When Bangladesh were pitted against Afghanistan for a one-off Test series followed by a T20I tri-series involving the duo and the low-ranked Zimbabweans, many thought it would be a great opportunity for a declining Tigers to get back into their groove after a disappointing tour of Sri Lanka in July which was preceded by an eighth-place finish in the World Cup in England.
However, the entire arrangement has only served as an eye-opener for the Tigers. The 114-Test old Bangladesh had their flaws and shortcomings pointed out, and seized up, by Afghanistan -- the newest side in the format.
Instead of dominating and easing their way back into rhythm, Bangladesh could only register a hard-fought three-wicket victory against Zimbabwe before being slapped hard by Afghanistan in a 25-run defeat when the two sides first met in the T20I tri-series in Mirpur on September 15.
Although Bangladesh somewhat redeemed themselves with an impressive second phase -- winning all the Chattogram leg matches and booking a place in the final -- not a single soul would be confident of the outcome of the tri-series final had it not been decided by rain.
Even if the weather remained favourable at the Sher-e-Bangla National Stadium in Mirpur on Tuesday, Bangladesh could well have been on the losing side. And even if they had managed to win, the victory would only come as a consolation considering their horrendous recent hiccups.
Bangladesh will now be tested in the same two formats but against a far better side when they tour India for a two-Test and a three-T20I series next November. It cannot be said the Tigers look in the best of shape going into a much more challenging assignment.
However, one can say that the players can fine tune their technique in the upcoming National Cricket League (NCL), scheduled to begin next month. But is that really the case?
Even Bangladesh Test and T20I skipper Shakib Al Hasan believes that playing or not playing in the NCL is the same thing, presumably because its standards are nowhere near that of an international game. Shakib will rather be featuring in the ongoing Caribbean Premier League before joining the team for the tour of India.
One boon for the Tigers is that Russell Domingo, the newly appointed head coach, will be going to Sri Lanka to oversee the performances of the touring Bangladesh A team. One of the main reasons for selecting Domingo as head coach was that the South African would be more involved with the domestic games and get more players out of the pipeline. Although he is keeping up to his commitments as of now, the main challenge for the 45-year-old is a lot different and harder.
Domingo needs to be courageous enough to state the truth to the BCB officials -- the truth that they have been ignorant of so far. He needs to point out that it does not matter how many trips he makes with age-level teams or how many domestic matches he watches, he will still not be able to pick the players that best fit into the national squad unless the BCB takes the necessary step of increasing the standard of the domestic leagues.
The range of problems that Bangladesh face while playing in foreign conditions are not unknown to the world. Afghanistan have recently proven that given the right approach and tactics, even the spin ploy of Bangladesh at home can be counter-attacked, making the Tigers suffocate even in favourable conditions.
Domingo needs to come up with a permanent solution and try to change the whole mindset of the board. The type of mindset that prevails now has restricted the BCB to make sporting wickets or call players as replacements seemingly at random to provide stopgap solutions.
So the real question that remains is whether Domingo can change what has been prevailing for so long and initiate a domestic circuit which will be valued by the likes of Shakib and other national players? If not, then it can be said that Bangladesh will have to endure much more humiliation in the future, which would serve only to put Domingo’s future in doubt.