Bangladesh captain Naimur Rahman (L) shaking hands with his India counterpart Sourav Ganguly at the start of the historic first Test match for Bangladesh at the Banga-bandhu National Stadium on Novermber 10, 2000. Photo: Star File Photo
BANGLADESH IN TESTS
Played: 73; Won: 3
Lost: 63; Draw: 7
Aminul Islam Bulbul still recalls, not without trepidation, the hot flash of anger that he experienced when seated beside the West Indian Gordon Greenidge during a press conference in 1999.
Greenidge, then the coach of a Bangladesh side taking their nascent steps into world cricket had publicly remarked that the impending Test status was too early for Bangladesh. “I felt a surge of fury,” recalls Islam when contacted at his current residence in China. “I felt he [Greenidge] was wrong.”
Understandably then, those comments would prove to be the beginning of the end for Greenidge whose stint with Bangladesh would end in acrimonious circumstances. It seemed that the West Indian was the lone warning voice amongst a surge of euphoria that eventually saw Bangladesh join the ranks of the cricketing elite by appearing in their first Test match on November 10, 2000.
Bangladesh scored 400 in the first innings against India with Islam's sparkling 145 seemingly the perfect riposte to the scathing words of Greenidge. It seemed, that Bangladesh were here to stay.
Exactly twelve years on to that memorable day, the words of Greenidge hang like an albatross around the neck of Bangladesh cricket and even Islam is not loathe to admit that the West Indian might have had a point.
“I think the rankings tell the whole story,” says a despondent Islam. It does too, for the statistics prove grim reading. Bangladesh have played 73 Test matches, they have lost 63 and won just 3 games, two of which ironically came against a depleted West Indies side while the other came against a Zimbabwe in crisis.
“Our good performances have been sporadic, no way have we shown the consistency that can be demanded of a proper Test team,” admits Islam.
The story of Bangladesh's Test cricket then, is measured not in matches but in sessions. “There have been some highlights,” recalls Islam, “…at Fatullah against Australia, in Multan, at the West Indies.”
The rest though is an all-encompassing blur of darkness and defeat, which perhaps lend credence to those remarks from the former West Indian opener.
But Islam still does not believe Greenidge was wholly right.
“I think it [Test status] was right. Bangladesh had to start from somewhere and even if he had gotten Test status now, the story would probably have been the same,” says Islam.
“There is no proper infrastructure, there is no proper school cricket, the pitches are poor and there is no planning on how to develop the pipeline,” he says.
Naimur Rahman Durjoy was the Bangladeshi captain in that historic encounter against India, and he also picked up six wickets in the first innings. Speaking to The Daily Star, Rahman also mirrored Islam's concerns over the lack of a proper first class system. The portly all-rounder though, was slightly more optimistic.
“Our problem has been our pace of growth,” says Rahman. “Test cricket is not an easy game and our technical quality to combat the challenges are very limited,” he adds.
But Rahman said that he was 'not too unhappy' about the course of Bangladesh cricket. “I am not disheartened; you need a lot of time to grow in Test cricket.” There is truth to Rahman's words. New Zealand needed 26 years and 44 matches to break their Test match duck and although that is often used as a blanket for Bangladesh to hide behind, consider that Zimbabwe have won just nine in their lifetime.
There is change brewing however. “There are a lot of new and exciting players changing the face of Bangladesh cricket,” says Rahman. “That can only be a good thing.”
In many ways, Bangladesh have come a long way from that brilliant November day at the Bangabandhu National Stadium, but in many other equally important ways, they remain a team struggling to find a foothold in the real bastion of cricket.
Over the years our dark moments may have made Greenidge's words out to be prophetic, but the only way for Bangladesh to silence him and other harsher nay-sayers is to start performing. And there is no better time to start than just after the 12th anniversary of their debut Test.