On Bangladesh’s Futility

Played 71. Won 3. Lost 61. Drawn 7.

That is the extent of Bangladesh’s futility in the international test arena since their introduction as full ICC member in 2000. With a deft masterstroke that even Machiavelli will be proud of, Jagmohan Dalmiya during his tenure as the President of ICC, awarded Test Status to Bangladesh (who obtained ODI status in 1986) thereby making them a full member of ICC which gave them more importantly an equal seat at the ICC table. What exactly have Bangladesh accomplished that they should continue to enjoy the benefits of full ICC membership?

Others at 71 Tests

A young side that is fresh on the scene, that isn’t the most gifted in terms of talent and skills, was going to struggle in the international test arena. It wasn’t just Bangladesh; India took about 20 years before they registered their first test win but thanks to the Future Tours Program (FTP), Bangladesh have played remarkably 71 tests in just 11 short years while India played only 25 tests in their first 20 years as a test playing nation. The following table provides the results tally for Bangladesh’s sub-continental brethren in their first 71 tests as well as Zimbabwe and New Zealand.

Country Span M W L D W/L Draw% Ave
Bangladesh 2000-2011 71 3 61 7 0.04 9.86 21.96
India 1932-1961 71 6 29 36 0.2 50.70 27.22
New Zealand 1930-1965 71 3 34 34 0.08 47.89 22.75
Pakistan 1952-1973 71 11 21 39 0.52 54.93 28.91
Sri Lanka 1982-1997 71 9 33 29 0.27 40.85 27.51
Zimbabwe 1992-2003 71 7 40 24 0.17 33.80 27.38


The most striking aspects of the above table is that Bangladesh’s Win-Loss ratio is just 0.04 and they have managed to draw less than 10% of their 71 matches. Two of their three test wins came against a depleted West Indies side in 2009 and the other against Zimbabwe in 2005. The other test sides even during their teething years when they were learning to master test match cricket have shown a remarkable ability to draw games. Even Zimbabwe drew nearly 34% of their first 71 matches, which was achieved based on the exploits of some accomplished batsmen. New Zealand, who rival Bangladesh in futility in their initial 71 tests, at least drew nearly 50% of their matches. Another telling stat from the table is Bangladesh’s batting average (less than 22 runs per wicket) in an era of enhanced scoring and standardized pitches.

Bangladesh in ODIs

The picture is better (slightly) in the ODIs with Bangladesh winning 37% of their 258 matches. There is however still a caveat; 30 of Bangladesh’s 70 ODI wins have come against Zimbabwe and only 18 against other test nations in the period from 1986 to 2011. Bangladesh have made some giant killings especially in ICC World Cup tournaments that gave hope to their fans and cricket followers all over, that they may have turned the corner only to see them slide right back.

Country Span M W L T NR W/L Ave
Bangladesh 1986-2011 258 70 186 0 2 0.37 22.97
India 1974-2004 258 117 131 2 8 0.89 28.94
Pakistan 1973-1994 258 126 122 3 7 1.03 28.74
Sri Lanka 1975-1998 258 94 151 1 12 0.62 27.3
Zimbabwe 1983-2004 258 68 178 4 8 0.38 26.32
Ireland 2006-2011 70 32 34 1 3 0.94 27.2


Once again, the batting average (per wicket) of Bangladesh in their 25 years as an ODI team is the lowest amongst the sub-continental teams and they are more than 5 runs less than the proficiency of new comers Ireland. Remarkably, Ireland fares a lot better in the W/L ratio than Bangladesh (0.94 to 0.37). Another interesting factoid to note is that the other sub-continental teams had won a World Cup by the time they played their 258th ODI match and the best finish for Bangladesh was reaching the super eight stage during the 2007 World Cup in the West Indies.

The Players and Future of Bangladesh Cricket

In the 25 years of playing ODIs and 11 years as a test-playing nation, the number of players that have debuted for Bangladesh in the two formats is, 62 and 101, respectively. The following table provides the corresponding numbers for the cricketing history of the sub-continental nations and Zimbabwe.

Team Tests Players Players/Test ODIs Players Players/ODI
Bangladesh 71 62 0.87 258 101 0.39
India 458 273 0.60 791 192 0.24
Pakistan 362 208 0.57 760 188 0.25
Sri Lanka 207 121 0.58 643 149 0.23
Zimbabwe 86 82 0.95 404 113 0.28


This influx of players representing Bangladesh has ensured that there isn’t a viable veteran leadership in the team that can guide the youngsters, which is quite the norm in others teams. There are 18 players centrally contracted by the Bangladesh Cricket Board (BCB) and their average age is just a little more than 24 years with Abdur Razzak being the oldest at 29 and Rubel Hossain the youngest at 21. These 18 players, on average, have limited first class experience of 50 matches, 16 tests and 70 ODIs. The hope is that the core of the future Bangladesh team would be from these players and would take their team to the doorsteps of glory as they mature and learn to win together.

After a disastrous 2011 World cup, the captaincy responsibility has been handed over to the young Wicket Keeper Mushfiqur Rahim. Shakib Al Hasan is rated as one of the top allrounders in the game. In Tamim Iqbal, Bangladesh have an explosive batsman. It is safe to assume that these three players will form the bulwark of Bangladesh’s future as a cricketing nation, but how well have they progressed so far in their test career? The graph below shows the cumulative batting average of Iqbal, Hasan and Rahim so far in their career. Tamim Iqbal promised so much more when he scored back-to-back hundreds in 2010 playing against England. He is still Bangladesh’s best batsman in tests yet he only averages 40. Shakib Al Hasan has a middling average of 30 and the new captain Rahim fares even worse, after 26 tests (28.38).

The temperamental talent, Mohammad Ashraful, was given a long run but despite having the tools to be a very good batsman, he never really did justice to his talents or the opportunities, averaging a measly 23 in 56 tests! That’s just criminal. Rightly, the BCB selectors had showed Ashraful the door but now, he has been called back to the test squad to play in the upcoming series against Pakistan. The table given below paints a sorry picture as to the proficiency of Bangladesh’s batting future.

Player M I NO R HS Ave 100s 50s
T. Iqbal 22 42 0 1689 151 40.21 4 10
Ashraful 56 109 4 2418 158* 23.02 5 8
M. Rahim 26 51 4 1334 101 28.38 1 8
S. Al Hasan 24 45 2 1421 100 33.04 1 8





As mentioned earlier, the lack of test quality batsmen in their ranks has severely hampered Bangladesh’s ability to compete and when possible, draw matches. In their home conditions, they are still a decent bowling unit that can provide the team a sniff of victory (as they did against Australia and India) but the batting line-up that is severely lacking in temperament and experience puts paid to those glimmering hopes.

An important aspect to consider here is that India, Pakistan etc got their feet wet at the test level when there were other nations that were of comparable experience and talent level while Bangladesh only has the revamped Zimbabwe for company. This perhaps provides some more merit to the voices that have asked for Bangladesh and Zimbabwe to be demoted to a level below Test status so that they can play four or five day matches against opponents of their caliber and develop winning habits instead of getting bashed in by established test nations.

I do not subscribe to the notion that test cricket should be an elitist sport. As it is, we have only 10 nations playing it. However, there is scope for the institution of a two-tier test system with relegation and promotion, allowing for movement of teams between the two tiers. I do realize this is only a pipe dream, as the politicking in ICC boardroom would never allow such a thing to happen!

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8 Responses to On Bangladesh’s Futility

  1. David Barry says:

    My biggest quibble is with the ODI table – Ireland’s W/L is boosted by getting to play lots against non-Test teams. 50-over games between the top 16 (I think) teams have only been classed as ODI’s for a few years.

    Russ was right to point out (on Twitter) that NZ had the advantage of three-day Tests, which allowed them to draw more games. Bangladesh are further disadvantaged in these comparisons by the faster modern scoring rates, which means that their opponents will have more time to bowl them out and force victories.

    Still, Bangladesh were atrocious in their first years as a Test team. I’ve grouped NZ’s, SL’s, Zim’s and Bangladesh’s early Tests into groups of 10 matches and plotted the ratio of the batting average to the bowling average. http://twitpic.com/7qin7t You can see that Bangladesh were MUCH worse than the other three teams early on, but in recent times they have reached “respectable minnow” levels – about where NZ were, not quite as solid as Zimbabwe before the latter started their downward slide. My impression is that people generally haven’t realised that Bangladesh’s Test results in the last few years have actually been enormous improvements on their early days.

    Their batsmen’s occupation of the crease remains poor, albeit improving: http://twitpic.com/7qinc8

    • David,

      Thanks for the comment. I appreciate you providing the two graphs as well. As to your first point regarding Ireland’s record perhaps boosted by their playing associate nations: Doesn’t it make it more valid the argument that Bangladesh need to be playing teams that are a lot more close to their abilities and talent levels than mixing it up with the more established cricketing nations?

      Even if we were to discount NZ’s record in their first 71 tests that includes nearly 50% of draws, Bangladesh appear to be very poor in comparison to India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. All this boils down to a simple fact that Bangladesh are just not good enough to be playing tests. Not yet, anyway. They need to fix their first class cricket (whatever FC they have that is) and make a solid pipeline for their cricketing talent to develop before throwing them to the dogs. The table I provided in terms of number of debuts per test (and ODI) and the average age of the teams reflect that Bangladesh are blooding their players far too young. Considering the fact that their FC is not up to scratch as well, they get ruthlessly exposed. Sure, they may have an occasional mind-blowing hundred (such as Nafees, Ashraful and Tamim) but all in all, they are out of their depth at current test level.

  2. Ant Sims says:

    Have you proposes your notion of a two tier system to the ICC yet? They’re calling for ways to govern and all of that. Good post as always, Subash.

    • Ant,

      Thanks for the comment. ICC is, to put it mildly, a joke. In India, we have a President and Prime Minister. The PM is elected by the people (well, his political part is elected and the elected reps from that party then, nominate a PM) but the President is elected by the upper and lower houses of Parliament and he/she doesn’t really wield much executive power. Although, the title “President” sounds fancy and great, they can’t really do jack. That’s what ICC is. They can’t do jack. They keep introducing all these fancy modifications and rules and technology in to the game without really evaluating how they are gonna affect the game. International Cricket is ICC’s chemistry lab. They conveniently pass the buck and blame “certain” member nations if they can’t their shit straight. They sicken me, I tell ya… They sicken me. 🙂

  3. Burton DeWitt says:

    I’d love to see a play-in match between Bangladesh and Ireland at Chittagong for test status. If Ireland beat Bangladesh, Bangladesh lose test status. If Ireland win again, they head to Harare and if they win there they get test status. Fair enough, no? Three wins for test status. Or in Bangla’s case, one loss and we’re finally freed of their misery.

  4. Russ says:

    Subash, DB’s method is a more accurate measure than pure results, but even it has its weaknesses. Bangladesh haven’t had the benefit of three and four day tests, although their record at getting tests to the 4th/5th day is broadly similar to NZ. They also don’t get to play against second XIs at home (the odd player notwithstanding) as India and Pakistan often did in the 1950s, and the less said about the 1930 England side that went to NZ the better (it has no business being classed as a test series). And they have played those 71 games over a shorter time period, without the benefit of generational development, and entirely against established sides, whereas WI, NZ, India and Pakistan all developed largely concurrently. Apples and Oranges.

    Statistics may justify you bad-mouthing Bangladesh, but they tell you nothing about the best thing for cricket generally, and cricket in its weaker regions specifically. there are a lot of assumptions made about “development” and “test nations”, and few of them have any basis in anything other than prejudice.

    Take your statement above “Bangladesh are just not good enough to be playing tests”. Implicit in that is the idea that there is a “test standard”. I defy you to tell me what that is. Good enough to play for England or India; or New Zealand or West Indies? There is a vast gulf between those two sets of nations. There is almost always a vast gulf between the best “test nation” and the worst “test nation”. As ought to be obvious when one nation goes almost 20 years between wins against another. If you hunt through cricketing history it is easy to find English and Australian journalists talking down the merits of various nations and declaiming their right to play test cricket for lack of an arbitrary “standard”. The so-called standard is never defined, never fixed (unless you accept the English journalism trope that a nation is unworthy until it has beaten England at home), and never applied to their own cricket. It is elitism, and it ought to be abolished from the game; it does nothing for it, and certainly not test cricket.

    Then there is the implicit assumption that there is a development path nations undertake, from weak to acceptable. Yet there is little evidence that this path is ever trodden. Teams generally are as strong as the players they have; they enter test cricket weak but okay, regress as the generation of players that proved themselves prior to gaining test status retire, then ebb broadly in line with what you’d expect a nation of those resources to achieve – the existence or absence of great players who can change their fortunes aside.

    NZ have had two stretches when they’ve been better than an average side, none when they’ve been better than average, and many when they’ve been ordinary. Yet they were still the 5th side to be granted test cricket. Bangladesh, who were 10th, and who therefore ought to be perform in line with the 10th best resourced side ought to lose more than NZ when playing sides better than they are. Test cricket’s inherent elitism requires them to only play sides better than they are. In that context, their record is probably worse than expected, but only because they probably weren’t 10th when they achieved test status. That, almost certainly was Kenya, but now that their golden generation has retired, they’ve slipped to 16th or worse.

    International sport is, by its nature, uneven; a handful of nations will always be at or near the top, a great mass of them will be good for periods of time. That raises all sorts of problems for the current setup of test cricket. If cricket is to be a global sport, and I believe it will be, and ought to be, then there will be a great mass of nations that cannot compete with the top few sides. That is a problem in an insane setup where every nation is expected to play every other. Conversely though, if test cricket is to remain the pre-eminent form of cricket every nation needs to have the ability to play test cricket. The alternative, make T20 or ODI cricket the form of the sport that most of cricket’s nations aspire to win at will relegate test cricket to the dustbin of history.

    Naturally, if we wish to make test cricket both competitive and open, we need to create a structure that is both hierarchical and fluid. Within such a system, Bangladesh would probably play as many games to teams below them as above them, and have a 50% win-loss record. A statistic just as meaningless as the one you provided. Competition is always relative. If a team is not competitive, it is because the structure of competition is broken, not because the team is necessarily bad.

    Your suggestion of tiers is not a new one. Nor is it a good one. For four reasons. Firstly, the FTP is not designed to promote competition, but to provide financial security, unless you also discuss finances you are wasting your breath. Secondly, sporting spectacle (which drives interest and development) depends on seeing great players play; there is already a second tier of “test” cricket in the Intercontinental Cup, and it receives almost no coverage – no nation would risk the purgatory of relegation and years in the wilderness. Thirdly, competitiveness is not everything, there are certain fixtures that matter out of all proportion to their competitiveness: Australia-New Zealand, India-Pakistan, the Ashes; any system that doesn’t maintain them in some form is not worth having. Finally, a test league of 4 years duration (which is what tiers imply) would be boring. Leagues were invented for the same reason as the FTP, to maintain incomes; there is a reason sports obsess over parity, and it because even in relatively equal leagues, a single season of a league can be boring (lack context) though at least a team gets their fixture money. International sport, being highly unequal almost always has a cup format, for the simple reason that cups work better.

    As it happens though, it is quite easy to tick all those boxes. The four year cricket cycle can be divided in two, leaving two years to play the marquee series that matter (and bring big profits), and scrapping the series that make us wince. In the remaining two years a cup can be played, over stages, beginning with the best associates in short qualifying series, and progressing to a league (played, as you’d like in tiers, but more fluid, and financed from a global pool). I laid it out in some detail two years ago.

    The problem is not Bangladesh though, it is the daft idea that a concept like “test status” is the best method of organising a sport – needless to say, cricket is the only sport that stupid. As long as we maintain the myth of development up to some arbitrary standard, we will continue to second guess the abilities of teams instead of providing a meritocratic path that players can aspire to, and complain that teams with weak resources lose games that any sensible analysis would suggest they ought to.

  5. Kartikeya Date says:

    The key statistic in the ODI table is the batting average. It would be interesting to see the comparison of batting average of Bangladesh and other teams against Test playing opposition, after the first 258 ODI games.

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