Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Why Don't You Show You Belong?

Let me start off by saying my opinion on whether Bangladesh should be playing test cricket doesn't count. The ICC has made the decision for whatever reason and that's that.

But it's getting tiresome to read about Bangladeshi players trying to prove a point to those who think they don't deserve to be playing test cricket. A few months ago unnamed media personnel took pleasure in Bangladesh getting the better of India for one day of a test match after Virender Sehwag had called them ordinary and that they couldn't beat India because they can't take 20 wickets - Bangladesh have taken 20 wickets in only 4 of their 67 tests. The match predictably ended in a comfortable win for India with Bangladesh vindicating Sehwag by not being able to dismiss his side twice. Ofcourse the narrative after the game was that of the Bangladeshi side running India close.

Bangladesh have now played 67 tests, a reasonably big number to take stock of where they stand. I looked at how they compare to the 9 other test playing nations over their respective 67 tests from the time they started playing test cricket.

W/L Ratio
Bat Avg
Bowl Avg
Avg Diff

It doesn't matter what category you look at, Bangladesh are dead last. New Zealand match them in terms of their Win % over their first 67 tests but have a much better Win-Loss ratio as well as a much lower difference between their batting and bowling average. It's not even that teams that started playing test cricket later have necessarily inferior records. West Indies started playing almost 30 years after South Africa but have a considerably better record. Pakistan started playing test cricket in the early fifties and they have a better record than New Zealand and India, and pretty much at par with South Africa. It's interesting to note that even Zimbabwe started off just as well as India.

It's about time Shakib and his teammates realised they need to stop behaving like they're entitled to something just because they have test status and start winning some tests, or atleast drawing them. They need to realise the odd good performance by one of their players isn't going to get them there and it's the whole team that needs to put in a more disciplined and consistent effort if they want to be respected by the cricketing community.


  1. Of those 3 wins, how many against that Windies team, and who's the other team?

  2. NC, I deliberately left out that part because it makes Bangladesh's record look worse. Of their 3 test wins, one has come against a weakened Zimbabwean side and two against the third/fourth string West Indian team.

  3. Mahek, this started as a comment and got so long I'll post it on my blog too. This is a very unfair comparison. For starters, every other team played far fewer games in their first 10 years than Bangladesh, so the 67 game limit you've imposed includes up to 20 years of development. Secondly, in several instances teams were admitted together, so the 67 games includes games against teams also developing. Thirdly, a number of the early "test" matches were played over 3 or 4 days, which made draws much more common.

    Finally, plenty of those early tests were against below strength English sides (New Zealand and the West Indies were playing England simultaneously at one point). The West Indies side Bangladesh beat included Dowlin and Roach, both of whom toured Australia, so they can't be considered 3rd/4th string, 2nd, probably, but that's Zimbabwe and the West Indies problem, not Bangladesh's.

    As a better comparison, here is a table for the first 10 years (excluding WW2) of cricket for the various test sides, against teams not also playing in their first decade:

    Pakistan 1952-1962 P:42 W:8 D:20 L:14 Bat:27.05 Bowl:34.88 Ratio:0.776
    West Indies 1930-1946 P:19 W:4 D: 9 L: 6 Bat:25.88 Bowl:34.56 Ratio:0.749
    Sri Lanka 1982-1992 P:42 W:3 D:20 L:19 Bat:27.50 Bowl:38.70 Ratio:0.711
    Zimbabwe 1992-2002 P:61 W:4 D:22 L:35 Bat:26.67 Bowl:39.05 Ratio:0.683
    New Zealand 1930-1946 P:16 W:0 D: 6 L:10 Bat:25.81 Bowl:44.79 Ratio:0.576
    India 1932-1948 P: 8 W:0 D: 3 L: 5 Bat:20.72 Bowl:43.65 Ratio:0.475
    Bangladesh 2000-2010 P:64 W:3 D: 6 L:55 Bat:21.75 Bowl:50.29 Ratio:0.432
    South Africa 1889-1899 P: 8 W:0 D: 0 L: 8 Bat:10.53 Bowl:25.33 Ratio:0.416

    Are Bangladesh inferior to the 8 well established test sides? Sure, but you'd expect that. The problem lies not with Bangladesh, it lies with the complete lack of any meaning or context for 95% of all test cricket played, which makes mismatches seem like a waste of time. This isn't a problem exclusive to Bangladesh either. Compare the English series against New Zealand and the West Indies in the past four years:

    West Indies 2007 P:4 W:0 D:1 L:3 Bat:28.60 Bowl:49.07 Ratio:0.582
    New Zealand 2008 P:3 W:0 D:1 L:2 Bat:25.85 Bowl:34.67 Ratio:0.746
    West Indies 2009 P:2 W:0 D:0 L:2 Bat:22.35 Bowl:61.12 Ratio:0.366
    Bangladesh 2010 P:2 W:0 D:0 L:2 Bat:25.07 Bowl:49.40 Ratio:0.507

    The two drawn games were both rain-affected, every series included one innings defeat. Are Bangladesh really so much worse than their counterparts at the bottom of the test ladder that they deserve the pillory they get when they fail, or the condescension they get when they have some success?

  4. I don't think comparing just the first 10 years of test cricket for each nation makes sense as there wasn't as much cricket being played until a few years ago. That said, a straight 67-test comparison may also not be fair because you don't get new players coming through in a span of 10 years. I went with the latter only because atleast Bangladesh can't complain of not getting enough opportunities: On an average they play 7 tests a year. Besides, Zimbabwe's first 67 tests spanned only 12 months less than the first 67 tests for Bangladesh. Sri Lanka's first 68 tests spanned a little less than 14 years. It's not as if these two countries went through two generations of cricketers during their first 67 tests. They're also the two newest entrants before Bangladesh so they were up against well-established test nations. If anything, they faced a much stronger West Indies, Pakistan and New Zealand. Of course you could make the case for Bangladesh facing stronger Indian, Australian and English sides.

    One can explain the higher percentage of draws for New Zealand and India but it still doesn't explain the disparity in the batting and bowling average.

    We can agree to disagree on the strength of the West Indies side they beat last year. But then I didn't bring it into the argument in my post for the very reason that the weaker sides from a few decades ago also faced some second string teams. You said as much by pointing out England were playing the West Indies and New Zealand at the same time.

    Lastly, my post was not about Bangladesh not deserving test status. It was about how they need to prove they belong instead of feeling a sense of entitlement. It seems only a couple of their players have the fire in them to put in the work on and off the field. It's not going to earn them any respect.

  5. Mahek, I don't disagree on the statistical difficulties. That is why I sorted my table on the ratio of batting and bowling averages (a ratio is better than a difference because it accounts for pitch quality). Bangladesh are still poor, clearly worse than Sri Lanka and Zimbabwe on ascension, but slightly better than South Africa and close to India on that measure. But that's by the by. My ratings put them as the worst side ever to play test cricket a couple of years ago, and I'm not disinclined to doubt them. They have improved a lot since.

    On one level, I don't disagree on Bangladesh needing to prove themselves, and it is disappointing to hear players say they don't want to practice, or play sensibly. But too, some of the recent cricket by the full strength West Indian side has been disgraceful, and they aren't constantly taunted with threats to remove their test status (would that they were, they might try a little). In fact, the worst performances have been accompanied by calls for more funding for West Indian cricket, because of their history and standing and the game. If you are searching for a sense of entitlement, I'd start there.

  6. Incidentally, "worst team in history" isn't as bad as it sounds. By definition, every "new" team should be the worst team to ever play the game.

  7. Russ, you're quite right about the West Indies not being upto the mark. In fact, they were the subject of a lot of ridicule during the test series Down Under.

    That said, I thought they picked up well after the Brisbane Test. In fact, they might have levelled the series had the third test not ended with a terrible decision by Billy Bowden and a gutless rejection of the ensuing referral. The Windies also beat England at home last year and a year before that led a test series in South Africa. They even drew the series in New Zealand. They might be rubbish at times but they're still considerably better than Bangladesh.

    The irony here is that the side that has done its best to make a case for itself is being ignored. Ireland have dominated the lower rungs of international cricket and are losing their best players to England because the ICC won't grant them test status. Bangladesh only got theirs because the BCCI needed another vote on the ICC council.

    The folks at Sky were discussing the concept of a two-tier World Test Championship/League during the third day of the Old Trafford test. Unlike a lot of experts, Michael Holding was ready to admit his side belonged to the second tier of test teams and was advocating a promotion-relegation system which sees the bottom two teams from the top tier making way for the top two teams from the second tier. The playing format would see teams playing others from their division home and away while teams from the top division would only play away series against those from the bottom division.

  8. Mahek, you're right, the West Indies are ahead of Bangladesh, but the gap between them is smaller than the gap between the West Indies and the top 3. To hear many people describe it, there is a whole bunch of competitive "test" sides, and then Bangladesh.

    The question of future teams is vexing. It can't be done unless the FTP is either radically reformed or removed. I advocate removal, as I explained (at extraordinary length) in my manifesto. Holding's idea is better than most - generally people want to exclude the bottom tier entirely - but I think a league system is over-kill. I'd much prefer to see a shorter (year long) test championship, with qualifiers to give the associates their chance. It works well for football, but I'd be interested in your thoughts.

  9. Obviously the gap between the Windies and the top 3 is greater than that between them and Bangladesh. You're comparing the gap between a team ranked 8th to one ranked 3rd - It has got to be more than the gap between 8th and 9th because there are 4 teams between 3rd and 8th.

    A year long test championship may or may not work just as one spread over 4 years. There are various reasons why I'm in favour of a 4-year cycle. Firstly, it makes absolutely no sense to have teams playing just one test. It would be impossible to have all the teams play each other home and away in proper series over a period of just one year. Secondly, most of the teams play each other home and away over 4 years. Thirdly, the ODI World Cup is held every four years so we have a defined time frame.

    I sometimes blog at BCC! and a few months ago I'd posted a template of what a 4-year cycle should look like. Here's a link to it.


    Whatever schedule the ICC come up with has got to be beneficial to all the nations, while the boards need to realise the need for a more united cricket system instead of having factions that are only concerned with their own interests.

  10. Mahek, you are right on the ratings. In the past however, Bangladesh weren't closer to 8th than 8th was to 3rd, and that was a problem. But anyway...

    Did you look at the links I posted, because your comment indicates otherwise... some comments on your proposed FTP. I think you are fighting a losing battle appealing to altruism. England and Australia won't give up 5 test Ashes cricket, nor will any side accept a tiered system unless they are guaranteed to remain in the top tier. I also think cricket can do better than what we have. A lot better.

    Domestic window: I like the idea of a domestic window, but making it only for the IPL is a bad idea. There are a half dozen T20 domestic competitions trying to attract international stars, and the other ICC members have already voted against any special favours for the IPL. I'd like to see four windows, each of 6 weeks duration, in November, February, May and August. Two in the northern summer, two in the southern. Then, by restricting players to one team, every player is guaranteed 12 weeks rest per year (at least).

    Logistics: I agree, it is impossible to play every team in one year, which is why I'd never propose it. Notice also though, it is also impossible to expand a 4-year FTP beyond 9-10 teams if you want to include every side. Hence, your schedule won't benefit all nations, just the full members. Given that you can't play every side, the question is which sides should a team play? I'd argue: teams at their same level of competitiveness, teams from their local region (which generally has a certain bite) and teams with a long and enduring history of competition.

    Championships: This is why I proposed to ditch the FTP in favour of two test match tournaments - a regional championship and a 6 team world championship (playing 3 test series), played (as in football) two years apart. The regionals serving as qualification for the worlds. In the intervening years, the existing touring schedule can be maintained. This keeps a 4 year cycle for all competitions, but subsumes the current two-test pointless mismatches that everyone hates into the championships instead. It also allows the associate and weaker test teams the chance to play meaningful contests without there being huge numbers of mismatches.

    Bangladesh, for instance, would have a few clear (doable) goals: second tier test finalist and champions, third in their region, qualification for the world test championship. And they get the chance to aim for these every two years.