Although it has made few headlines here in the UK, Bangladesh’s recent upturn in fortunes is uplifting news for the world of cricket.
Their recent 3-0 ODI series triumph over Pakistan is the third occasion they have been on the right side of an ODI series whitewash in the past 18 months. But it is not just gaining three consecutive victories over one the best ODI teams in the world; it was the manner of the victories that has caused even more of a stir.
Victories came with a margin of 79 runs, 8 wickets, and 7 wickets respectively as Bangladesh completely outclassed their visitors in all departments of the game. At the top of the order, Tamim Iqbal regained his form to show just why he has the potential, on his day, to be one of the best ODI batsmen in the world. The key phrase here is ‘on his day’; in recent years form and injury have seen Tamim’s days become more and more infrequent. If he can maintain the form for a reasonable period of time now, he will give his side that much more confidence that they can compete consistently with the top 8 sides.
There were also centuries in the ODI series for skipper Mushfiqur Rahim and 22-year old Soumya Sarkar. Sarkar, a gifted left handed batsmen, as well as a handy bolwer, looks set to become a permanent fixture in the Tigers side. His 127 helped his side romp home in the second ODI, enjoying an opening stand of 145 with Tamim in just 25 overs. In the past, Bangladesh have not struggled with talented youngsters coming through, the difficulty has been in keeping them fit, in form, and coaching them onto the next level to win ODI’s and Test matches for their country.
Of course, Bangladesh have competed well in the ODI arena in short bursts for quite some time now. The challenge for this side is keeping this crop of players together and allowing them to form into a cohesive team as opposed to a group of talented individuals. In Shakib Al-Hasan, Rahim and Mushrafe Mortaza they have the experienced heads to guide their young crop of players through the murky waters of international cricket.
Whilst ODI performances have seen a steady improvement over the past two years, Bangladesh’s Test record is still woeful. Before beating a poor Zimbabwe side 3-0 early this year, they had failed to win a Test series since 2009 when they overcame a depleted and makeshift West Indies side. For a nation with Bangladesh’s pool of players, their failures to win a Test against any side expect Zimbabwe, and that one series against the West Indies, is shameful.
The young crop of Bangladeshi talent need to apply themselves to Test cricket, and while it is difficult when they only seem to play 2-match series, this current bunch of players seem to have a realistic chance of taking Bangladesh’s first proper Test scalp. Alongside the talented ODI players I have already mentioned, in Monimul Haque they have one of the brightest batting talents in the world currently. His 12 Test matches thus far have seem him rack up over 1,100 runs at an average well in excess of 60. He has past fifty 12 times in his first 24 Test innings, and is now the lynchpin of his side’s Test batting order.
There are continuing shoots of hope within Bangladeshi cricket, and today has seen them move another step closer to the holy grail of a Test match victory. They have closed Day 1 of the first Test with Pakistan on 236/4. Of course, this doesn’t mean they will definitely go on to achieve victory in this match, but it does show some element of progression. Against a Pakistan attack featuring Junaid Khan, Wahab Riaz, as well as the spin twins of Shah and Babar, Bangladesh have repelled a foursome that was good enough to knock Australia over just six months ago.
Strides are being taken within Bangladeshi cricket, and their limp exit at the quarterfinal stage in the recent World Cup was seen as something of disappointment. No longer happy to simply make up the numbers, after 15 years of being the whipping boys of world cricket, Bangladesh are ready to stand up and make themselves heard.