Home  -  Back Issues  -  The Team  -  Contact Us
     Volume 9 Issue 45| November 26, 2010 |


 Cover Story
 Special Feature
 One Off
 In Retrospect
 Star Diary
 Write to Mita

   SWM Home




Shakib Al Hasan

Agrand total of three victories and a smattering of draws from 68 Test matches in ten years of Test cricket, practically, speaks for itself. It exposes Bangladesh's continued struggle in the longer version but it also hides the heart-breaking losses, the few long, grinding knocks and the numerous bowling spells that seemed unending against quality batting line-ups.

The first steps in Test cricket for Bangladesh were taken by men who were sure they would fail and folks who hardly waited for a miracle. When the miracle was around the corner, they couldn't push hard enough to bring themselves a victory.

It all started with the inaugural game, on November 10, 2000, when Bangladesh became the tenth country to play Tests. Aminul Islam Bulbul, stalwart of many ICC Trophy campaigns, turned one towards fine-leg to score the first Test century by a Bangladeshi, on the second day at the BNS. After sharing the honours on the opening day with Habibul Bashar, Bulbul took off his helmet, kissed a pendant, thanked the Almighty and raised his bat. Though Bangladesh lost, it would remain the high point in the man's career that has been mainly devoted to domestic cricket and a few ODIs in between.

Bulbul’s first century.

Bulbul was at the crease when Mohammad Ashraful, all of 16 years and looking the part, broke Mushtaq Muhammad's long-standing youngest centurion record with an imperious effort against Muttiah Muralidaran's Sri Lanka in 2001. Sixteen boundaries later, he confessed how he couldn't raise his bat because it hurt his hands.

Ashraful became known as the first big talent coming out of Bangladesh and obviously, it got to him. But after three years, he picked India as his next roadkill. A few new inches of muscle on his forearm helped as he tore into red-hot Irfan Pathan. Those at the ground in Chittagong fondly remember how hapless the Indians looked for those four hours and how much Ashraful dominated. The 158 not out, made in December 2004, remain his highest Test score, a testament of his unpredictability.

In between those Ashraful tons, Bangladesh played a fair bit of cricket and lost most of the Tests. But in 2003, they made good progress in Multan, venue for the third and final Test against Pakistan. Khaled Mahmud, captain at the time, used Mohammad Rafique mostly to get Bangladesh a 106-run first innings lead. The batsmen messed up in the second innings, giving Pakistan a winning target of 261 runs but they too, messed up their chase. Rafique and Mahmud bowled their heart out and with wickets tumbling, Bangladesh had one gigantic rock to remove: Inzamamul Haq.

Shahrier Nafees

Playing the innings to saved his career, Inzy, thinner and seen for the last time without a beard, maneuvered Pakistan to a one-wicket win. Apart from the big man, Rashid Latif and umpire Asoka de Silva were also instrumental for all the wrong reasons.

The next heartbreak would come at home, March 2006 in Fatullah, when Bangladesh gave Australia a massive scare. In fact, Bangladesh dominated most of the Test match through Shahriar Nafees's 138 and another Rafique special. Australia, bemused for most of the time, had their captain Ricky Ponting to thank as his unbeaten century (and a dropped catch from Mashrafe Bin Mortaza), forced the 3-wicket win.

Between the two close shaves with glory, Bangladesh actually won their first Test ever. The 226-run win over Zimbabwe came in Chittagong, courtesy of a big first innings total and the splendid left-arm spin of Rafique and Enamul Haque Jr.

The next win would come more than five years later when Bangladesh hit the jackpot -- upon arriving in West Indies last year, the hosts threw up a 3rd XI due to pay disputes with the board. It only meant good news for the visitors as they won both Tests, their first series win abroad.

Shakib Al Hasan, who led Bangladesh to that historic Test series after the newly appointed skipper Mashrafe Bin Mortaza got injured on the first day, climbed to the top of the ICC's world rankings for all-rounders. He has remained on top for more than a year now. Shakib's bowling, in particular, came of age in the Test series against New Zealand in 2008 when his 7-wicket haul lifted him from a bits-and-pieces all-rounder to the main bowling weapon of the Tigers.

Test win in the West Indies. Photos: cricinfo.com

Apart from getting themselves a world-class all-rounder, Bangladesh got itself a fantastic opener in Tamim Iqbal, the left-handed hitter, nephew of former national captain Akram Khan and younger brother of Nafis Iqbal. The Chittagonian proved himself of Test quality through centuries against India and two consecutive tons against England earlier this year. Tamim's reaction upon reaching his first-ever century at Lord's was one for the highlight reel and as if that wasn't enough, he followed it up with another in Manchester.

The new batch of players are giving a first sign of hope for consistency and if the Tigers can build from here, the next decade looks likely to be more fruitful and of course, full of ups and downs.


Copyright (R) thedailystar.net 2010