It’s a five-day game. It’s the test of a team’s stamina and concentration. It’s the examination of a team’s technique and temperament, both of which can be tested in different ways and multiple times in a day. This is the format where the greatest cricketers are born and mediocrity gets vanquished once and for all.
After Zimbabwe, Bangladesh were awarded the Test status sixteen years ago. While Zimbabwe failed to live up to the expectations in the best format of the game due to their internal problems, Bangladesh’s journey has not been encouraging as well. More often than not, their performance in the longest format has been the subject of harsh criticism. But still, they are surviving in the topsy-turvy world of Test cricket and are all set to face one of the best teams in the world on October 20 at Chittagong.
Without a doubt, England are the favorites in this two-match Test series and as a team, they are way better than the hosts. Still, there is a lot of interest regarding this Test series, among the cricket followers and the reason is, Bangladesh’s outstanding performance for the last one and half years in limited-overs cricket.
Since the World Cup in Australia and New Zealand, the Tigers’ performance in the limited-overs format has become a subject of interest for everyone. So far, their recent prosperity is a role model for the emerging cricketing nations and on cricketing talk shows, the example of Bangladesh is highlighted with a greater importance.
But sadly, the success in the 50-over format or Twenty20 is not enough to prove a point in Test cricket.
As soon as the colours of the clothes change, Bangladesh lose the services of Mashrafe Bin Mortaza, Taskin Ahmed, Rubel Hossain and a few others and thus, find the going tough.
Strong batting, weak bowling
They did realize the value of having a potent bowler in Test cricket when Mustafizur Rahman triggered a collapse at Chittagong last year against South Africa. All of a sudden, Bangladesh found themselves in the driver’s seat. But at the moment, they will be without the services of Mustafizur against England due to an injury.
The Tigers have announced a 14-man Test squad for the first Test against England. As soon as you read the names from the start, you feel it’s a good team as the names of Tamim Iqbal, Imrul Kayes, Mushfiqur Rahim, Shakib, and co. jump out at you, but you tend to lose hope after reading the names in the latter part of the squad.
The bowling attack of Bangladesh is not as competent as the batting line up and it is the weakest link of the Bangladesh Test squad.
Shafiul Islam’s medium pace, a struggling Taijul Islam’s left-arm orthodox and new pacer Kamrul Islam Rabbi, who averages 40.89 from 47 first class matches, are the front line bowlers to aid Shakib. The pressure on the ace all-rounder will be immense and one cannot expect him to take twenty wickets.
Bangladesh are expected to pack the team with eight batters and three frontline bowlers and the plan is to survive rather than show positive intent. But when you play to survive, you cannot learn how to win and possibilities of a defeat always loom large.
When a team continues to build their plans relying too much on defensive strategies, automatically it halts their progress in 5-day matches and this is why Bangladesh’s performances have not been satisfactory in Test cricket.
And it seems that the Bangladeshi think tank are quite satisfied with this sort of defensive approach. They don’t mind surfacing a team with just three bowlers and let one Shakib carry on the burden tirelessly day after day. They completely forget, the greatest and the most dominant teams in Test cricket have been built on penetrative, versatile bowling units.
Yes, it’s a batsman’s world, but what is the value of those high scores if they don’t receive the support of an efficient bowling attack?
ODI brilliance could hinder development in Tests
Bangladesh’s brilliant form in the limited-overs format, at times, proves to be a big hurdle in developing quality Test match cricketers, especially bowlers. Role models like Taskin or Rubel do not play Test matches but utilize their guile more in a one-day or Twenty20 match and youngsters watching the game decide to follow in their footsteps. The situation gets worse when a group of so-called local intellectuals endorses their thoughts.
The English batting line-up is very strong and they are a highly professional unit. They love to make bowlers sweat and are the masters at putting a price tag on their wicket. The Bangladeshi bowling attack lacks the cutting edge to test the English batting line-up and it will not acquire the same until and unless the Bangladeshi think tank gives Test cricket greater importance and shun their defensive mindset.
The idea of depending too much on the batsmen might backfire for Bangladesh. As Virat Kohli once said, “I certainly believe that a bowler wins you a Test match. Batsmen can hardly get you a Test match from a difficult situation if you are chasing. More often than not, it’s the bowlers who eventually out you in that position when you have to chase a small total. So a bowlers’ role is more important than batsmen in Test matches.”