Life Below Stairs

Life at the bottom of world cricket's pile is tough and unforgiving. Players come and go, results mostly comprise a depressing mixture of defeats and the odd draw. The world's media are at best patronising, at worst damning.

This is what life has been like for Bangladesh ever since it became a Test playing nation almost ten years ago. A relentless but always cheerful and committed struggle, consistent failure punctuated with brief shafts of glory, as at Cardiff, June 2005.

The signs now are slightly better; a Test series has been won, and recent opportunities to beat England for the first time have been missed through a combination of opponents' brilliance and their own naivete. An outstanding player, Shakib Al Hasan, has been found, and the rest of the side is predominantly young, talented and optimistic.

For Zimbabwe's players things have been slightly different. For well-documented reasons they have usually been the recipients of sympathy rather than criticism; for the same reasons they haven't spent the same amount of time in the firing line as their Bangladeshi counterparts. Their recent victories in the Caribbean have signalled the possibility of a return to credibility, even if the great days of the past - of the Flowers, of Goodwin, of Johnson, of Streak, of Olonga - are gone for ever.

In small ways, things are looking up for both Zimbabwe and Bangladesh.

Unfortunately they can't play the West indies every week.


Russ said...

The incongruity here is that Bangladesh have never been at the bottom of the world cricket pile. They are probably somewhere between the 8th and 12th best team in the world - a Portugal or Mexico in football terms - somewhere in the middle of the two dozen nations that regularly play international cricket.

Unfortunately, the ICC has created a uniquely elitist system of classification that prevents Bangladesh from showing their superiority to associate teams, relegating them to endless thrashings at the hands of their test counterparts.

It really is quite unfair on Bangladesh, to subject them to derision when they are quite good, compared to most. Not to mention detrimental to their cricket, since, from my observation, their biggest problem these days is not talent, but an inability to seize the moment. And that ability is something that can be learnt, by playing and winning against inferior opposition.

Brian Carpenter said...

I agree about the elitist system. From time to time people suggest dividing Test cricket into divisions, which would help Bangladesh.

I don't think the comparison with football stands up, though, because of the nature of the game and the number of countries that play it to a decent level. A quick glance at the FIFA website shows that England are currently ranked 8th in the world and they're not subject to 'endless thrashings' (although a few people may wish them to be, as everyone always seems to want to beat England more than anyone else, whatever the sport!)

Edmund said...

Indeed. Now that Pakistan's demise has confirmed the division of the test arena into two tiers (five countries at the top - A, E, I, SA, SL - all capable of beating each other, and then the other five), Bangladesh have a real chance to excel against the second tier of test nations. They are now set to become the leading Islamic team, soon to be chased by the rising Afghanistan. Even their lack of a fast bowler may not be so much of a disadvantage as before, with the disappearance of real pacemen from tests (see Peter Roebuck's latest in Cricinfo).

Dean @ Cricket Betting Blog said...

Edmund, did a piece myself about pacemen disappearing from Test cricket last week, will have to read Roebuck's article.

Brett Lee, Shane Bond and Flintoff have all retired from Test cricket recently, Akhtar spent most of his days injured, and England (over the past 5 years) and Australia (lately) have had a horrendous injury list of bowlers , I know they are not all strictly out and out quicks, but the treadmill of constantly playing and the 'Chief Executive' wickets in the India, West Indies, etc, appears to be a problem in cricket these days for pace bowlers in general.

I do agree that Bangladesh are a talented side, for me when a big win comes (hopefully not this weekend), and I think it will soon, I think we may well see them gain self belief and flourish.

Looking at the ODI against England, they just seemed to lack the know how, to finish the job.

Russ said...

A tiered system will never pass muster at the ICC. The financial and prestige loss for teams in the second tier (even Bangladesh) are too great. For a long time I was in favour of a tiered system of 6 teams, but the vehemence of a New Zealand detractor brought me around. My preference now is for a tournament structure, with qualification, much like football has.

I do agree, incidentally, that football is much more balanced, and has a much stronger base of teams. But, remember, even if Bangladesh were as bad as 15th, they'd still play all their games against the top 9 (and be thrashed). And even if Ireland were as good as 7th, they'd still play no-one better than 11th (and win everything). That's the problem.

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