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cricket:image:1427091 [900x506] (Credit: AFP/Getty Images)

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Bangladesh's 2-0 Test series loss against Sri Lanka was not just one of their routine defeats. It came at a time of upheaval in the country's cricket, particularly the Test team. The Sylhet Test last week was Bangladesh's first home Test in 16 years without Shakib Al Hasan, Mushfiqur Rahim and Tamim Iqbal. Although Shakib returned for the second Test in Chattogram, after a year, these stalwarts are at the end of their international careers.

The team has a new captain, Najmul Hossain Shanto, with several rookies around him. Shanto was gracious in the defeat, and it is too early in his career to be held responsible for Bangladesh's Test problems. The issue is there is very little interest in the format in the country, the domestic red-ball structure is broken, and the BCB hasn't arranged enough A tours for red-ball specialists in recent years. Meanwhile, board president Nazmul Hassan keeps blasting the team in the media.

ESPNcricinfo takes a deeper look at the state of Bangladesh Test cricket as they go through their second major transition since becoming a Full Member.

A red-ball fiasco

After Bangladesh beat Sri Lanka 2-1 in the ODI leg, there were natural expectations that the home side would be on top of their game in the Test series. Their win in the first Test against New Zealand in Sylhet in December was also fresh in the fans' memory. Bangladesh often play on momentum and good vibes, but this time they needed a longer red-ball preparation phase. What we witnessed was a nightmare in Sylhet and Chattogram in the last two weeks.

The top seven batters produced the worst batting average for Bangladesh in a two-match home series in the last 16 years. Bangladesh crossed 200 only once in the series - in the 511-run fourth-innings chase in Chattogram. That broke a sequence of five successive innings of under 200. Bangladesh's batters mustered only four fifties while left-arm spinner Taijul Islam faced the third-most balls for them in the series. Sri Lanka, by contrast, were far more consistent, scoring four hundreds and eight fifties.

Bangladesh's 12 dropped catches in the series - many of them regulation ones - looked dreadful. While the clip of Shanto, Shahadat Hossain and Zakir Hasan combining to drop one catch went viral, Mahmudul Hasan's drop of Kamindu Mendis in the Sylhet Test, when Sri Lanka were 57 for 5, was the most crucial. Both chances, like six others, were in the slips.

Bangladesh could challenge Sri Lanka only in the fast-bowling department. Although there's a considerable gap in the numbers, it was still an improvement for the home side. They made a blazing start in Sylhet although they couldn't finish off Sri Lanka. They kept creating chances in Chattogram despite Sri Lanka getting a big first-innings score, and even made a strong comeback in the second innings.

The transition

Bangladesh could point towards the lack of experience in their batting line-up. Mushfiqur, the most experienced Bangladesh player with 88 Tests, was ruled out of the Test series with a finger injury. Shakib returned for the Chattogram Test only as a peripheral figure given his eye condition and a long break from red-ball cricket.

With Mahmudullah already retired and a question mark hanging over Tamim's future, this current team is already Bangladesh's future.

This is, effectively, Bangladesh's second transition in Test cricket. The first was in 2008 when Habibul Bashar and Mohammad Rafique played their last Test series. Both were the last of Bangladesh's first generation of Test cricketers who played in the country's inaugural Test in 2000. After that, Mashrafe Mortaza, Shakib, Tamim and Mushfiqur took over. Now, they are also on their way out.

Assistant coach Nic Pothas, standing in as head coach for the Chattogram Test, asked to give the young batters two years. Chandika Hathurusinghe said recently in an interview that he wants to develop a strong team culture in partnership with new captain Shanto. That also means the fortunes will not change overnight.

BCB chief keeps blasting players publicly

What this team in transition doesn't need is Hassan bad-mouthing them in public. The likes of Shakib, Tamim and Mushfiqur grew accustomed to this after every series loss in the last ten years. In 2008, during the first transition, the BCB officials were much more supportive of the players in public.

Shanto claimed ignorance when asked how it feels to be blasted by the board chief, but it is very hard to ignore Hassan's dressing-downs in the media.

"The problem here is not the loss the problem is the way they lost [the Sylhet Test]," Hassan told the media on March 26. "Their mindset, attitude and shot selection was disgusting. It looked ugly. It seems that maybe they don't want to play this format. So we are hurt. [They] are not worried at all about winning and losing. That kind of shot selection, that kind of mindset, it doesn't work in Tests."

Hassan later accepted that the team didn't have experienced players and was playing at a vastly different pitch in Sylhet. But the headlines only focus on Hassan's criticism.

The broken domestic structure

Rather than blasting players in public, the board president's attention should be on the BCB's red-ball policy. The first-class tournament, the National Cricket League, has chugged along without any direction since 1999. The players have long called it "picnic cricket".

The NCL is a two-tier competition these days. Seven out of the eight divisions of the country have teams. Players can join another divisional team if they can get a clearance letter from their division. The problem, however, is the total lack of competition in these matches. There's nothing at stake. Players are paid very little, so they don't see it as an attractive tournament. The Dhaka Premier League, the one-day competition that is the pinnacle of the capital's club-based league structure, is the most important domestic tournament in Bangladesh.

There is invariably a gap between domestic and international cricket in most countries but when that gap keeps widening every season, it hurts the players' progress.

Mominul Haque, one of three Bangladesh players in the current Test side to have played 50-plus domestic first-class matches, was asked about domestic cricket after the fourth day's play in Chattogram.

"It won't sound nice but there's a huge gap between our first-class competitions and Test cricket," he said. "It is like night and day. Everyone knows about it. I am not making an excuse. I play in the NCL where I face virtually no challenge at all. I have to face different challenges in a Test match."

Shanto echoed Mominul's assessment, saying that the first-class tournaments in Bangladesh aren't of the desired quality.

"Better wickets in domestic first-class cricket will help," he said. "But we don't face a lot of challenges there. Of course, playing more matches helps in the overall improvement of each player, but I personally feel we don't get to play quality matches in first-class cricket."

The way forward

Shanto believes that in the short run, the BCB should arrange red-ball matches for Bangladesh A, especially ahead of their next Test series, which is likely against Pakistan in August.

"If we can send our Test specialists to the Bangladesh A team to play in our next Test destination, we may be better prepared," he said. "They will know about those wickets and conditions. Even if that's not possible, an A series at home will be beneficial. At least those who play mostly red-ball cricket will get some matches."

The BCB also must invest heavily to strengthen the domestic structure. It is widely identified that first-class and T20 cricket are Bangladesh's major problems. Hathurusinghe recently suggested that the BCB organise a domestic T20 tournament as the BPL franchises don't provide central roles to local players.

Many also accuse BCB of not paying enough attention to the Bangladesh Cricket League, the franchise-based first-class competition that is quite promising. It is designed like the Duleep Trophy in India, where the best players from NCL are put together for a more refined competition with fewer teams.

Ultimately, though, it is the same old story of Bangladesh cricket: the talent is left unfulfilled. The organisers make mistakes. The media and fans outrage. The cricket takes a backseat. Bangladesh win one game and everything is forgotten. When they lose badly, everything returns to square one.