Bangladesh, West Indies success busts myth of Test cricket in danger
Bangladesh created history as they secured their first-ever Test win against Australia in the Dhaka Test while the West Indies broke a 17-year jinx and registered their a Test win in England. Both these results suggest that Test cricket is in safe hands, for the time being.Updated: Sep 01, 2017 13:31 IST
“Test cricket is in danger.” “Test cricket needs more of Ashes and India vs Pakistan clashes to keep the format viable.” “Test cricket is ultimate.”
For the last 10 years, these statements regarding Test cricket have become common. The ICC are proposing a two-tier Test system, where the top five teams plays more often and grab more eyeballs and revenue. The bottom five play less frequently and are played as if they are out of sight, out of mind.
West Indies and Bangladesh are part of the ‘bottom five’ of Test cricket. They have been singled out for lack of competitive spirit which fails to give context to competitive Test series. In West Indies’s case, it is more disheartening considering the fact that they were the original superpowers of the game from the 70s to the 80s. When one looks at Bangladesh, for 16 years since their introduction to Tests in 2000, they have hardly caused ripples.
Yet, in the last two days, West Indies and Bangladesh have gone a long way to dispel the myth that Test cricket is in danger. The West Indies, who were “sorry to watch” in the Edgbaston Test, won a Test after 17 years in England. Bangladesh created history when they defeated Australia by 20 runs and are now on the cusp of securing a series win against one of the top nations in world cricket. And to think, the Ashes begins in November!
Bangladesh’s steady rise
On instinct, a Bangladesh win over Australia qualifies as an upset. However, is it really an upset? Yes and No. Yes, for the fact that prior to this match, Bangladesh had won only 9 out of 100 Tests. No, for two reasons. One, since October 2016, Bangladesh had defeated England and Sri Lanka, home and away. Those two wins had signaled Bangladesh’s coming of age. Second, Australia has shown time and time again that they collapse like a pack of cards on spinning tracks in the sub-continent.
Be it 2-0 in the UAE against Pakistan in 2014, 3-0 in Sri Lanka in 2016, 1-2 in India in 2017 and now in Dhaka, the nightmare plays out over and over again.
In the backdrop of Australia’s struggles in the Asian sub-continent, this win should technically not be counted as an upset. In view of Bangladesh’s recent success, this win can only signal the arrival of Bangladesh on the bigger stage.
For Tests to gain popularity, the world would want Bangladesh to perform away on a consistent basis. Once they start winning away regularly, the dynamics will change. Test cricket will be made more competitive. The 20-run win over Australia has shown they cannot be considered minnows anymore.
Improbable West Indies
“Painful to watch.” “Worst Test match team.” “Very embarrassing.”
These were the terms that described the West Indies team after their defeat in the Pink-Ball Test. These terms were painful to read for fans who knew the “Fire in Babylon” West Indies of the 70’s and 80’s.
However, in Leeds, the Windies displayed grit and passion. Two youngsters - Kraigg Brathwaite and Shai Hope - guided the team to their first win in England since 2000. Brathwaite had played a starring role in West Indies’ previous overseas win, which was against Pakistan in Sharjah in 2016.
The improbable nature of West Indies’ win has once again created hope of a side putting away all their off-field squabbles and consistent decline to rest. For far too long, West Indies have been plagued by false dawns. The team would do well to heed their match-winner Shai Hopes’ words after the Leeds win in which he said, “We’re Test cricketers for a reason. We have the fight, belief and players to do it.”
Fight and belief. These two factors defined the wins in Leeds and Dhaka. However, things could change. In the next game at Lord’s, West Indies could get thrashed and lose the series. Australia could level the series in Chittagong and all the cynics could say that the status quo remains.
But the wins in Leeds and Dhaka have shown is that Test cricket will survive only if less-fancied teams like Bangladesh and West Indies perform consistently. For the moment, it can be safely said that Test cricket is in no danger. However, both West Indies and Bangladesh will be hoping their success is not a flash in the pan.