In the summer of 2009, the Bangladesh cricket team toured the West Indies and enjoyed what till date remains their most successful overseas tour. Due to industrial action between the Cricket Board and the Players' Association, the West Indies fielded a weak team which was missing its entire First XI during the series.
Bangladesh easily accounted for the severely weakened hosts, winning the Test series 2–0 and the ODI series 3–0. In the Test series, the two wins were only its second and third Test victories since gaining entry into cricket’s elite club in 2000, and of course its first wins away from home. It was also their first ODI series win away from home against a Test playing nation. The West Indies managed a consolation win in the one-off T20I.
Given the circumstances which led to these achievements however, few will have celebrated them and to Bangladesh’s credit, there has never been any crowing about the time they went and brown washed the Caribbean islanders in two forms of the game in their own backyard.
Fast forward 12 years, and this time it was Bangladesh hosting the West Indies, in a series that was heralded as the return of international cricket to the country following the break enforced by the coronavirus pandemic. Understandably people were excited by the prospect no-end, but then the West Indies had to go and play spoiler once again: upto 10 West Indian players, including the captains of both the Test and ODI teams, opted not to travel due to COVID-19 concerns or personal reasons, forcing the selectors to send what appeared to be a very weak, inexperienced side on paper.
And although Bangladesh did make pretty light work of it in the 3-match ODI series to start the tour, things fell horrifically apart in the 2-match Test series that followed. Abysmal cricket with bat and ball at key moments, an extraordinary inability to handle pressure, and a glaring lack of leadership meant the tourists ended up winning both Tests, paying the hosts back for the 2009 brownwash.
Bangladesh have been left scratching their heads on how to become a better Test side. But it’s not clear yet what steps can make Bangladesh do better in the most prestigious format of the game. However, Mominul Haque, Bangladesh’s Test captain, believes the team's batting has to improve in order to fulfill that aim.
The Tigers, as they are lovingly known, got Test status in 2000, but they are still considered minnows in this format. They already played five matches as part of the ongoing World Test Championship, but failed to win any of them. In the last two years, Bangladesh won only one Test, and that came against Zimbabwe, who themselves are mired in all sorts of problems, including ones off the field, that are affecting their cricket.
Ahead of the series against West Indies, Bangladesh’s captain Mominul Haque said they were disappointed that West Indies were sending an under-strength team. More than 10 first-choice players pulled out of the squad for the Caribbean islanders on the back of COVID-19 fears. But at the end of the series, the “under-strength team” proved too good for the Tigers.
“It was tough luck. We should have chased the target (in Dhaka Test). But due to the failure of the top and middle-order batsmen, we failed to do so,” Mominul said after the series. “The wicket was good to bat on. There was not much bounce. But (Rahkeem) Cornwall got some bounce due to his height, otherwise, the wicket was good to bat. But we failed to win this game.”
West Indies needed to chase a big target of 395 runs in Chattogram in the fourth innings of the first Test match. They successfully did it riding on the bat of Kyle Mayers who hit an outstanding double-ton on debut. After that match, Mominul said it was unbelievable to him to think that they could lose. But in Dhaka, he dropped back to reality.
“I don’t think it was unbelievable. They were ahead of us at the end of the first innings. They bowled well in the second innings as well. The way Tamim (Iqbal) and Soumya (Sarkar) started the chase, we thought we would win the game. But after losing some quick wickets, we have lost the momentum. But Miraz (Mehidy Hasan) did really well at the end, but it was so late to bounce back,” Mominul added.
It is believed that the absence of Shakib Al Hasan was one of the reasons behind Bangladesh’s defeat in this series. Shakib, who made a comeback to Tests with this series, was out of the action in most parts of the Chattogram Test due to a groin injury, and was left out of the Dhaka Test.
To replace Shakib, the selectors recalled Soumya Sarkar, who was not considered for Tests in recent time. Soumya failed to deliver as he posted a duck and 13. At the end of the series, Nazmul Hassan, the BCB president, criticized the selectors and team management for calling Soumya instead of Mahmudullah Riyad, who was president’s first choice to replace Shakib.
“When I came to know that Shakib is injured and we need a replacement, I gave them four-five options. Akram (Khan), Nannu (Minhajul Abedin), Sumon (Habibul Bashar) were there. I told them to go for any one of Mahmudullah, Mosaddek (Hossain), Mahidy (Hasan) or Soumya. Mahmudullah was the first option, but the selectors went for Soumya,” Nazmul told the media after the Dhaka Test at Sher-e-Bangla National Cricket Stadium.
While selecting a squad is always the duty of the selectors, who are supposed to be independent, Nazmul developed a tendency to interrupt the process over the last few years.
“They (team management) had confirmed me to play at least two pacers in Dhaka, but they didn’t. We’ll ask for their explanation. They have to answer this. After observing the last two series, we understood that there are some problems. So we have to find those out. And, one thing is clear that our pacers are better than our spinners,” he further told the media.
He continued making the case for more pacers to be included in the playing eleven: “We have more pacers now. Look at some previous domestic events, where pacers did really well. Why will we not play more pacers when we have them? They selected five pace bowlers in the squad but they don’t play them. We have to find a solution. We just cannot leave it this way. I didn't say much after losing a Test to Afghanistan, but today, I am telling many things. We have to make some changes,” he further told the media.
Bangladesh captain believes the Tigers need to work on their batting more and this is the only way they can improve their status as a Test team.
“We have to work more (on batting). In the next series, we’ll take on Sri Lanka. I think we can do better against them. The batsmen should play longer innings in Tests to get the positive results in our favour,” Mominul further told the media after the Dhaka Test which the Tigers lost by 17 runs.