Kolkata: The captain of the Bangladesh Test team, Mushfiqur Rahim has played down comparisons between the upcoming one-off Test match against India in Hyderabad and his country’s inaugural Test match against India back in 2000. Yet there is an air of uniqueness hovering over this match because it is set to be Bangladesh’s first Test match in India in 16 years since it made its debut in the five-day format of the game. After finally winning some respect of the game’s big boys on home turf, Bangladesh now faces the challenge of competing with the one of the best away from home.
“What they’ve got to do is to start winning outside of their own country,” remarked former England captain Ian Botham, after Bangladesh’s first Test win over England in Dhaka in October last year. “That’s the acid test,” he added. Since gaining the status of a Test team back in 2000, Bangladesh has won just 3 out of the 44 Tests that it has played on foreign soil, out of which two were back in 2009 against a West Indies team depleted by a players’ strike and its only other win was over Zimbabwe back in 2013.
Its recent Test series against New Zealand was nothing short of a disaster. The Bangladesh team declared at a commanding total 595 for eight in the first Test in Wellington and still managed to lose by 7 wickets after being dismissed for 160 in the second innings. The collapse is a vindication of the fact there was both a mental fragility and an inability among the Bangladeshi batsmen who are more used to playing spin to adapt to seaming pitches with more bounce. The main reason behind these vices is a lack of exposure to the longer format of the game overseas. Former Bangladesh captain Habibul Bashar, who is now a selector, emphasised that the biggest problem was lack of matches. “Away Tests are difficult for every team, not just for us,” said Bashar. “Recently we’ve started playing well… but we don’t play many away matches. If that were to change then the scenario could be different,” he said.
Even Indian skipper, Virat Kohli was categorical on how the Bangladeshi side should look to play more tests so as to grow and establish itself as a strong Test side. “It is a historic moment. Bangladesh are a good side. They have good batsmen. They did well in New Zealand. But they don’t play enough cricket. They should play more to understand the mindset of Test cricket,” Kohli added.
There have been encouraging signs though as over the years Bangladesh has quite evidently become a better cricketing unit from where it started off. In the ODI format it has managed to win home series against India, South Africa, Pakistan, New Zealand and the West Indies in the last five years. Even in the longer format of the game it managed to pick up a 1-1 result against England at home.
For Bangladesh, the trio of Shakib Al Hasan, Taijul Islam and Mehedi Hasan Miraz form the lethal Bangladeshi spin bowling attack. With 6 wickets apiece, Shakib and Kamrul were the two best Bangladeshi bowlers in New Zealand, but the man to watch out for will be the young, Mehedi. The right-arm off breaker claimed an astonishing 19 wickets in just two Tests against England and the 19-year-old spinner will be Bangladesh’s trump card against India on what is to be a slow turning track.
India has always played against Bangladesh away from home, yet it has managed to maintain a successful record. Out of the 8 Tests which India and Bangladesh have played so far, the former has won 6 and drawn twice. As for the host team, it will be eager to resume Test cricket from where it left at Chennai, producing a sensational performance against England. The return of Ajinkya Rahane has seriously dented the chances of young Karun Nair, who played his way to a marvellous 303 not out against England. “Karun did well but we cannot ignore what Jinx (Ajinkya Rahane) has done over the past two years. He has put in lots of hard work and has performed,” said Kohli.
The India skipper said they would not be taking Bangladesh lightly. “We will play like we do against any other team.” remarked the Indian captain. India’s long-awaited decision to host Bangladesh represents something of a landmark, it is still only a one-off match and illustrates the reluctance of teams to find space in their schedules.
“Every other country has given us two Tests but they are just giving us one and that’s only because they couldn’t give us any less,” former skipper Mohammad Ashraful said of India’s one-off invitation. “Let’s hope our boys play well and then they’ll have to give us more next time,” said Ashraful. The lack of opportunity to play away from home has been quite frustrating for the Bangladeshi team. Besides playing bottom-ranked Zimbabwe, the last team to play a three-match Test series against Bangladesh was Sri Lanka back in 2007. The pressure is on Bangladesh to seize what is a golden opportunity to make a mark on the international cricket scene. An upset against a confident Indian team will surely make heads turn. It might as well strengthen its case to play more Test matches all over the world.
(With inputs from Hindustan Times and Firstpost.)