Bangladesh has come a long way since it debuted as a test cricket playing nation in 2000. And you might think that with India and Pakistan – two giants of the game – on their doorstep, they have powerhouse potential.
That may yet be the case. But while this South Asian nation has come a long way, there’s also still a long way to go.
What they need, according to most observers, is simple: more test matches – those five-day cricket marathons that really distinguish the men from the boys.
“That’s the main problem for Bangladesh,” Tamim Iqbal told ESPNcricinfo. “The moment we start to do well in test match cricket, we get a year’s break or a 14-month break. If we want to really improve in test match cricket, we need to play the format a lot more.”
It’s a problem for the foreseeable future, as from now until 2020, the team has only 42 test matches scheduled. Most of the big boys will play well over 100 by that time, and Tamim wants his team to follow suit.
“We need to play a lot of test matches to improve, to gain confidence, to learn how to deal with situations and play session by session.”
Tamim pointed to the fact that Bangladesh plays plenty of one-day games and has become a player in the shorter version of the sport.
That was in evidence last month as Bangladesh came oh-so-close to winning the Asia Cup. This regional tournament, which was hosted in Dhaka, saw three teams – three very good teams – come to the capital in the shape of India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.
Bangladesh lost the opening match to Pakistan, but bounced back in impressive fashion to defeat India (in a game that saw Sachin Tendulkar reach his 100th century) and Sri Lanka.
The final saw a rematch with the Pakistanis and was a thrilling affair. It couldn’t have been closer, with Pakistan winning by just two runs.
It was an amazing achievement for Bangladesh. In 29 previous games in the tournament, Bangladesh had won just twice, but in the space of a week, that record was equaled – and against genuine superpowers.
Despite that, the players were inconsolable after losing, knowing that they had come so close to a win that would have sent the country, sadly more often known for natural disasters and poverty, absolutely crazy.
After the game, Bangladesh appealed for a review of the final result over an incident that took place in the last over.
Enayet Hossain Siraj, chairman of the Bangladesh Cricket Board cricket operations committee, claimed that Pakistan bowler Aizaz Cheema impeded Bangladesh batsman Mahmudullah in the final over. Bangladesh wanted the usual penalty of five runs granted for deliberate blocking which, given the fact that Pakistan won by only two runs, would have reversed the result.
“We have seen video footage of the incident repeatedly. It’s clear that Cheema blocked Mahmudullah deliberately,” Siraj said.
Now Bangladesh have to build on what was still a major success. More tests could just be the answer.