Thursday, April 24, 2014
Updated: Thursday, August 11, 2005
An overview of the debutants

Rubu Islam

Bangladesh has been playing test cricket since November 10, 2000. We have already played 38 tests, and this number will be at least 40 before the fifth anniversary. Obviously, everyone who played in the first match was a debutant. Since then 31 more players have debuted for the national team, taking the total number of debutants to 42 in less than five years. Keep in mind that this list does not include players who qualified for the squad but never played a match. After five years, it is time for us to look back and find out how we used our new players. Did we use too many, too few or just about the right number of these players? Before we go into a discussion about it, let us have a quick look at the following chart. This chart does not include the inaugural test against India and the reason is explained above. Also, the players grouped by the same color debuted in the same match (white is not a group color).

List of Bangladeshi Debutants

I have divided these 31 players into differently labeled groups. These labels are not conclusive, and they reflect my personal opinions. I created them based on past and current forms, statistics, domestic league performance and factors that might play a role in determining who should get a recall to the national camp.

I labeled nine of of these 31 players ?Return Highly Unlikely?. This is the group most important in our study of debutants. If a player is highly unlikely to return after only one to four years of debut, why were they selected? Alarmingly, many of these players are not even familiar names in our domestic leagues anymore. It makes me wonder about the basis behind their selection. We do know that the current selection panel did not select them, but as far as I can remember they were selected because of a few good performances here and there. Even today, this practice is not abolished. Regardless of how talented Mushfiqur Rahim is, he was picked for the first test at Lords because of his two innings in the practice matches.

I labeled a second group of players ?Return Unlikely?. This group is not much different from the one discussed above. These players were dropped from the national team more recently. As a result, their comeback is more likely, at least in theory. Fortunately for us, only four players fall into this group. However, if we add up the two groups already discussed, the sum is thirteen. This is almost half of the total debutants. Let us discuss the rest of the groups before jumping into a conclusion.

Most of the time we think that new players come in because of injuries in the current team or because of senior players leaving the game. The above chart shows some interesting statistics. No national player so far has retired while playing for the national team ("some" players got the opportunity and did not take it, but that is a different issue and we are not talking about that right now). Only three players from the inaugural test - Mohammad Rafique, Habibul Bashar and Khaled Masud - are still playing for the national team. In less than five years the team has changed almost entirely. Even more importantly, the rest of the eight players of that inaugural test can be labeled ?Return Impossible?. What do we have here? The team has been entirely replaced by junior players and none of the senior players got a chance to retire while staying in the team. There is a possibility that all these senior players were less talented than the new players and that was the reason for replacing them. It is theoretically possible, so let us not reach to any conclusion yet. What about injuries? There are only three players in our national team who suffered severe injuries. They are the three pacers Mashrafee, Talha and Sharif. Interestingly, none of their careers came to an end. It is true that when they were injured other less talented players were introduced. Still, two out of these three have already come back, and Sharif is improving fast. As a result, injury cannot be blamed as the primary reason for the excessive number of debutants. Moreover, all these injured players were pacers, but pacers are not the majority in the chart above.

The rest of the groups are ?Still playing? or ?Return Possible?. There is not much to talk about these groups. They are the most important players of Bangladesh cricket. This is why we need to learn what is going to be their fate within the next year. Bangladesh never had any problem producing raw talent. There are always some players who raise fan expectations before they enter the national team. Most of them are actually coming to the national team faster than they think. As of right now, Golam Rahman, Shamsur Rahman, Waskuruni Polash, Shahriar Nafees, Kamrul Hassan and many other age group players fall into this category. Are they going to replace the current national players soon? What will happen then? Well, we do know the answer already. What happened before will happen in the future. If the cause is the same, the result will be the same as well. As we have already seen, many of the debutants just disappeared after a dismal performance in the national team. The same will be the destiny of most of those players knocking at the national team?s door right now. Some of them, however, will shine. What will happen to them? Once again, we already know the answer. What happened to the players who shone in their debut matches? Take Mohammad Ashraful for instance. He had the best debut possible, and fans thought they will have a Tendulkar within couple of years. Four years have been passed since then, but even his place was in question until he reestablished it in NatWest Series. Think about Rajin Saleh. He showed more promise in his debut series than anyone else before. Now he finds that he is not even part of the playing eleven. How about Alok Kapali? He created more fans in his first few matches than any Bangladeshi player ever had. Now he has to fight in the A-team to prove his worth. Same goes for Hannan Sarkar, who gained respect from Australia for the entire country. The list goes on and on.

It is now time to draw some conclusions. We did not select players prudently before. We paid for it heavily. But where does this end? As we have seen from above discussion, if we keep selecting new players the way we are doing it right now, there is going to be the same result. They will either fail in their first few matches and will never come back, or they will do well at the beginning and after a while will be replaced by newcomers once again. How many games will pass before we will want Mushfiqur Rahim?s head? This needs to be stopped now. No one can play continuously in a good form. Moreover, if we do not give them enough time to settle down they will never play well. We tried musical chairs for the last five years, but it did not produce any good outcome. How about we try out a steady squad starting the Sri Lanka tour and see how that goes? It cannot get any worse, and it is worth trying because obviously the current method is not working. For this tour, we cannot afford to have any debutant. Most importantly, experience is valuable in test cricket. We should go with the same squad as in England besides the pace department. Our pace department obviously lacks depth, and it will not be wise to play a test with more than three pacers including Aftab in Sri Lanka.

We need to bring players into the national team only when they can constantly show their worth, but once they are in, we need to have faith in them. There is no alternative.