Everyone makes their own history every day, but a truly historic event is something that’s imbued with far reaching significance. When Mushfiqur Rahim, the diminutive former wicketkeeper, pierced a packed offside field to send the ball speeding towards the boundary, he not only sealed an eight wicket win over New Zealand, the current World Test Champions, but he also wrapped up arguably the biggest upset in Test match history.
The odds of David beating Goliath would have been substantially better than the chance given by most observers for Bangladesh to beat New Zealand. Expectations could scarcely have been lower; on paper it was a complete mismatch between a team that have struggled to cope with swinging green surfaces away from home and a confident home team studded with match winners. Bangladesh’s win ended an almost 4 year winning steak at home for the Black Caps, no Asian team had won there for 10 years and Bangladesh had never won there in any format after trying 32 times.
It felt like there were a lot more eyes on the Test at Mount Maunganui than for the average game involving Bangladesh. From a UK perspective, Bangladesh cricket followers in Britain have grown accustomed to scouring the internet for unreliable streams whenever the Tigers are in action rather than being able to watch on mainstream TV channels. The fact that the entire Test series is being shown by BT Sport is a major step forward, although this has more to do with a broadcast deal between BT Sport and the New Zealand Cricket board than any direct intervention by the BCB.
Easy accessibility also meant enticing the casual viewer. Perhaps an equally important reason was the desperation to see a real contest following a disappointingly one-sided Ashes series. The supposed pinnacle of Test cricket has been a blink-and-you-miss-it affair, the urn has been retained in less than half the allotted playing time for the series. England’s malfunctioning batting and general turgid cricket has elicited intense navel gazing and so diverting attention to events unfolding across the Tasman sea, has been cathartic for many.
Bangladesh’s success was founded on old fashion virtues of patience and stubborn determination, as bowlers and batters alike doggedly refused to give New Zealand the smallest toehold into the game. Had they been watching, it was an approach and attitude that England cricketers could have learnt from. But watching from afar is what England have done most, when it comes to Bangladesh cricket. Apart from the odd encounter at World Cups, the sides have only met periodically.
In their 20 year Test history, Bangladesh have been invited to play in England twice. Invitations to play in Bangladesh have been met with similar reluctance; although it was due to be a white ball tour, England’s postponement last October for no discernible reason, is typical of the relationship that’s developed.
England are by no means alone in their high handedness, the other members of the “big 3” are as culpable. Australia have only hosted Bangladesh once, even neighbours and supposed allies India have only hosted one full Test series, despite being active supporters of Bangladesh’s elevation to Test status. The scarcity of fixtures against the big 3 has only exacerbated the uncompetitive nature of matches when they have taken place, fuelling a vicious circle.
The death knell of Test cricket is seemingly only ever moments away, but a closer look at contests that receive scant attention far from a packed Lords or sun-soaked MCG, often highlights keenly fought matches involving the stars of tomorrow. The idea of Test cricket being in crisis because of another heavy England defeat, is a peculiarly narrow one.
That’s not to say that one unexpected victory magically solves the issues that beset the world game. Indeed, there’s no guarantee that Bangladesh’s win at Mount Manuganui will herald a permanent change in fortune for South Asia’s most populous nation. Bangladesh’s undemonstrative captain, Mominul Haque, warned against high expectations in the aftermath of victory. The most obvious consequence of the victory is regained self-belief, which had taken a battering over previous months.
Tactically, the result also showed what could be achieved with just a slightly more courageous mindset. Bangladesh’s default mode is a conservative brand of cricket centred on a spin attack, but by selecting three pace bowlers, all of whom significantly contributed, a new blueprint should emerge. Noises have been made about a nascent fast bowling revolution taking place, particularly under Otis Gibson’s watch, with better pitches being prepared that suit the craft. Often this has been undermined by last minute team selections that revert to tried and tested methods.
Nazmul Hasan Papon, the BCB CEO, has often influenced team composition, despite no obvious international cricket credentials. There has been conjecture that the time difference between New Zealand and Bangladesh, meant a lack of attention on the game from the normally opiniated CEO, to the benefit of the team.
Perhaps the biggest impact of the win will be restoration of a feel-good factor. Many Tiger fans had fallen out of love with the team, disenchanted by serial losses, they will now be donning their replica kits with pride once more. No one embodied the new spirit of optimism more than the player of the match, Ebadot Hossain. The former volleyball player turned cricketer propelled his team over the winning line, with a match winning burst of 3 wickets in 7 balls to set up a straightforward final day run chase. His wide-eyed smile and refreshingly unscripted post-match interview will have warmed the coldest of hearts. It was the perfect new year’s gift to all Bangladesh fans.