With consistency not part of their routine, Bangladesh is truly a subcontinent cricket nation.
Blowing hot and cold at will, standing up against the top tier and bowing down meekly against the second, the small cricketing nation has not been able to deliver its promise despite repeated attempts and cameos.
Bangladesh drew the two-match Test series against New Zealand, even reaching 501 in the first Test while taking the lead. This side had lost to Zimbabwe by 337 runs earlier this year, failing to go past 147 in either innings. A few weeks before that, they had managed 638 in Sri Lanka. Since making their Test debut almost 13 years ago, Bangladesh have managed just four wins out of the 81 Tests they have played, losing a whopping 67 while drawing just 10. Their first win took almost five years—against Zimbabwe—and the next another four.
Back-to-back decent performances are key to a side’s progress, and that is essentially absent from the Bangladeshi cricket team. Things might have been very different had rain not helped the hosts in the second Test after their failure to bring their good form into the match.
"After playing the first Test, we often could not take that into the second game," Bangladesh captain Mushfiqur Rahim said after the umpires called off the match. "Though our batting didn't click in the first innings, we proved through the second innings that our team is maturing.”
1st ODI match between Bangladesh & New Zealand will be held on October 29 despite opposition political party called for strike on that day.— Bangladesh Cricket (@CricketBD24) October 25, 2013
Even the touring captain agreed with that.
"We wanted to win this Test series and were expected to do so as well," Brendon McCullum said. "We played good cricket in this series, our batting was outstanding and our bowling stood up in tough conditions. I think a drawn series is a fair reflection because Bangladesh played some excellent cricket as well.”
They are ranked even below Zimbabwe in the ICC’s Test rankings, in effect the worst Test playing nation in the world. So, why, despite decent shows against Sri Lanka earlier this year, and now New Zealand, can’t Bangladesh threaten regular upsets against better sides?
Therein lies Bangladesh’s problem. Consistency is nowhere to be seen. Centuries are scored but are not followed up with more decent shows. Four wins in 13 years does not justify the talent that the team possesses. Mohammad Ashraful, Shakib Al Hasan, Rahim, Abdur Razzaq, Tamim Iqbal and even Mashrafe Murtaza (when he’s fit and able) are players who have what it takes to perform at the biggest stage.
The facilities, the grounds and world-class coaching is on hand. The results, however, aren’t.
Perhaps, it is due to the lack of Tests. Bangladesh’s series against New Zealand was their first after nearly six months. And that has been a trend with the side in the last few years, prompting Rahim to ask for more Tests as his side strives to go up in the ranking tables.
How can Bangladesh improve their Test side?
"It was not easy because we were playing Test cricket after five, six months, and we could not avail the opportunity to play the longer version, so it was definitely a challenge. I ask whoever is in charge to give us the opportunity to play more Tests. Whether we fare good or bad is another question. If we cannot play Test cricket, how can a player like Mominul score a hundred or Gazi take six wickets? In future, hopefully, we will play more Test matches so that we can show that Bangladesh is improving day by day."
It could also be self-belief, failure to realise the potential and the ability within. That’s something that has been affecting them for a long time. By the looks of things on the field and the quick turnaround, it could be a few more years until Bangladesh players get over it.