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Just how can Bangladesh repli­cate their home form?

Tim Wig­more in­ves­ti­gates the wide dis­par­ity be­tween the home and away per­for­mances of the emerg­ing crick­et­ing na­tion

Afew months ago, Shakib Al Hasan, the great­est crick­eter in Bangladesh’s his­tory, de­clared: “We are very much un­beat­able at home,” be­fore the visit of Aus­tralia.

Shakib was wrong. Af­ter best­ing Aus­tralia in the first Test, Bangladesh floun­dered in the sec­ond; the se­ries was drawn 1-1.

And yet his broader point re­mains cor­rect: in the right con­di­tions Bangladesh are now a for­mi­da­ble in­ter­na­tional cricket side. Since the 2015 World Cup, they have been on a run of six straight ODI se­ries vic­to­ries at home; beaten Eng­land in a Test (while los­ing nar­rowly in the other); shared a Test se­ries 1-1 away to Sri Lanka; and then beaten Aus­tralia at home.

They were also very com­pet­i­tive dur­ing a soli­tary Test in In­dia in Fe­bru­ary and au­thored a spec­tac­u­lar vic­tory against New Zealand in Cardiff to, some­what for­tu­itously, reach the Cham­pi­ons Tro­phy semi-fi­nals.

When the words “tour to Bangladesh” are ut­tered, they are no longer syn­ony­mous with ‘easy tour’. In­deed, in home con­di­tions, Bangladesh would rightly con­sider them­selves at least equal favourites against all op­po­nents bar In­dia. Bangladesh’s rise has been one of the great sto­ries in in­ter­na­tional cricket over the past two years.

The trou­ble is, this rise is only half­com­plete. Bangladesh have moved from be­ing makeweights in in­ter­na­tional cricket to a Jekyll and Hyde team, for­mi­da­ble at home and yet meek away from Sub-con­ti­nen­tal con­di­tions. For all their strides in suit­able con­di­tions, Bangladesh con­tinue to be ex­posed on wick­ets that seam, bounce and don’t as­sist spin bowl­ing.

How that has been ev­i­dent dur­ing the tour to South Africa, a re­turn to Bangladesh’s bad old days. Con­sider their re­sults.

In the two Test matches, Bangladesh lost by 333 runs and then an in­nings and 254 runs. They took only 13 South African wick­ets in the se­ries and, af­ter scor­ing 320 in their first in­nings, their bat­ting sub­sided there­after, scor­ing 90, 147 and 172.

Nor were the ODIs any bet­ter. South Africa won by 10 wick­ets in the open­ing game, when Bangladesh were de­fend­ing 278 yet couldn’t muster a sin­gle wicket. They then lost by 104 and 100 runs in the fi­nal two games. Bangladesh evis­cer­ated.

Their last se­ries in un­fa­mil­iar climes ended in the same re­sult: a white­wash in both the Tests and ODIs. Bangladesh’s bat­ting was far bet­ter in those Tests in New Zealand, yet the point re­mains: Bangladesh away from home are a piti­ful imi­ta­tion of the heavy­weight team at home.

What can be done? The con­trast­ing re­sults re­flects how Bangladesh are far bet­ter at play­ing against, and bowl­ing, spin, than they are play­ing against, and bowl­ing, pace. Con­sider Rubel Hos­sain’s record over 25 – 25! – Test matches: 33 wick­ets at 79.00 apiece, stats un­wor­thy of an oc­ca­sional bowler.

To rem­edy their weak­nesses, Bangladesh need to pri­ori­tise pace bowl­ing. That should start with the pitches at home. Bangladesh are right to fo­cus on their strengths when op­po­nents tour, and pro­duce wick­ets that turn prodi­giously, but they need some wick­ets at home to of­fer pace and bounce in do­mes­tic cricket, aid­ing the de­vel­op­ment of quicks and, just as im­por­tantly, giv­ing their bats­men more ex­pe­ri­ence play­ing fast bowl­ing.

Bangladesh also need a re­newed fo­cus on their A-team. Ev­ery year, at least one A-tour should visit Aus­tralia, Eng­land, South Africa or New Zealand, play­ing tough cricket on matches in which spin bowl­ing is pe­riph­eral.Yes, many de­feats might en­sue, but the pur­pose of A-team cricket is as prepa­ra­tion for the full na­tional team, not as an end in it­self.

The Bangladesh board must also be cre­ative in sup­port­ing its best play­ers to im­prove out­side of Asian con­di­tions. The best play­ers should be as­sisted in find­ing coun­ties – as Shakib has done to great ef­fect – to ac­cel­er­ate their de­vel­op­ment. Those bub­bling un­der could be sent to club teams in Eng­land (whose sum­mer co­in­cides with the Bangladeshi off-sea­son) to be ex­posed to play­ing in seam-friendly con­di­tions.

Then, trips to coun­tries like South Africa might prove less dispir­it­ing.

Bangladesh should also use the op­por­tu­nity pro­vided by Ire­land’s el­e­va­tion to Test cricket. In Ir­ish con­di­tions, Bangladesh would still rightly ex­pect to win a Test se­ries, but the ex­pe­ri­ence of fac­ing Ire­land’s seam­ers, and of play­ing matches which are de­ter­mined by pace, not spin, should ul­ti­mately make Bangladesh more com­pet­i­tive when they tour Aus­tralia, Eng­land, New Zealand and South Africa.

So there is plenty that Bangladesh can do to be­come more com­pet­i­tive in un­fa­mil­iar climes away from the Sub­con­ti­nent. Bangladesh’s soar­ing per­for­mances at home have en­riched the in­ter­na­tional game, which badly needs all the com­pet­i­tive teams that it can get.Yet, for now, the trans­for­ma­tion of Bangladesh cricket re­mains an in­com­plete rev­o­lu­tion.

PIC­TURE: Getty Im­ages

An­other one bites the dust: Bangladesh’s Mominul Haque departs for just three runs against South Africa in the sec­ond Test in Bloem­fontein

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