Wild fluctuation in T20 ranking of Bangladesh cricket team
The Bangladesh cricket team seems to have an unpredictable and schizophrenic dual personality. On a given day, it can beat titans like South Africa, Australia and England, all formidable opponents, in one day or T20 cricket, and the next day it can lose to minnows like Ireland, Scotland or Holland. The serious lack of consistency is disconcerting, aggravating and exasperating, writes Omar Khasru
The July 22 caption of an ESPN-cricinfo sports news item proclaimed: ‘Bangladesh push past Australia and Pakistan in T20 ranking.’ The gist of it was that after beating Ireland 3-0 in the recent T20 series, Bangladesh moved up to the fourth spot in the International Cricket Council standing, surpassing Australia, India, New Zealand and Pakistan, among others.
Only England, South Africa and Sri Lanka, veritable powerhouses all, were above Bangladesh in T20 ranking. But then Australia, India and Pakistan are also potent teams. You would objectively, realistically and impassively think, judging by common cricket sense and sensible unbiased assessment, that these teams are likely to win any T20 series against Bangladesh. Bangladesh may beat them sporadically but a series is a different thing altogether.
Ireland, a non test playing country and only an associate ICC member, has been a difficult team especially for Bangladesh and also occasionally for other established teams. Bangladesh always has a tough time beating this sturdy and spirited team.
In 2007 Ireland defeated a triumphant Bangladesh in world cup tournament after Bangladesh had put an emphatic end to the aspirations of cricket giants India and South Africa by beating the two powerful teams in the first round.
The 2007 shocking loss to Ireland dissipated and offset the glorious feats of the Bangladesh team. Bad and clueless cricket combined with complacency, untimely and unnecessary experimentation, needless bluster and a feeling of vanity on the part of players and team officials had contributed to the ignominious defeat.
Ireland had also defeated Pakistan in 2007 and, more recently, the Irish team beat a strong but weary and purposeless England in the 2011 world cup match in Dhaka. Bangladesh, which had scored less than 100 in two matches, also defeated England in the 2011 world cup.
Bangladesh scored 58 runs against West Indies. This broke the lowest world cup record of 74 runs by Pakistan against England in 1992. The 78-run Bangladesh total against South Africa is the third lowest score by a test playing country in one day cricket. It takes repeated rotten and atrocious batting to score the lowest and the third lowest runs in the same tournament.
The Bangladesh cricket team seems to have an unpredictable and schizophrenic dual personality. On a given day, it can beat titans like South Africa, Australia and England, all formidable opponents, in one day or T20 cricket, and the next day it can lose to minnows like Ireland, Scotland or Holland. The serious lack of consistency is disconcerting, aggravating and exasperating.
Bangladesh had kept its semi-final hopes alive in the 2011 world cup by barely beating Ireland in a closely contested game, with many ups and downs and repeated swings of fortune. Bangladesh snatched victory from the jaws of defeat in a nerve-racking finish.
During the recent European tour, Bangladesh started with a bang but ended with a whimper. Even the 3-0 series white wash against Ireland was no bed of roses. The first game resulted in a convincing victory with Bangladesh, batting first, scoring a hefty 190 for 5 and limiting the Irish to a paltry 119 for 8.
If Bangladesh, through the rest of the series would be so comfy and easy, it’s in for a rude weakening. The other two matches produced successive nail biting finishes. Having lost the first game by 71 runs, Ireland had a point to prove. The margin of defeat in the second game was the narrowest possible. Bangladesh scored 146 for 6 to beat Ireland by a solitary run.
The Irish pain was greater because they should have, and could have, won the game. Near perfect death over bowling by off-spinner Mahmudullah Riad proved to be the difference after Bangladesh batsmen failed to put up a respectable score. The thrilling victory gave Bangladesh an unassailable 2-0 series lead.
Just when Ireland thought they finally could beat Bangladesh in the third game, a batting assault by pacer Mashrafe Mortaza ended their hopes and gave the visitors a 3-0 win in the series. Bangladesh, 141 for 8, overcame the Irish score of 140 for 8 in the very last ball, thanks to Mortaza’s bowling figure of 4 wickets for 19 runs, followed by his whirlwind 30 runs to overcome the modest Irish total.
The hard earned win catapulted Bangladesh to number 4 ranking in T20 cricket. Ireland was in ninth position before the series; it dropped two places to eleventh and Afghanistan moved into the tenth place. Both the teams were ahead of Bangladesh prior to the seminal series.
According to ICC rules, teams that have played at least eight T20 internationals between August 1, 2009 and now will get a ranking. The qualifying period changes every August. Bangladesh had broken into the rankings for the first time after one run win in the second match of the Ireland series. It propelled Bangladesh into sixth spot. The last ball win in the third match lifted the team further up to fourth place.
The elevated position was more than captain Mushfiqur Rahim had hoped for. "We are still not good in the new format of the game. Due to lack of international matches we are not even in the ICC Twenty20 ranking, while even Afghanistan occupies a spot ---," he had told reporters before leaving Dhaka. "We have a chance to break into the table if we can win matches on this tour," he had added.
But the exalted position was reduced to nothingness shortly. After sweeping the series against Ireland, Bangladesh had a wakeup call when the Scotland batsman Richie Berrington hammered a 57-ball century. The Bangladesh batsmen faltered and lost the game.
The target of 163 set by Scotland, due mainly to Barrington’s spectacular century, should have been within reach. But Bangladesh could not make a solid start. Wickets fell at regular intervals, crucial wickets of Tamim and Sakib fell at inopportune times and the team eventually folded for 128 runs, conceding a whopping 34 run defeat.
Fortunes continued to swing in the tour. Bangladesh followed the unexpected big loss to Scotland with a comprehensive victory against Netherlands at The Hague. The eight-wicket win, in the first of two T20 games against Netherlands, was set up by opener Tamim Iqbal’s unbeaten half-century.
Bangladesh chased the target of 145 runs with a persuasive victory. In addition to Tamim’s sparkling knock of 69, good bowling by Mortaza and Sakib that restricted Netherlands to 144 for 7 score played pivotal role in the victory. While this win might not have much of an impact on the ranking, it helped salvage some pride.
The favorable situation and the cheerful feeling soon disappeared as Netherlands snatched a tense one wicket victory over Bangladesh in the next game to tie the T20 series. The last Dutch batsman hit the last ball of the match for four to overcome the paltry Bangladesh total of 128. The agonizing last ball defeat was an intensely painful experience.
Bangladesh succumbed despite winning the toss and choosing to bat, with Tamim Iqbal scoring second successive T20 fifty. Mahmudullah Riad was one of the few batsmen to bat fluently, scoring 41 from 31 balls. Ziaur Rahman was the only other batsman to reach double figures. This was a pathetic team batting display.
Tamim Iqbal, the stalwart tour batting star performer, declared on their return that the six-match Twenty20 tour of Europe has helped the team develop the habit of winning, despite losses to Scotland and Netherlands. Tamim was the only batsman to score in excess of 200 runs, including two half centuries. He said he was happy to see progress on an individual and collective level.
"The tour had more positives than negatives," Tamim said. "We won the first game against Ireland easily but in the next two we fought back from dire situations.” He added, "Leaving aside the Scotland game, I thought we showed a lot of positive signs. We wanted to get into the habit of winning, so I think the tour has given us that."
There is contradiction in what Tamim said. The loss to Scotland and devastating one to Netherlands surely refute his claim that the team has gotten into the habit of winning. One thing that needs to be emphasized is that Bangladesh is a full ICC member country and was playing against associate member teams. Bangladesh is expected to win games against these countries with consummate ease.
The mixed results caused some bizarre movements in the ICC Twenty20 rankings. Bangladesh jumped to number 4 after winning 3-0 against Ireland. One loss to Scotland brought them back to number 9, which didn't change despite beating Netherlands the next day and losing the day after.
I had disseminated the surge in the team ranking to friends. A skeptical New York City budget expert wrote, “T20 games do not reflect the subtle techniques and strategies of cricket. Afghanistan (did not know they have a team) is rated higher than Ireland and Zimbabwe. A fourth ranking in Test cricket or ODI would have been something to be proud of.” He ended sardonically, “Can you find a way to give credit to the ruling party for the 4th place in the T20?”
My next e-mail stated, “Bangladesh, which was catapulted to number 4 in T20 ranking, was thrashed by measly minnows Scotland by 34 runs and was brought back to earth. Scottish batsman Barrington hit a century and BD was all out for 128 runs.” To which the expatriate New York friend responded, “There you go.”
Nobody in their right mind would buy that Bangladesh at this juncture can be rated as high as number 4 in any form of cricket. The number nine ranking would seem more fitting and a lot more justified. In order to really improve in ranking, the team needs consistency and professionalism. It needs to contest spiritedly against big teams and beat not so strong teams routinely with relative ease.
The Bangladesh cricket team keenly realized that it may fleetingly get high ranking within a short interval by sheer chance or statistical fluke, but cannot sustain it without genuinely deserving it. The ranking issue should be looked at objectively with unbiased neutrality rather than mere emotion.
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