inaugural Test has remained Bangladesh’s never-ending challenge. Still, coming into the 21st year of Test cricket, Bangladesh hopes to play well in Test cricket instead of being gifted any wins.
“We have done well in some Test matches, but still I would like to say that we are suffering heavily due to the lack of consistency. There are a few players who have been doing well in Test cricket for years, but as a team, we are yet to find the desired consistency in the most prestigious form of the game,” Naimur Rahman Durjoy, Bangladesh’s first captain in Test cricket, told the media on the eve of the anniversary.
Naimur Rahman, now an MP, believes Bangladesh have the ability to overcome the ongoing problems of not finding consistency in the format. And at the same time, he hopes Bangladesh will become one of the five best teams in Test cricket in the next five years.
“I expect Bangladesh to become one of the best five teams in the format (Test cricket). And to achieve this goal, we have to work together, we have to find out the problems and come up with the solutions,” Naimur, who is also a board director of BCB, added.
Habibul Bashar, another former captain and a current member of BCB’s selection panel, also believes Bangladesh are suffering from lack of consistency in Test cricket. He reckons that Bangladesh have many match-winners and world-class performers in their armoury, but the lack of consistency costs the Tigers on many occasions.
“Look, the first four years in Test cricket was a learning phase for us. We had to struggle on the field in those early years, and which was normal. But after that, we learnt how to play the longer format of the game,” Habibul told the media.
“We have started performing in Test cricket. If you look at the records, there are many world-class performances, there are many world-class cricketers as well,” he added.
There is some evidence to back up the claim by Bashar, although they mostly emerged in the last 4 years, rather than throughout the period after the first four years. Since 2016, Bangladesh have registered their first victories against traditional Test superpowers England and Australia, drawing home series with them in 2016 and 2017 respectively, while in 2018 they drew a series in Sri Lanka with their first away Test win outside Zimbabwe and the West Indies.
Yet Bashar too concedes the problem that has plagued the team throughout these twenty years.
“We are not as consistent as we want to be. Despite having some matchwinners in the team, we have been failing to win matches. I am really concerned about the inconsistency in Tests,” he said.
Key stats of Bangladesh in 20 years of Test cricket:
Most wins: 7, against Zimbabwe
Most defeats: 16, against Sri Lanka
No win: against Afghanistan, India, New Zealand, Pakistan and South Africa
Most runs: 4413, Mushfiqur Rahim
Most centuries: 9, Tamim Iqbal and Mominul Haque
Highest individual score: 219*, Mushfiqur Rahim
Most wickets: 210, Shakib Al Hasan
Most five-wicket hauls: 18, Shakib Al Hasan
Best bowling in an innings: 8/39, Taijul Islam