Back in 2000, India had played a major role in helping Bangladesh attain Test status. Ironically, India remained the only nation not to have hosted them in a Test so far.
When Bangladesh step on to the field at the Uppal stadium , they would have finally played Tests in all nations, something they were denied by India’s reluctance to host them over the past 17 years.
India had emerged as a global cricket superpower and a hot destination for the sport in the period when Bangladesh were just getting a feel of the ‘big league’. The Indian board could pick and choose, even ignore certain teams.
After Bangladesh beat India in an ODI series in 2015, their coach, Chandika Hathurusingha, had hinted at India’s condescending attitude. “They (India) always look at Bangladesh as the younger nation playing cricket,” he was quoted as saying.
But to be fair to India, Bangladesh weren’t actually good enough. In their 16 years of Test cricket, they’ve lost 38 of the 44 Tests they’ve played away from home. Three were draws and their only wins came against a depleted West Indies and a weak Zimbabwe. Even at home, they’ve been poor. In 53 Tests, they have won just five times and four of those have come against Zimbabwe.
Against India at home, they have lost six times out of eight. These are figures that can leave anyone disinterested.
There was some odd success like when they beat India to oust them from the 2007 World Cup. That bunch of young cricketers --- either just out of their teens or in their early 20s --- were hailed as the next big thing in international cricket.
Things, however, didn’t go that way immediately. Mohammed Ashraful, hailed as a batting genius, was banned due to spot-fixing in the Bangladesh Premier League. Tamim Iqbal, who led the way in that win over India, hasn’t quite graduated to the level of a stable opener. Mushfiqur Rahim and Shakib Al Hasan, both of whom starred in that game, continue to impress but can’t be match-winners.
But there is something that former bowling coach Heath Streak pointed out recently. The emergence of youngsters like Mustafizur Rahman, Taskin Ahmed and Soumya Sarkar has given them the X-factor. Together with the seniors, they are beginning to threaten teams.
Although their performance in the warm-up may have been below-par, they will have enough to draw confidence from against India. They’ve run up good rivalries with India in limited-overs cricket and surprised England, handing them a Test defeat. They ran New Zealand close before nerves and inexperience in alien conditions did them in.
India coach Anil Kumble summed up his team’s approach. “They are a very improved side. They had a good outing in New Zealand. Bangladesh has quality players, good allrounders. So, it is going to be an interesting contest.”