In history books it is Test match number 1,512, but for cricket-obsessed Bangladesh, it is number one. On November 10th 2000, Bangladesh played their first ever Test match against an India lineup that featured the likes of Sachin Tendulkar and Rahul Dravid. India did not hold back on the newcomers, cruising to a 9 wicket win that week, but in the years since that day in November 2000 we have seen some exciting and inspiring moments out of the Bangladesh Test side. It’s worth taking a look back at their development and where the future lies for the South Asian country in the game’s most celebrated format.
Following the loss to India in the inaugural match, it took nearly a full year for Bangladesh to claim their first draw. As far as draws come, it was an ugly one in Dhaka against Zimbabwe. The visitors were thoroughly beating Bangladesh until rain arrived cancelling out the final two days. Not exactly how those at the Bangladesh Cricket Board wanted to celebrate their first year as full Test-status ICC members.
Unfortunately for the fans and players, success in Test cricket proved illusive. Bangladesh closed out 2002 without winning or drawing a Test, the same goes for 2003. 27 Test matches under their belt and they had managed only one rain-soaked draw at home to Zimbabwe. 2004 would prove to be a better year as they managed back-to-back draws against Zimbabwe in Bulawayo and against the West Indies in Saint Lucia, but the real moment of celebration would come just after the New Year. Zimbabwe was back in Bangladesh and playing the first Test of the tour in Chittagong on January 6th.
Poor batting since their inclusion into Test cricket five years earlier had plagued Bangladesh, but it all came together for them during the five day Test. In Bangladesh’s first inning, four players would score half centuries while two more missed by just a combined three runs. They were eventually all out for 488 after the first inning. Zimbabwe was able to muster 312 before being bowled all out after 131.4 overs. Bangladesh managed another 204 runs in their second inning, putting them comfortably ahead of the visitors who quickly folded going 154 all out. It was the first ever victory for Bangladesh in Test cricket, topping Zimbabwe by 226 runs at the MA Aziz Stadium in Chittagong just short of their fifth year with Test status. Captain Habibul Bashar () called it the best day of his life and still speaks fondly about the day years on from it. The celebrations that night in Chittagong may have lasted into the morning, but the success on the field was short lived. Bangladesh would return to struggling, losing over 20 Test matches from 2005 through to 2009 without managing to win again.
Back to back wins in the West Indies capped off a more promising 9th year of Test cricket, but it has only been in the last two years that Bangladesh has begun to take the next step as a Test status side. Much of Bangladesh’s success in T20 and ODI as well as in Test matches of recent is down to Chandika Hathurusingha, who was appointed coach in the spring of 2014. The Sri Lankan has brought new energy and confidence to the side. The recent tour of Bangladesh by South Africa coming off the back of the World Cup showed just how improved the team has become. Bangladesh won two of the three ODIs and while the two Test matches were both drawn due to rain, it was far removed from their first ever rain drawn match. Instead of being bailed out by rain, Bangladesh was unlucky to get a result, as they were by far the superior team versus the Proteas in Chittagong.
There is no doubt that the first fifteen years of Test cricket in Bangladesh have been extremely tough, a record of 7-71-15 shows just how difficult it has been, but the future looks increasingly bright. Hathurusingha is building a solid foundation across the three formats of the game, with a particularly dangerous ODI squad that seems to be inspiring the Test side. In addition, the youngsters in the squad today have no doubt gained excellent exposure having been raised watching their country compete in Test cricket, something not available to the early 2000s teams. Mustafizur Rahman, at just 20 years of age, looks to be a star in the making, having already had three 5 wicket hauls in ODIs. Another youngster to keep an eye on in the longest format of the game is Liton Das who made his debut earlier this year and who averages 32 runs in his first matches.
It certainly took long enough for Bangladesh to get to where they are now, but the foundations have grown in the last fifteen years and there is unquestionably forward progress. There has been debate about the inclusion of the country as a Test side, but there can be little doubt that they have made for a richer, more exciting experience for cricket fans. Let us hope the next fifteen years features further success for Bangladesh in Test cricket.