Sri Lanka vs Bangladesh: Poor first class structure and other reasons for Tigers' stunted growth in Tests
With a recent win over England and some impressive results in ODI cricket raising hopes, here's a look at some of the obstacles to Bangladesh becoming a force to be reckoned with.
Colombo: Bangladesh will play their 100th Test match when they take on Sri Lanka at Colombo’s P Sara Oval on Wednesday, 17 years after joining international cricket's elite club.
Since their first Test against India at Dhaka in November 2000, Bangladesh have had a miserable record, losing 76 of out 99 matches.
But with a recent win over England and some impressive results in ODI cricket raising hopes, AFP looks at some of the obstacles to Bangladesh becoming a force to be reckoned with:
1. Lack of matches
While cricket's big guns such as India and England sometimes play close to 20 Tests a year, Bangladesh have managed an average of six since making their bow. Current skipper Mushfiqur Rahim actually made his debut a year before outgoing England captain Alastair Cook but while Mushfiqur still only has 53 caps, Cook has 140. Last month's Test in Hyderabad was their first in India while their only tour of Australia was back in 2003. Besides bottom-ranked Zimbabwe, the last team to play a three-match series against Bangladesh was Sri Lanka in 2007. Mushfiqur insists the only way to improve performances is to play more matches. But with cricket's international schedule now more packed than ever, Bangladesh have to convince sides they are competitive.
2. Security headache
England's eventual agreement to tour Bangladesh late last year despite fears over their safety was a huge relief. Arguably Bangladesh's biggest fear is of enduring the same fate as Pakistan which has been a virtual no-go zone for international teams since gunmen attacked a touring Sri Lanka side in 2009. Australia shelved a tour to Bangladesh in 2015, citing security concerns. The West Indies under-19 team cut short a 2013 tour when two bombs exploded outside their hotel. England's tour was called into question by an attack on a Dhaka cafe last July in which 22 people were killed, including 18 foreigners. The tour passed off peacefully after a huge security operation but other teams will be reluctant to follow their example in the event of fresh attacks.
3. Shrinking space
With around 160 million people living in a space of a little over 55,000 square miles, Bangladesh is one of the world's most densely-populated nations and open spaces are becoming increasingly scarce. In the capital Dhaka, where land prices have sky-rocketed amid a massive population growth, playing grounds are disappearing at an alarming rate to make way for high-rise apartment blocks. The impact is already being felt on the Test team with pace bowler Taskin Ahmed the only player in the current squad from Dhaka, a city of around 15 million people.
4. First-class, second-rate
While few doubt Bangladesh has the talent, its poor first-class structure means the step-up to international cricket is sometimes simply too great for many players. Bangladesh has two four-day competitions but they lack a fixed place in the calendar and matches are often one-sided affairs, treated by internationals as little more than a glorified net. Batsmen have frequently scored double centuries only to find themselves bowled out cheaply the next week in a Test match. Crowds are next to non-existent while standards of umpiring are often dubious.
5. Off the pace
Bangladesh has had its share of quality spinners, with current internationals Shakib Al Hasan and the young Mehedi Hasan keeping up a proud tradition. But to win Tests, teams need pace - something which Bangladesh have lacked. There were high hopes for Mashrafe Mortaza after he burst onto the scene in 2001 but he faded after a series of knee injuries. Fans now fear history is repeating itself with the latest starlets Mustafizur Rahman and Taskin enduring long spells on the sidelines. Mustafizur has been able to play just three Tests since his debut in 2015 and fitness concerns prevented Taskin from making his debut until the recent tour to New Zealand. The board has in recent years appointed ex-Zimbabwe captain Heath Streak and West Indies great Courtney Walsh to nurture quickies, but their efforts are yet to bear fruit.
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