Tuesday, March 11, 2014
Updated: Sunday, April 14, 2013
|Can Bangladesh establish its superiority over arch-rivals in Zimbabwe’s own backyard?|
Syed Munazir Hussain
The Bangladesh cricket team is finally starting to establish itself as a force to be reckoned with. No longer are they the pushovers that the now dropped Indian player Virender Shehwag labeled them. Capable of at best causing an ‘upset’ in ODIs and undeserving of Test cricket. In recent years, Bangladesh whitewashed New Zealand 4-0; went on to reach the finals of the 2012 Asia Cup; beat the current West Indies Team 3-2 in an ODI series at home and even went on to score 638 runs in an innings which they eventually drew with Sri Lanka in an overseas Test match.
So does Bangladesh have what it takes to demolish Zimbabwe in their home ground? True, Bangladesh has fought neck and neck with far more capable teams in recent times but it should also be pointed out that these took place in Bangladeshi conditions with a huge home crowd to support or under sub-continental conditions.
To answer, lets take a look at the statistics. In ODIs against Zimbabwe, Bangladesh have won 30 times and lost on 26 occasions. However, in Zimbabwe, Bangladesh won 12 times and lost 13 times. If we look at recent stats, you can see that in the last 5 years, the win-loss ratio for Bangladesh improves to 15 wins vs. 8 losses. And in Zimbabwe too, the ratio is positive with Bangladesh having won 6 versus losing 4. It is starting to look like the stats for ODIs are slowly tilting to Bangladesh’s side.
However, things do not look as promising for Bangladesh in Tests versus Zimbabwe particularly after having lost the only Test against Zimbabwe when they returned from their self imposed exile from Tests in 2006. Zimbabwe had decided to abstain from Tests and regroup after the depleted Zimbabwe side lost a 2 match Test series series to Bangladesh 1-0 and was thrashed by South Africa, New Zealand and India back in 2005. Out of 9 Test Matches played with Zimbabwe, Bangladesh have won 1, lost 5 and drawn 3. In Bangladesh conditions, we have won 1 lost 1 and drawn 2. In Zimbabwe, we have lost 4 and drawn one rain affected match.
Based on past records, it may be a fair to conclude that Bangladesh while are likely to win the ODI series, they cannot be as confident about the outcome of the Test series. However I would like to show you why the likelihood of even a Test series victory is likely, but let's analyze the ODI Teams first.
First, I would like to compare the batting of both sides based on the last team Zimbabwe fielded against WI this year and the Bangladesh probable 11.
ODI Team of Bangladesh Vs Zimbabwe
You will notice that we have 5 batsmen with career averages over 30 including Nasir Hossain who averages over 40. You may also notice that Mahmudullah Riyad’s batting average in the last 12 months has been a staggering 62.66 while Mushfiqur averages 41.40 in the same period . Shakib hasn’t played ODIs in the last one year period but his average for the last 3 years is a good 38.48 while Tamim’s average has been improving steadily. Mominul may have a low average (17) right now but he has only played a handful of mathes and is showing plenty of promise to rise to the 30s soon.
Now let’s take a look at the bowling of Bangladesh:
Each of the Bangladesh teams bowlers have been improving their average over the last few years. Spinners like Razzak, Shakib and Gazi are likely to bother Zimbabwe with their tidy and effective bowling and they have knack for taking regular wickets. Both Mashrafe and Rubel have decent ODI statistics and then there’s Mahmudullah, the 6th bowling option who can break important partnerships.
Now let’s take a look at the batting of the last ODI team Zimbabwe sported against West Indies.
Zimbabwe has only one batsman who averages above 30 although Sibanda and Waller seem to be in good form judging by their recent averages (last one year). Masakadza is the other player beside Taylor and Sibanda who has experience. This team has a combined batting average of 184 which is far less than Bangladesh’s 266.
If we look at their bowling average:
This Zimbabwe attack seems to have dearth of experience. They will need the experience of Price and Chigumbura to cause many problems for Bangladesh.
ODI’s played in Zimbabwe Conditions
Top 10 Batsmen
Shakib, Mushfiqur and Tamim average over 40 in Zimbabwe. Even Nafees who is not in the top 11 regularly maintains a healthy average of 38 in Zimbabwe conditions. Sibanda, Masakadza and Taylor average in the 30’s even in home conditions. Chigumbura has been dropped from the national side in their last series against Windies. 5 Bangladeshi batsmen also have centuries in Zimbabwe which shows their prolific run scoring ability in a relatively seamer friendly condition.
Top 10 Bowlers
Shakib is the leading wicket-taker and both Mashrafe and Rubel seem to excel in Zimbabwe conditions. Zimbabwe might consider bringing back Ray Price. Anthony Ireland who made a very good start in international cricket last played in 2007 wearing national colors.
Based on the stats, if Bangladesh manages to field their best 11, there is no reason why Bangladesh should fail to beat Zimbabwe in the ODI series. However they should be wary of Taylor, Sibanda and Masakadza since they have plenty of experience against the Bangladesh attack. Zimbabwe will have to lookout for Shakib, Tamim, Mushfiqur, Mashrafe and Rubel. Bangladesh management must look out to keep their backup fast bowlers Nazmul, Shafiul, Abul, Ziaur and backup spinners Enamul Jr, Shuvo fit to avoid a similar injury fiasco they faced in Sri Lanka.
Test Team of Bangladesh Vs Zimbabwe
This is the area where things can get tricky for Bangladesh. However the recent 556 against WI and 638 against Sri Lanka should help bolster their confidence. The patience of the batsmen and potency of fast bowlers are areas where Bangladesh need to show consistent improvement. Wayward bowling by the pacers and rash shots by batsmen will not help them considering they lost the last Test encounter between the two arch rivals. Make no mistake that the battle of the minnows of Test cricket will be keenly observed by the international sports press. Any lackluster performance by Bangladesh will be dealt with severe criticism by all Test playing nations given that this is a Zimbabwe team that has just recently been thrashed by the West Indies. And Bangladesh have no excuse of a 14 month gap from Test Cricket this time around. If Bangladesh is to continue playing Test cricket, they must be able to withstand the pressure of performing against a Zimbabwe team that has far less experience than Bangladesh in this format of the game. To compete against teams like New Zealand and West Indies, they must beat Zimbabwe convincingly.
Batting of Bangladesh Test Team
Let's consider the probable Bangladeshi 11. I am hoping Mashrafe will start playing Tests this series (note: Test team wasn't declared at the time of writing).
Tamim, Shakib, Mushfiqur, Mominul and Nasir have a batting average above 30’s in Tests where Nasir averages a healthy 44.28 at the moment while the new boy Mominul averages 52. Interestingly, Shakib, Mushfiqur, Mominul and Nasir have been averaging over 50 the last one year. If I add Ashraful, Bangladesh currently has 5 batsmen averaging over 50 in the past 12 months. Ashraful is showing improvement in his statistics: with a career avaerage of only 24. He averages 36 for the past three years and 77 in the last 12 months. Mahmdullah is having a poor time in test cricket even though he is at his best form in ODIs. The combined average run per innings is 301 but is soaring to 350 for the last year.
Batting of Zimbabwe Test Team
I will be using the last team that took the field against West Indies this year.
This team is less inexperienced than Bangladesh as they took a leave from test cricket from 2006 to 2011. They have only one batsman with a career average over 30. Only three batsmen have Test centuries to their credit. The total team average is 222 and they have performed poorly against West Indies this year. Bangladesh seems to have a better batting line up with more in form batsmen.
Test Bowling of Bangladesh
Bangladesh’s test bowling does not look as potent as it is in ODI’s. Another issue of concern is the over reliance on only Shakib to take wickets. Someone else should shoulder the responsibility too. I am hoping that either Gazi or Rubel will prove their worth this time.
Other bowlers, in addition to Shakib, need to step up if Bangladesh intends to take 20 wickets.
Test Bowling of Zimbabwe
Despite being inexperienced, Zimbabwe seems to have a sharper bowling attack than Bangladesh. However, a total of 14 Test wickets seems inconsequential to actually be able to take 20 wickets in a match. Experienced players like Price and Mpofu might be able to create more impact.
Finally, Bangladesh should consider keeping Ashraful in the playing XI in place of Mahmudullah because the former has an average of 42.2 in Zimbabwe conditions and will be able to use his experience to help others in the Test matches. Bangladesh should learn from the experience they gathered against West Indies and Sri Lanka, and learn to adapt to conditions quickly. Players like Enamul Jr and Shahriar Nafees should be considered for the playing XI because of their experience against Zimbabwe. Let's hope Bangladesh starts the habit of winning bilateral Test series by winning comprehensively against Zimbabwe.
* All timed avareages are through 26th March 2013 the time of writing this article.
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