Thanks to Zimbabwe, Bangladesh turns the corner

Published: Wednesday, March 9, 2005, 23:53 [IST]
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New Delhi:Calls to strip Zimbabwe of Test status may finally have taken the pressure off Bangladesh, who yearn to gain respect as a cricket team.

For long the wooden spooners of Test cricket, Bangladesh may have just turned the corner, leaving Zimbabwe to fill their shoes as the most pitiable team in the world.

Zimbabwe's two-day rout by South Africa in a recent Test match after being skittled for 54 in the first innings follows a long row between administrators and players.

Bangladesh, on the other hand, are settling down after defeating Zimbabwe in both the Test and One-day series at home following a creditable One-day win against India last December.

Coach Dav Whatmore, watching over his young wards taking part in India's first-class Duleep Trophy tournament, felt Bangladesh had finally broken the shackles.

"Beating India was fabulous and a big boost for our players," said the Australian, who took over as Bangladesh's national coach in 2003.

"They now believe in themselves."

Bangladesh beat India by 15 runs in the second match of a One-day series in December to keep the series alive, a rarity for them, before going down 2-1.

As for Tests, Bangladesh had lost 31 of their 34 Tests and drawn the remaining three before clinching a two-Test series against Zimbabwe 1-0.

"The Zimbabwe series victory was historic," said Whatmore. "But for me, salvaging a draw in the second Test was more important than winning the first as we had to bat out a considerable amount of time.

"The batsmen have learnt to value their wickets and avoid repeating mistakes."

Whatmore, preparing for Bangladesh's maiden visit to England in May, felt the team could fight it out better in the coming years.

"Some years from now, Bangladesh should be able to make an impact," said Whatmore, who guided Sri Lanka to World Cup triumph in 1996.

Bangladesh selector Athar Ali Khan too was positive.

"I think our team is heading in the right direction," he said. "The players are improving and we should be at par with other teams in the coming years."

Khan, however, conceded the team needed to be more consistent.

"Zimbabwe were a depleted side but we have also done well in some other Test matches in Pakistan and the West Indies," said the former Bangladesh player. "I think we are close to establishing ourselves as a team."

But a promising Bangladesh Board President's XI failed to impress on their 'learning tour' of India last month.

The team, without experienced players like captain Habibul Bashar and left-handed all-rounder Mohammad Rafique, lost to East Zone in the Duleep Trophy and then salvaged a draw in a rain-truncated match against Central Zone.

"The players have to learn the difference between wanting to perform and going through the motions," said Whatmore. "People will have to be more patient to see Bangladesh perform well on a regular basis."

Bangladesh have won just one of 36 Tests and lost 31, with the remaining four drawn since gaining Test status in 2000.

In One-dayers, they have managed nine wins in 106 matches, including a victory over Pakistan in the 1999 World Cup.

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