HYDERABAD: After finally winning respect of the game’s big boys on home turf, Bangladesh now face the challenge of competing with the best away from home when their debut Test in India begins Thursday.
“What they’ve got to do is to start winning outside of their own country,” legendary allrounder Ian Botham told AFP after Bangladesh’s first Test win over England in Dhaka in October. “That’s the acid test.”
Since gaining full status in 2000, Bangladesh have won just three out of 44 Tests on foreign soil, two of them in 2009 against a West Indies team depleted by a players’ strike. Their only other win was over Zimbabwe.
Even after the morale boost of their breakthrough victory against England, they lost both Tests on January’s tour of New Zealand.
They declared at 595 for eight in the first Test in Wellington and still contrived to lose by seven wickets after being dismissed for 160 second time round.
That collapse pointed to both a mental fragility and an inability among batsmen more used to playing spin to adapt to seaming pitches.
Former Bangladesh captain Habibul Bashar, who is now a selector, told AFP that the biggest problem was a lack of matches.
“Away Tests are difficult for every team, not just for us,” said Bashar, a veteran of Bangladesh’s inaugural Test against India in Dhaka.
– Encouraging signs –
“Recently we’ve started playing well… but we don’t play many away matches. If that were to change then the scenario could be different.”
While India’s long-awaited decision to host Bangladesh represents something of a breakthrough, it is still only a one-off match and illustrates the reluctance of teams to find space in their schedules.
Besides bottom-ranked Zimbabwe, the last team to play a three-match series against Bangladesh was Sri Lanka in 2007 while their one and only tour of Australia was in 2003.
There is little doubt that Bangladesh have markedly improved since then, especially in the one-day format where they have won home series against India, South Africa, Pakistan, New Zealand and the West Indies in the last five years.
There have also been encouraging signs in Tests with last year’s 1-1 result against England following draws in rain-affected home series against India and South Africa in 2015.
The lack of opportunity to play away from home is beginning to rankle.
– ‘Give us more’ –
“Every other country has given us two Tests but they are just giving us one and that’s only because they couldn’t give us any less,” former skipper Mohammed Ashraful said of India’s one-off invitation.
“Let’s hope our boys play well and then they’ll have to give us more next time,” Ashraful, who is on the comeback trail after a match-fixing ban, told AFP.
With Tamim Iqbal and Imrul Kayes at the top of the order, Bangladesh have quality batsmen while Shakib Al Hasan is a classy allrounder.
But their big failure has been to develop fast bowlers who can thrive overseas, and none of their pacemen have taken 100 Test wickets.
Their most successful fast bowler, Mashrafe Mortaza, has not played a Test since 2009 due to a long-running knee problem and their latest pace starlet, Mustafizur Rahman, has also been plagued by injury.
“To win a Test match you need to have a quality bowling attack, which we don’t have at the moment,” said Bashar.
But former India wicketkeeper Saba Karim, who played in the inaugural Test in 2000, said the team still ranked ninth out of 10 in the Test rankings does not lack talent.
“They actually surprised us with their performance in Dhaka by putting up 400 in the first innings,” Karim recalled of the 2000 Test.
“Having said that I expected more rapid progress in terms of their consistency and performance in Test matches and that has not come about,” he said.
“They have not done justice to the kind of talent they have in their country.”