Mike Holmans October 13, 2008

ICC hurting Bangladesh

Bangladesh’s cricket is being stunted because it would mean a loss of face at the ICC’s top table

Last week I predicted that Bangladesh would be massacred by New Zealand, so they promptly went ahead and recorded one of their rare wins against a major country.

Unfortunately, though, I cannot regard it as any great evidence that they have improved. As when India and Australia were beaten, it was the senior country’s first competitive outing in the tournament or series and they were caught on the hop. Normal service was rapidly resumed.

Bangladesh's performances recall those of the minor counties in the English Gillette/NatWest knockout cup, the first one-day competition in county cricket which has since been displaced by Twenty20. The first round of that pitted fifteen of the first-class counties against minor counties, the combined universities, Ireland or Scotland. Every couple of years one of the minor sides would win because they played very well and the first-class side played very badly, usually with the help of a difficult pitch, and everyone would have a good laugh at the first-class side’s expense.

Durham won two or three times in the Eighties, which bolstered their application to graduate to first-class level no end, but when they were promoted in 1992 they had to import a swathe of experienced old hands from Boon to Botham to be even semi-competitive on a regular basis rather than riding their one-off luck.

But Bangladesh do not have that option. They can’t go into the market to recruit Stuart Law, Graeme Hick, Shaun Pollock and the about-to-be-ex-international Sourav Ganguly to flesh their team out and coach the younger guys while they find their feet in international cricket.

And that consigns them to limbo for a generation if their schedule remains as at present. Playing only against national sides is futile since the gulf in ability is too great. There are plenty of teams who would provide very reasonable opposition, but they are called Warwickshire, Warriors or Western Australia rather than West Indies. But how to do it?

An obvious answer is to have them play in the Ranji Trophy and the Hazare one-day competition, but this could easily turn out to be rather embarrassing. Bangladesh would probably not win and questions would then be asked about why a team which ranks below an Indian state side is playing international cricket. So it will not be done, more’s the pity, and neither will anything similar in some other country, because it would not look good.

Bangladesh’s cricket is thus being stunted because it would mean a loss of face at the ICC’s top table. By insisting that Bangladesh are a fully-fledged international team they delay almost indefinitely the day when it will actually be true. Instead of helping Bangladesh develop, political horse-trading dictates that they shall be kept as pathetic pets to be taken round the world for ritual thrashings with the occasional reward of patronising comments about how well they did when a proper team falls over its bootlaces.

It’s hardly surprising that getting the chance to be taken seriously in the ICL proved an attractive prospect, and unless something constructive is done, more will be enticed there. Putting a few more Bangladesh players in the next IPL auction is mere tokenism: there is no guarantee that franchises will bid at all for players whose records are as unexciting as most of the Bangladesh team are, and those who are picked up will be support actors when they need to learn how to be the leading men.

Bangladesh’s cricketers deserve more respect than this. What is so sad is that I see no prospect of them getting anything else.