Bangladesh and Zimbabwe are ranked 9th and 10th in ODI cricket currently. Undoubtedly, they have been occupied the position of minnows since the last decade or so. It is a Himalayan task for both these teams to get to even the Top 8 of those rankings. And if Test cricket is taken into consideration, the less said, the better. Bangladesh is languishing at the bottom, whereas Zimbabwe is not eligible for Teststatus at the moment.
However, there is a ray of light in this darkness. Even today’s well-established teams like India, Sri Lanka and New Zealand took time to become what they are today. In the first ten years of international cricket, these teams didn’t make their presence felt at all. So the fact that Bangladesh, who is ten years old in international cricket, is a growing child and soon will become an adolescent, who will make an impact soon on the game.
It is understood that in a competitive market, a new firm will take time to settle and compete with firms which are large, having a huge market share. This is practical economics. However, Zimbabwe has been in international cricket since 1983. It is a shame for the nation not to advance year after year.
The country has been affected severely by their President Robert Mugabe. The external environment hasn’t helped groom the players to play for the national team. The situation is so pathetic that the country lost their Test status in 2005 and has to play most of their ODIs against Bangladesh!
Though, all is not lost. Bangladesh has a bright future ahead of them, looking at the better quality of cricket they have produced in the last one year or so. Although they have won just 9 of 66 Tests that they have played so far, yet they are growing well as a team with a positive, fine-quality player like Shakib al Hasan as their captain.
And also Jamie Siddons is their coach. In Tests, they have a good opening pair in young Tamim Iqbal and Imrul Kayes. Altogether, their batting in Test cricket looks impressive. Their captain is an all-rounder too. Bangladesh’s batting was one of the reasons of them winning the Tests in the West Indies last year. Though they lost all Tests at home last winter, they did win a few sessions comprehensively.
This was huge, considering the opponents were India and England. The most memorable being when Bangladesh bowled India out for a paltry 243 in the first Test at Chittagong, after Virender Sehwag said in a press conference that Bangladesh was an ‘ordinary’ team, which couldn’t pick 20 wickets in a Test match. And how wrong he was!
Also, in the second Test, Bangladesh was facing a huge first-innings deficit. But Tamim Iqbal showed his talent, by hammering 150 in the second innings on a crumbling pitch. The way he dominated Zaheer Khan and co was outstanding. The series against India prompted England’s stand-in captain Alastair Cook to say that Bangladesh are no more the underdogs.
Fortunately, even in the shorter formats of the game, the team is no longer dependent on Mohammad Ashraful, their most experienced player. This is a good sign for a united team. This team could go all the way and create more upsets against top teams just like they did against India at home in 2004, a much famous win against Australia in 2005 followed and a win against an in-form Sri Lanka in 2006.
However, the team has been impressive in world events too. They beat Pakistan in one of the most famous upsets in international cricket in the 1999 World Cup in England. India was once again beaten in the first round 2007 World Cup, effectively knocking them out of the tournament. And in the same tournament, Bangladesh also beat South Africa in the Super 8s stage. In the same year, there was the T-20 World Cup in South Africa also.
West Indies was beaten by Bangladesh comprehensively by 6 wickets, which allowed them to enter the Super 8s again. So if Bangladesh look to make a team which goes steady at least for the next two years, they could give the big guns a run for their money, as the team’s current average age is a mere 22!
Zimbabwe doesn’t have to face the pressures of Test cricket, although they might return to the format in one year’s time. So they can focus on rebuilding themselves in the ODI and T-20 formats. Like Bangladesh, Zimbabwe too has had some good outings. But it hasn’t been good going for the country against the top teams, though.
However, it seems that the country is going in the right direction, and wanting to emulate the achievements of the team of the 90s which had famous players like Heath Streak, the Flower brothers, Guy Whittall, Henry Olonga, Alastair Campbell and Douglas Hondo.
The racial quota system seems to be forgotten these days and as a result, players who had retired earlier have come back into the current team. For example, Andy Blignaut, Tatenda Taibu and Ray Price are a few talented players who have returned to play for their country.
And with a good amount of experienced players such as Prosper Utseya, Hamilton Masakadza, the captain Elton Chigumbura and wicket-keeper Brendan Taylor, the team looks set to bloom under the guidance of national coach Alan Butcher. Duncan Fletcher, the former England coach and Zimbabwe captain, is also taking huge interest in the activities of the High Performance Centre at Harare, which will allow aspiring players get some advice on the tricks of the trade.
This team can start its recovery through the T-20 format. They beat Australia in 2007 in the first round of the T-20 World Cup. They also beat them in the warm-up match of the 2009 T-20 World Cup, alongside defending champions Pakistan. And can their future get much better with Harbhajan Singh, donating branded cricket kits to the current team, courtesy Reebok?? Well, that remains to be seen in the immediate future.
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