Bangladesh-Zimbabwe - A Slug-Fest Between Disappointments
In a class full of hard-working students, Zimbabwe and Bangladesh are the back-benchers, perpetually flunking tests.
However, their cases couldn’t be farther apart.
Zimbabwe’s sorry case is like the kid from a backward family, desperately trying to eke out an existence. Bangladesh is more akin to the kid from a middle class family who needs only work hard enough without worrying about putting the food on the table.
In their own ways though, they’ve disappointed the ICC and in doing so, have been responsible for the frustrating wait of enthusiastic cricketing countries like Ireland, Netherlands and Afghanistan. In a way, the ICC is trying to undo the damage of being so proactive in promoting Bangladesh to Test status, by delaying the same for countries like Ireland and Netherlands.
As early as in the 1983 World Cup, Zimbabwe was showing signs of troubling top nations, reducing India to 18 for five in that famous match where Kapil Dev scored 175 no tout.
The 1990s was Zimbabwe’s golden period boasting of players like Andy Flower, one of the best wicket-keeper batsmen of all time, his brother Grant Flower, Alistair Campbell and Heath Streak. The political and economic changes in the country almost spelt a death-knell for cricket and Zimbabwe is still picking up the pieces from that rubble. It is the case of a country rich with cricketing talent but flooded with adversity.
Bangladesh’s case is a little different. They have sufficient resources to manage their cricket. They have a decent domestic divisional cricket infrastructure. They even have their own T20 tournament. Their stands are usually choc-a-bloc for every international match, an enthusiastic audience that has been constantly let down by its players.
Have won four, drawn 11 and lost 70 of their 85 Tests
First Test: November 2000 v India
First draw: November 2001 v Zimbabwe (sixth Test)
First win: January 2005 v Zimbabwe (35th Test)
Have only ever beaten Zimbabwe (twice) and the West Indies (twice)
What hasn’t changed or rather evolved is the maturity of its best players. To note that fringe players in other teams have better averages and strike-rates in ODI cricket than Bangladesh’s best players like Tamim Iqbal, Shakib Al Hasan, Mushfiqur Rahim, the out-of-favour Mohammad Ashraful and others shows that the players have never really put in the hard yards demanded by the grind of international cricket.
Over a decade, Bangladesh players have made the same cricketing mistakes, play on the same kind of sub-standard pitches and have produced the same kind of players. One wonders if countries like Ireland, Netherlands and Afghanistan will not benefit more from all the exposure that Bangladesh enjoys due to ICC tours?
Add to that the controversies that the Bangladeshi cricket is always mired in and you have the perfect model to avoid in the cricketing world.
As Zimbabwe and Bangladesh clash, the cricketing world won't sit up to watch. In a way, it is just exorcising their internal demons - Bangladesh going back to their tried and trusted lieutenant, Mashrafe Mortaza, who has suffered more injuries within a decade than entire teams have.
Mushfiqur, the glove-man will have an opportunity to walk away from a wretched captaincy phase and focus on the falling standards of his wicket-keeping. Shakib, the rebel, is still in the midst of a ban, a bad PR incident that shouldn’t ever have happened at the first place, á la Gayle scenario - a team missing its best player during an important phase.
Zimbabwe too has lost, by choice, one of its most consistent players in Sean Williams, thanks to a flare-up of egos with the coach. In the last two years, Bangladesh and Zimbabwe have played nine and seven Tests respectively and 28 and 31 ODIs respectively - both numbers way below the average number of games other major teams like India, Australia and Sri Lanka have played.
In fact, a look at the ICC rankings table also shows teams like Afghanistan and Ireland knocking on the door and almost nudging these two teams in terms of rating points. Given the level of competitiveness, a lot of other international teams are reluctant to tour these two countries, only exacerbating the problem.
Have won 11, drawn 26 and lost 57 of their 94 Tests
First Test: October 1992 v India
First draw: October 1992 v India (first Test)
First win: February 1995 v Pakistan (11th Test)
Have beaten Bangladesh (five times), India (twice) and Pakistan (three times)
Neither team has too many matches left before the 2015 World Cup, a tournament down under that is likely to be a nightmare for minnow teams, more so for Bangladesh and Zimbabwe, which look less equipped than Ireland or Netherlands to handle those pitches.
The series presents two different types of tests for the two countries. Bangladesh, the perpetual underachievers have to show they belong, a notion that doesn’t have much support at the moment.
Zimbabwe on the other hand, has good support staff and are rebuilding. They know what it takes to belong in this arena, what it takes to build a good team and what it takes to sustain the development.
In fact, the series is also missing star players like Shakib and Prosper Utseya, who has been suspended for bowling with an illegal action. In a low-profile series, these two countries could only lay a foundation for their future course to prevent embarrassments.
While Zimbabwe managed an upset against Australia and gave a good account of itself in the recently concluded tri-series, tumultuous times have marred Bangladesh’s evolution from four years back. The clamour for their head will only rise as they slip up more chances and Ireland and Afghanistan continue to make more out of every opportunity.
It is a pressure-ridden world at the bottom too.
© Cricket World 2014