Zim-B’desh battle for ranking

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There are no nicknames to Bangladesh-Zimbabwe contests, nor is the Test trophy named after famous cricketers from either side.

cricinfo

It is international cricket’s most rustic competition, an exercise to avoid the wooden spoon.

The series winner will take ninth place in the rankings, and ninth place is a long way away from tenth.

In a luminous parallel contest, Australia are gunning for top spot and Pakistan looking to extend their record of never losing a series in the UAE since it became their official home away from home.

No such honours are at stake in Dhaka, Khulna and Chittagong over the next three weeks. This battle is a lot about self-esteem with the winners seeking not plaudits but the satisfaction of avoiding disaster.

Indeed, for Zimbabwe to lose to Bangladesh would be as much damaging as it would be for Bangladesh to lose to Zimbabwe at home.

For the Bangladesh players, defeat would leave them vulnerable to all sorts of questions.

And there is talk of defeat first due to the build-up of poor form throughout the year.

Results didn’t matter for Bangladesh until around 2009, when they started to win with a bit more regularity. There have been bad patches during this period, but none more painful than their horror run this year — they have won just two of their 25 international matches this year, and those were T20 games against Afghanistan and Nepal.

Another series defeat, or even a loss in the first Test, would make it open season on these cricketers. Already Abdur Razzak has blamed the media for his poor form and Nasir Hossain has admitted that reading newspapers has made him take criticism too seriously. Of course this is never recommended, but their poor form has not been taken lightly either.

While many of the players are still quite young, it doesn’t take too long for a player to be dumped out of sight and forgotten for good. New chapters are written up fairly quickly.

The most difficult period in the last ten months was between June and September. After losing to a second-string India in the ODIs at home, getting shot out for 58 in the second game, they lost Shakib Al Hasan for three months due to his indiscretions. The batting form frustrated in the West Indies and the bowling continued looking thin.

It is in stark contrast to how Bangladesh went into their last Test series against Zimbabwe. They had just drawn a Test in Sri Lanka and had won their first ODI there.

It was a significant step for a developing team. Even losing their first Test and the ODI series against Zimbabwe didn’t seem to dent them too badly.

They bounced back with an ODI series win and two drawn Tests against New Zealand.

One of the main reasons for Bangladesh not returning to winning ways after June has been the enormous shock to their system during the World T20 — the defeat to Hong Kong.

The pressure of being defated by an unranked side, while playing at home, and having to play with that embarrassment in the second round, took its toll on the team.

After months of trial and error, Bangladesh are going into the first Test with a punt in the form of a rookie legspinner and heavy reliance on the senior players Mushfiqur Rahim, Shakib Al Hasan and Tamim Iqbal.

In the past, the basis of many Bangladesh victories has been one individual pulling the team with him.

These three have to be mindful that Bangladesh, with a reconstructed top-order, might be missing a cog that has often held the middle and lower order together, in Nasir, and perhaps their best seam bowler, in Robiul Islam.

The senior players have a lot to fight for. Mushfiqur lost the ODI captaincy and Shakib is returning to international cricket after being banned by the BCB.

Tamim is often questioned for his lack of big runs. They now have three Test matches to fix all their ills.
Most importantly, all of their troubles can be solved by winning, as is always the case in professional sport. Winning fixes everything in cricket too, at least that’s what the players would tell you.

And in Bangladesh, you win and all your ills are forgotten.

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