Over the past few weeks I have heard many people ridicule Bangladesh as a Test playing nation, and suggested that high scores, records, and centuries shouldn’t count. I find it all rather galling.
Sure, Bangladesh are complete crap. No question. Whether or not they should have been given Test status could be debated but the fact is they are a Test playing nation.
Many people made disparaging remarks about the recent series and said that is was boring, a yawn, a waste of time etc, etc.
I would like to go on record as saying that I enjoyed it. Aside from the fact that I was in hospital (and still am) and had nothing else to do, Test cricket is Test cricket. Before the series started, I was looking forward to it. This was the first time that Test cricket would be played on home soil and in winter. That point went hand-in-hand with this also being the first time that Test cricket was being played in the Top End – in Cairns and Darwin. And this was the first time that Australia would play Bangladesh. Let’s not forget that most of the other countries have already had their turn at racking up large scores with batsman making large personal totals and bowlers collecting fine hauls of wickets.
Why denigrate Stephen Waugh for becoming the first batsman to make scores of 150 against all Test playing nations? This has been his first chance to do so – when others have already had their chances. And remember that Australia has played just two Test matches against Bangladesh and just a single match against Zimbabwe – so Steve takes his chances.
I’d also like to make the point that in the second Test in Cairns, on a true, bouncy track, Bangladesh batted first, posted almost 300 and took the game into day four. In recent times, Australia has rolled much more highly rated opposition inside three days on many occasions.
Aside from the founding Test playing nations, Australia and England, all current Test playing nations have had to enter the world of Test cricket and have struggled against the established teams for some time. It took New Zealand 20 years to win a Test match.
One problem facing new teams has been getting matches against good opposition. I think that it is shameful that we have played our neighbours, New Zealand, for the first time in 1946 and then did not play them again until 1973. It is also shameful that England, on the other side of the world first played against New Zealand in 1930 and has played far more Tests against New Zealand (85) than Australia has (41). Australia has historically chosen to spurn lowly ranked teams.
Being in a position of strength gave them the option to be choosey – there were gate takings to think of. And on the other side of the coin, beggars can’t be choosers. A remark made by the great New Zealand batsman, Martin Crowe once made an impression on me. Even though he was a prince of a batsman, his team was doing very badly and he lamented “I don’t want to be stuck playing Zimbabwe and Sri Lanka for the rest of my life”.
It is a good thing that strong nations are now obliged to play all of the other nations. It is sad due to the extra committment that we may see less five Test series – but Australia is in the fortunate position of being able to play Test cricket at home, all year round, which may preserve the five Test series. I think that the Top End experiment was a success and takes some of the pressure off to play the wooden spooners in the traditional, populous, southern venues during summer.
I don’t feel one bit sorry for Bangladesh. They got their butts whipped as everyone (themselves included) expected but I doubt they were too bothered. The fact is that they were playing Test cricket against the best team in the world and one of the best teams ever. If I was a Bangladesh Test cricketer, I would have been thrilled. The bowlers were given the opportunity to bowl and dismiss greats such as Steve Waugh. They didn’t quite achieve the dismissing part but so what. I recall a time where my soccer team made Premier League. Unfortunately, the two players largely responsible for getting us there went on to bigger and better things and left us. We won just two games that year (against the same team) but I would still have rather been playing Premier League than Division One. What sportsman doesn’t want to play at the highest level possible?
And a final blister for channel nine. The Australian players went to pains before the Darwin Test to emphasise that they were playing a Test match and that they would be regarding Bangladesh with respect. The situation in Darwin was that Bangladesh batted first and were rolled for 97 (from memory). The pitch was low and slow and the scoring was slow, even for Australia – Australia didn’t have a huge lead by the end of the first day.
Channel nine was doing the usual projected lead at a certain time calculations, based on current run rate and alternative run rates. And I find these useful. I was agog when for the first two sessions, the commentators (Warne and Greig being the worst offenders) were suggesting that a lead of 170 would see a declaration and that Australia should be able to wrap up the match by the end of the day. Even Healy (whom I regard as just about the best of the Channel Nine bunch), half way through the final session, thought there might be a chance of requesting the extra half and hour to wrap it up that night.
I am very thankful that Steve Waugh did what you do in Test matches – score the runs in the first innings and declare with a lead of 400. Maybe I am cynical, but I felt somewhat enlightened as to why the Channel Nine boys were so keen for the match to end on Saturday when I saw on Sunday morning that the ABC had the coverage on Sunday. Does channel 9 actually think that Steve Waugh sits in the dressing room listening to advise from the likes of Warne and Greig?