New Zealand took 45 Tests and 26 years to win its first Test match, in 1956. 39
years passed before it won a series, which makes it so hard to work out whether
the ICC’s persistence with minnow Bangladesh is doing more harm than good to
cricket.

Bangladesh has played 44 Tests, almost the same amount as the Kiwis played for
their first win, but in five and a half years. The scrutiny of teams is closer
now, and the pressure commensurately greater, but there is also
professionalism, internationalism and most of all development money. Yet the
only team Bangladesh has beaten in a Test match is Zimbabwe,
which toured with a barely competent eleven last year.

The spin from players and some in the media
is that the current Bangladesh team is a better unit than the one which toured Australia
in 2003. Most attention is placed on the first Test in Dhaka, where for the first two
days Bangladesh dominated a sleepy Australia.
If there is any improvement in Bangladesh’s cricket, it is its ability to grasp an opportunity, if only for
those two days. For the rest of the series, a couple of top-order collapses in
the one-dayers aside, the tour was yet another rout.

The Tigers have some talented players –
veteran leggie Mohammed Rafique was flattered by wickets turning square but is talented,
opener Shahriar Nafees may become Bangladesh’s first cricket superstar – but their strategy is sometimes
non-existent and the tail-end batting is at schoolboy level. Coach Dav Whatmore
and captain Habibul Bashar appeared to have done no homework on the
Australians, which lead to Adam Gilchrist getting the tourists out of trouble
in the first Test after no attempt was made to apply the Flintoff Method
(angling it in to Gilchrist from around the wicket to cramp his style).

Australia went to Bangladesh tired and uninspired and, it seems, left the same way. That may be
arrogance, but the fact is for cricket to be marketable it cannot allow a team
to languish for decades. Sri Lanka
showed that a team can rise quickly. Bangladesh has to follow.

Peter Fray

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