Yet to learn at 19 | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, November 15, 2019 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:00 AM, November 15, 2019

Yet to learn at 19

It has been just over 19 years since November 10, 2000 when Bangladesh stepped into the Test arena with their inaugural Test against India, which the Tigers lost by nine wickets in Dhaka. Bangladesh were however applauded for their magnificent showing as the Tigers had the grip of the game even on the third day before a dramatic collapse on the fourth day had undone the fearless start.

Since then Bangladesh have travelled far, playing 114 more Tests, but do not have a lot to show for it, recording just 13 wins and 16 draws against 86 losses. Bangladesh did have some high points, with wins against England and Australia at home in 2016 and 2017 respectively being on top of a small list. Bangladesh registered their first ever overseas series win in July of 2009. But the fact that it was against a West Indies side that was nowhere near their full capacity reduces its significance. But the Tigers’ win by an innings and 184 runs -- their biggest win till date -- against the Caribbean outfit at home in 2018, which also completed a 2-0 series, remains high on the list.

But more often than not, Bangladesh have been at the receiving end of humiliation. The most recent and the most embarrassing of all was when Bangladesh had orchestrated their own downfall by preparing a spinning track in Chattogram last September against a spin-heavy Afghanistan, only to be hammered by 224 runs by a side playing just their third Test. And how far the list of ignominy goes can be gauged from the fact that Bangladesh have been at the receiving end of 40 innings defeats till date. The Tigers also saw a five-day game produce a result by the third day on 27 occasions, with the result going in their favour only four times -- two wins against West Indies in 2018, one against Zimbabwe in 2014 and the most prestigious one was the 108-run victory against England in 2016 – all coming at home.

In these 19 years, Bangladesh clearly failed to gather the expected pace in the format. Meanwhile, India, who were a formidable side back in 2000 too, have only grown in stature and the gulf in class between the two sides have widened since their first meeting. The prime reason behind India’s ascent to being the number one Test side is their change in approach and mentality.

India were usually known to strangle opponents with spin at home by making tracks that offered aid to their spinners and batsmen. However, the trend has changed, or to be specific, it is their board that has brought in changes gradually over the years. India, who are usually known as the makers of world-class batsmen, have now produced lethal fast bowlers like Jasprit Bumrah, who has risen through the ranks to become one of the most feared bowlers in Test cricket since his debut in the format last year.

Bucking the trend of solely relying on spinners, India whitewashed South Africa in a three-match series last October on pitches that had ample help for fast bowlers and spinners alike. It was right-arm pacer Mohammad Shami’s five-for in the third and final Test of the series that helped India record their third consecutive Test win by a margin of greater than 200 runs.

Such a change in mentality has seen them reap benefits overseas too when they face teams like Australia, England and New Zealand in their backyards. India becoming the first Asian side to win a Test series in Australia by recording a 3-1 series win in January this year speaks volumes of their overseas prowess.

In these 19 years, Bangladesh faced India nine times, and each time the challenge for the Tigers remained more or less the same – scalping 20 Indian wickets and staving off their bowlers. And it is no different for the Bangladesh squad that is playing a multi-format series in India for the first time. And although the team management always speaks about how playing good on the day and cashing in on chances can yield a positive result, the truth is that Bangladesh are often forced to pin their hopes on luck and circumstances as they still lack the resources to be able to create their own chances in the longest format. Bangladesh yet again proved that when they were bundled out for a meagre 150 in 58.3 overs on the first day of the Indore Test yesterday.

After Day One, Bangladesh are already on the back foot. And now the question of being able to survive the whole five days comes into the picture and out goes any notion of being able to buck the trend that has been building for 19 years.

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