Bashar: Strong bench crucial for Ireland's Test growth

Former Bangladesh skipper Habibul Bashar, a part of The Tigers’ first Test squad in 2000, feels the Irishmen didn’t look like newcomers in whites due to their decade-long experience but they need new players too. 

Habibul Bashar was part of Bangladesh's maiden Test team in 2000.   -  AFP

Every first is special in cricket. The first run, 50 or a 100, or a dismissal; there are phases for every landmark.

On Tuesday — after a 12-year wait since international debut — Ireland completed its first in whites, against Pakistan, at the Malahide Oval in Dublin. The last nation to attain Test status, before Ireland, was Bangladesh in 2000.

Habibul Bashar, a key member of that squad, still remembers the moment and perhaps, can relate to the emotions of the Irish cricket team. Bangladesh lost by five wickets, but Pakistan had to earn the victory.

Speaking to Sportstar on Tuesday, the former Bangladesh captain recollected memories from the first Test against India and advised Ireland to create a pool of players for the future. “Test is a different level altogether, so if Ireland wants to improve, it needs to play a lot of domestic games along with Test matches. It needs to bring in new players. Whenever you play Tests, you need a strong bench. But I am very happy to watch them play Tests,” says Bashar, who has played against the likes of William Porterfield, Kevin O’Brien and group in the World Cup in 2007. 

“The guys who played in 2007 are still playing. New players aren’t coming,” he adds.

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Bashar reveals how lack of chances in the initial years paused Bangladesh’s preparations for the longer format. “Before playing our first Test, we hadn’t played much of international cricket. There were not many opportunities apart from the World Cup in 1999, the Asia Cup and a few tournaments here and there. But times have changed. These days, there is a lot more cricket being played in the form of County or T20 leagues.  Most of the Irish cricketers have played many international games, so it didn’t look like they were newcomers, which is a good sign. Ireland had enough experience,” he says.

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Bashar had scored a gritty 71 in the first innings of that historic Test against India. Though Bangladesh lost by nine wickets, he retained the happier memories. “When we started, we didn’t know that we will be playing Tests someday. We didn’t even have much of an idea how to go about it. It was a dream come true and I remember every minute of that day, as I was making my debut against my childhood heroes — Sachin Tendulkar and Rahul Dravid. It is a different feeling,” recalls Bashar, who doesn’t mind a Test match between Bangladesh and Ireland in the future.

“Why not? We want to play Test cricket. We don’t get chances to play against all teams, but I would love to see Ireland and Bangladesh.”