Debut Test tales: 'Couldn't sleep the whole night' recount Bangladesh cricketers, reminiscing Tigers' maiden match

Bangladesh players share their experiences of playing in Bangladesh's first ever Test, the emotions they went through, the challenges and some advise for Afghanistan as they head towards history.

Jigar Mehta, June 13, 2018

For Bangladesh cricket fans, 10 November, 2000 remains a historic day. It was their first day in the Test arena. After years of craving and hard work, they had finally managed to reach the big stage. It wasn't going to be easy at the first step as they were going to face a formidable Indian side.

However, things fell in place early and they got off to a dream start at the Bangabandhu National Stadium in Dhaka. After captain Naimur Rahman opted to bat first, Bangladesh amassed 400 on the board in the first innings. Middle-order batsman Aminul Islam led the way with 145 and was ably supported by Habibul Bashar (71) and the tail. The momentum continued while bowling as they had India on the back foot at 236/6. But then, suddenly, it all turned around.

Habibul Bashar in action against India in Bangladesh's debut Test. Reuters

Habibul Bashar in action against India in Bangladesh's debut Test. Reuters

Sunil Joshi joined Sourav Ganguly in the middle and added 121 runs for the seventh wicket. India attained an unlikely lead of 29. There was more drama in store, an unmitigated disaster for Bangladesh as they suffered a dramatic collapse post lunch on day four and were bowled out for 91. India chased down 64-run target in 15 overs. Bangladesh had learnt the harsh lesson.

Bangladesh were the 10th nation entering the Test arena. In a few days' time, Afghanistan will become the 12th when they take on India at the M Chinnaswamy Stadium in Bengaluru. There will be excitement, nerves and jitters as they get ready for their entry into the new world.

So what is it like playing your first ever Test? Firstpost brings you some fascinating experiences from players who were part of their country's debut Test. Here are Habibul Bashar, Khaled Mashud and Akram Khan sharing their experiences of Bangladesh's first ever Test, the emotions they went through, the challenges and some advice for Afghanistan.

Experience of playing the country's first ever Test

Bashar: We'd been dreaming for this since we started playing cricket. When we started our careers we never thought we would get a chance to play Test cricket. And when the opportunity came, you can understand the excitement and the feeling that each and everyone went through. We played first-class cricket for a couple of seasons before playing the first Test match, and when we got the chance to play a Test match, we wanted to prove something.

We were not quite ready. In order to be ready for a Test match, you have to play a Test match. You cannot prepare yourself, no matter what other cricket you play — 'A' team matches, first-class tournaments etc. If you don't play Test match, then you actually don't know what you are going to face. That time, we were not quite ready but we knew that this is the beginning and wanted to show that we belonged to Test cricket.

There were a lot of things that we wanted to prove to ourselves and others also. We wanted to prove that we belonged to this stage, we want to play Test cricket, we want to do well. And showing others that yes, we can play Test cricket. There were a lot of things happening and we knew that it will be a different ball game, it's going to be difficult. But in the first Test we wanted to enjoy. I played 50 Tests after that but the debut Test was totally different. I can remember each moment, every hour, minute and second of the match. It was a different feeling. That first day, the national anthem, getting that Test cap, going in to bat, I still reminisce those moments.

Mashud: In Bangladesh, we never used to play a four-day match. We used to play three-day matches. The only issue was that we had not played many four-day matches before the Test. I learnt during the Test that there were three things to cricket — mental, tactical and technical. We were okay with the tactical and technical part at that time. But mentally we were very much behind at that time. We used to play very few international one-day matches against India, Pakistan or any other (big teams).

We used to play many matches against Zimbabwe or Kenya, who were non-Test playing countries. Mental fitness is very important in this arena. If you are not mentally fit, then you cannot perform. We were lacking in that aspect. On the first day before the start of play, we were very tensed that we are going to play our first Test, what will happen? I have to perform... So there were a lot of thoughts going on in mind. But after the match started, the pressure released slowly, we felt that it's a normal game. Before the game, we felt like a student giving a big exam (Like SSC).

The atmosphere in the team a day before the Test

Bashar: We wanted to be in the team first of all. Before the Test, we are talking that now 'we will be called a Test cricketer', that is a different identity. But at the same time we knew it's going to be difficult and will be playing against a good Test team who've been playing for quite a long time and against players like Sachin (Tendulkar), Sourav (Ganguly) and (Rahul) Dravid. We didn't think much about it, we just wanted to play the natural game. Just wanted to play that Test. Just wanted to get the feel of what Test cricket is like. It was different for us. We were excited. We didn't think about the result and anything else, we just wanted to play the Test. That's the talk and feeling we had in the camp.

I am not sure about the others (laughs) but I couldn't sleep. I tried to sleep as we had to wake up early in the morning for the Test but was finding it very hard to sleep. The whole day I was thinking 'what's going to happen tomorrow?' and things like that.

People talked so much about Test cricket before the match. There were a lot of suggestions. People telling you 'This will be like this, like that' so there were a lot of inputs we had from different people and a lot of advice also — 'Do this, don't do that'. When you have something like this, you get confused and that's what happened. So there were a lot of things going in my mind a day before.

Mashud: The coach tried to make all the players relaxed. But you cannot be relaxed all the time. When you are with the players, you are relaxed but whenever you go to the room before you sleep, and in the morning there is an important match, you obviously can't sleep. (Thoughts clutter your mind like) 'In the morning we are going to play our first Test, we are going to play against some big players so I have to perform.' It was a horrible experience for me the night before the Test, I couldn't sleep the whole night. I was really tired after the first day's play because of the physical and mental exertion. There is always pressure that it's the debut match, important match. If you are not playing a big side, then there isn't so much pressure to perform.

Khan: We were getting a lot of advice from senior players, organisers and others. Bowlers like Zaheer Khan, Srinath are very difficult to play in Test cricket. There were also players like Rahul Dravid, Sourav Ganguly so we were tensed as to what they will do and what not. We were excited and happy as well so adding emotion, overall, we were puzzled. We were not able to concentrate because it was a very big achievement, so we were very excited. The talk before the day of the match was to concentrate on basics — try to play longer innings, not to fiddle with deliveries outside off, etc. The first two days were good, but then we got overconfident from the third day and lost the match. If we had more experience, we could have drawn the first Test.

Ticket requests

Bashar: Yes, too many (ticket) requests. Bangladesh never had a paucity of supporters. Even in big club games there used to be supporters. In the debut Test, the stadium was full. Even now when cricket is played in Bangladesh we get some complimentary tickets but over and above that, I have to buy tickets. The friends, relatives everyone wanted to see the Test. Before the match day, we were all busy collecting and distributing tickets to friends and relatives. But the requests were so many that I could not manage to satisfy everyone.

The feeling of getting the Test cap

Bashar: The first thing that came to my mind (while receiving the Test cap) was — I am a Test cricketer now, so I have a different identity. I can tell myself and others that this is something I wanted to be and no matter what I did in my life, I wanted to do something in this sector. For me, it was a different feeling from others. Because when the 14-man squad was announced, I was not included in it. But after that a lot of things happened, there was a lot of writing and people were asking why I am not there and hammering the selectors.

I remember we were preparing for the Test in the sports complex which was about 40 minutes from the Dhaka City. There when I heard the news of my non-selection, I came back home and thought that I missed the opportunity to become a Test cricketer, I am not going to play the Test match. Sitting at home, I didn't know what to do, I was broken. Then the criticism (of selectors) started.

The board and selectors were under pressure and immediately after two days, they got me into the squad by making it 16. So after going through all this, when I got the Test cap, you can understand, why my feeling was different than others.

(When I heard that I was selected) I couldn't believe it because this is something I really wanted. I really wanted to be a Test cricketer. I really wanted to play that Test match. It was my dream. When I first heard it, I couldn't believe it (about my selection). Those days we didn't have mobiles and I didn't have a phone at my home also so one of board member's driver came to my home and told me that I was selected. So I didn't believe first, then someone from the board told me at the sports complex next day that I was selected. That moment was special. I cried when I wasn't included in the squad and I cried again when I was selected.

Mashud: Every player has a dream to play for the national team. There are three formats of the game right now — Test, T20 and ODI. But the Test cap is the best cap for any cricketer.

The approach and mindset going into the Test

Bashar: Everyone had different mindset but as a team, we just wanted to prove ourselves, we just wanted to do well. As I mentioned earlier, we didn't think about the result, we just wanted to be Test cricketers and wanted to prove to ourselves and others that we belong here.

Preparations for the Test

Bashar: Two months after the 1999 World Cup, the preparations had begun. There was a talk in Bangladesh that we might get Test status. Since then we started the preparation. Then our first-class matches became different. Every time we played a match, we wanted to play it like a Test match. We wanted to spend more time on the wicket and we started to change our game. And tried to play (every match) like a Test match.

Mashud: We had started training in Dhaka. But Test and practice are different. If you are not used to playing Tests and practice for even one-two years, it doesn't matter. What matters is how many matches you have played like a Test match.

Biggest challenge going into the match

Khan: There were a lot of negative things said about Bangladesh cricket, that we are not ready (for Tests) and all that but thanks to India they gave us a very good opportunity. Right now the position Bangladesh cricket is in, it's because of the help from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka. We wanted to show everyone that we could play Test cricket and that we were prepared, that was our biggest challenge.

Mashud: Mind setup is very important. It's a challenge. A good player like Virat Kohli or AB de Villiers can set up and change their minds easily but the new players can't. That's why a coach is very important for young minds.

The feeling after scoring 400 in the first innings and whether an improbable win was possible

Bashar: Overjoyed. We were totally overjoyed. Everyone said it will be difficult but when we scored 400, we thought we had done our job. We forgot that there is a second innings in a Test match, and there are five days. We were just too happy. We got to know what an actual Test match is from that debut

We didn't think (that we were going to win) but we got too happy. We thought that winning will be difficult but we have drawn the match. After scoring 400 we were like the work is done.

Mashud: That's the difference between a new team and an experienced one. Experienced teams knew that the Test match can change any time. A match can change in one session or in 20-30 minutes. We were not experienced at that time and when we scored 400, in the dressing room we were really really happy, we started thinking that we might go for a win. When you get happy then it becomes difficult. As long as the game is not completed, you cannot be happy. For two days you have performed the duties well but that doesn't mean you have won the match. Each and every session you have to play well. There were people who came inside the dressing room and started to say you will win the match which made us relaxed and dream. That's why you need to have good management who can keep you in control.

Khan: Everyone thought we were going to draw this Test. The officials already declared that the team will get this much prize money, bonus etc, so the concentration broke and that's why we lost the Test.

Emotions throughout the Test

Bashar: When India was batting, we were telling (each other) don't look at the player, don't look at the player. There were Sachin, Rahul batting and whenever we used to watch cricket, we used to watch it for them. When you watch Sachin bat, sometimes you forget how to get him out and how to bowl to him. Those days we used to watch them play on TV, we didn't get to play with them regularly. We did play with Sachin in the Asia Cup and a little bit of World Cup. But when he was batting in the Test, we were like 'Don't look at him how he bats, just try to get him out'.

He didn't score many runs luckily (laughs). I used to follow him a lot. It was difficult to take away the focus. It looks funny now but it wasn't easy not to follow him and how he bats in Test matches, we did want to learn from him.

(Personally) Emotions wise, when I scored runs, I was over the moon. I was so happy that I cannot explain. I just played with my instinct. If I told you that (I) planned like this, I played like this (it would be a lie). It was purely instinctive. I didn't know what was going happen, I just played the ball (on its merit).

In those days we didn't have video analysis and planning for the bowlers also. I just played my natural game. As there were so many advice and suggestions, I just told myself, I will play my game and let's see what happens. I believed in my ability. Zaheer and Srinath were bowling well. The wicket was also a bit up and down. I was playing shots and hitting the ball well. The toughest challenge was playing the spinners with a lot of fielders around you. I was a stroke player so whether I should defend or go for it? Decision making was the toughest part.

Mashud: I was very nervous before Test. I was the wicket-keeper and had never played a five-day match. I was about to play against greats like Rahul Dravid, Sachin Tendulkar, Anil Kumble whom we used to watch on TV. I was really young at that time, around 25, I had to keep and bat. Back in the domestic circuit, the matches were not telecast but here everyone was going to watch me. I was playing against India and will have to maintain that quality and international standard of keeping and batting. That pressure was more. But when I took the field my nerves appeased. After the first day's play, I was so tired that I slept off at 8.30 PM.

Feeling after the Test

Bashar: We were a little bit shocked because the result was totally upside down. In the first innings we scored 400 and then in second innings were bowled out for 91. We were in a better position, but then we lost it at the end. It was a totally different feeling than what we had on the first two days. We were shocked, sad and upset.

Mashud: The coach analysed the match — Where we did well, where we went wrong. Where we lacked, where we could improve. The players personally analysed how each one can improve.

Biggest learning from the Test?

Bashar: That we can play Test match cricket. But if we want to belong here we have to improve a lot of things.

Mashud: The biggest learning was don't be happy! Don't be happy early. You can be happy after the match is over. As long as the match is going on, you have to concentrate on the match for each and every minute on the field. We also learned how to improve our cricket but by watching others and not by committing mistakes ourselves.

Khan: We learnt a lot from the Indian players, especially Sachin Tendulkar who sat down with our players and gave them advice. We played against big players and got their advice. It was a good four-day experience.

Best moment in the Test

Bashar: Getting my place in the eleven was the best moment. Because at first I wasn't selected in the squad and then when I scored 50, I had something to prove to myself — that I can play Test cricket, I belong here, rather than proving to others.

Afghanistan's approach and mindset going into debut Test

Bashar: Afghanistan are playing good cricket at this moment. They should not change their cricket and play their natural game. Yes, Test match demands something different but you should do what you do best. Compared to us at that time, Afghanistan have already got the taste of international cricket. Their cricketers have already played a lot of international cricket, while when we started we didn't play much international cricket and knew very little about it. This will be nothing new for them. But I think they should play their brand of cricket which is attacking. India's bowling is one of the best in Tests. They shouldn't think of surviving five days, they should play their brand of cricket. I am sure everyone will be dying to become a Test cricketer, I just want them to enjoy every moment of it. Yes, they will play more matches in future but a first Test match is a first test match.

Mashud: It depends on the track also. Afghanistan is more matured than what Bangladesh were at that time. If Mujeeb and Rashid bowl well, they can trouble the Indians. Batting will be a big problem. I have seen the Afghanistan side and they are lacking in batting and fielding. They have to improve their batting in the longer version. The wickets in India are result-oriented. They need to get the runs on the board. Of course, the Indian side is good in all departments but if Afghanistan want a result they need to get runs on the board, which will give their bowlers something to defend. If you score just 150 then there is nothing that even Rashid or Mujeeb could do. They need to get 300-plus which gives the bowlers the breathing space to take wickets.

Khan: Even though we scored 400, we lost because we didn't have (good) bowlers at that time but Afghanistan have good bowlers and if they score big there is a chance of winning the Test too. If we played well at that time we had a chance to draw the Test while if Afghanistan play well they have a chance of winning.

Click here to read Grant Flower's experience of Zimbabwe's Test debut

Click here to read Duleep Mendis' experience of Sri Lanka's Test debut

Updated Date: Jun 13, 2018





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