March 6, 2014

Time for a Bengali reunion

The BCCI has missed a golden opportunity by not organising a Test between India and Bangladesh in Kolkata
22

The significance of an India-Bangladesh Test at Eden Gardens would be unmistakable
The significance of an India-Bangladesh Test at Eden Gardens would be unmistakable © Associated Press

In 1978, less than seven years after the Pakistani Army surrendered in Dhaka and Bangladesh was born, Pakistan and India resumed cricketing ties, playing a three-Test series that ended in a 2-0 win for Pakistan.

Prior to the Test matches, Pakistan announced it would relax some border-crossing restrictions and grant a predetermined number of tourist visas to Indians who wanted to visit Pakistan and watch the games. This offer was taken up with especial alacrity by residents of Punjab, many of whom were keen to visit their old stomping grounds and perhaps even make contact with old friends and acquaintances. Some Sikh families were keen to visit sites of religious pilgrimage - such as Nakana Sahib for instance - and were among the most enthusiastic applicants for Pakistani visas.

These Indian visitors to Pakistan, despite being small in numbers, added some undeniable colour to the proceedings during the Test series. Most memorably, in Lahore, during Kapil Dev's breezy innings of 15 and 43, which included a couple of what were to become his trademark lusty sixes, a Sikh gentleman ran out to the middle of the ground, garlanded Kapil, and ran back to the stands, waving to all and sundry, all the while left blissfully alone by the attending security guards. Those were innocent times indeed.

Years later, in 2004, when India visited Pakistan, many Indian visitors found their way across the border again, and found much to enthuse about while there: the food, the camaraderie, the chance to visit venues and locales previously only read of in history books. And yet again, there was a distinct sub-class of these tourists who found, on their visit to Pakistan, a chance to tap into the locally distinctive cultures associated with their own ethnic and linguistic groups.

I mention this little slice of history because I am reminded of it by the staging of the Asia Cup in Bangladesh. Not merely because this tournament affords a chance for South Asians of various stripes to visit Bangladesh but because it reminds me of a golden opportunity missed by the BCCI in its cricketing relationship with Bangladesh: organising a Test between India and Bangladesh in Kolkata.

Since their promotion to ICC Full Member status, Bangladesh have not been invited to play a Test match in India. The BCCI has sent its team across the border but has declined to play host. By organising a Test match in Kolkata it could address this abdication of its responsibility to support cricket in its neighbour and also contribute to the kind of cultural contact made possible by border crossings.

When Pakistan was created in 1947, Bengal was partitioned too; West and East Bengal were cast asunder. A Test match in Kolkata between India and Bangladesh would enable a Bengali reunion of sorts - much like the 1978 Lahore Test enabled a Punjabi one. The border between India and Bangladesh has not been as fraught as the one between India and Pakistan but still, the larger significance of staging a Test in Kolkata would be unmistakable. If the BCCI was particularly ambitious it could participate in the joint organisation of related cultural events: perhaps a Bengali literary festival, perhaps a musical one, to be staged during the Test match.

What I am describing here sounds unabashedly like a public relations exercise of sorts, a staged encounter. But there would be serious cricket at the heart of it: a Test at one of India's greatest and most storied grounds, hosting for the first time, a particularly appropriate guest.

Samir Chopra lives in Brooklyn and teaches Philosophy at the City University of New York. He tweets here

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • ashok16 on March 10, 2014, 20:26 GMT

    A test match, even if it happens will be a temporary flash in the pan. A more lasting alternative may to be make a Bangladesh-A team a permanent fixture in Ranji trophy.

  • on March 9, 2014, 9:57 GMT

    @Smukhles India was once allout for 42,that was once.Before 40 years back.And the World's best batting lineup Sri Lanka was done and dusted for 43 very recently remember? 2

    Lol we want Malinga?Please no jokes here.We dont need Pie chuckers.Our Junior batsman Virat Kohli plundered Lasith Malinga mercilessly for 24 runs in an over in the BOUNCY AUSTRALIAN PITCH.Your so called premier world spinner averages 45 in India-Muttaih Muralitharan.Look at Sanga and Mahela both played around 350 and 420 matches respectively in ODIs KS has 18 tons and MJ has 16 tons but Virat has alone got 18 tons in 140 odd matches.

  • on March 9, 2014, 5:01 GMT

    Test match aside, reunion between Bangladesh and West Bengal are far too common these days. Musical soirees are quite frequent, literary get together, poetry seminars, folk music festivals, and the regular events at Tagore's university,, Shanti Niketan are far too common. A test match, can only be a test match, or better still is a Bangladesh vs West Bengal match.

  • mahtabtanim1 on March 9, 2014, 4:12 GMT

    Well thought, Samir. The financial issue on the part of BCCI will not be a cause hosting Indo-Bangla test at Eden. The collection would be much higher than match with some of other established teams. No seat at Eden will be left vacant.

  • on March 8, 2014, 22:26 GMT

    Very interesting article,and yess we would be the most fitting host nation in eden gardens!

  • on March 8, 2014, 17:15 GMT

    Our so called elder brother doesn't seem to be in acquintace with the younger sister Bangladesh. India needs to think at times out of the economic lines. With the sheer size, broadness, and power it should also realize the responsibilities it needs to take.

    Questions to BCCI:

    1. Why haven't you hosted us? Answer: Financial issue. 2. Why can't you lend us experts as a gesture at times? : Answer: You don't care. 3. Sidhu, Sehwag and several others seem to have a negative attitude towards us, why? : Because we are a new nation, new cricketing nation?

    I request BCCI to see the movie 'Lagaan' which was made where else- India! Never misuse your power.

    India & BCCI should be our friend.

  • on March 8, 2014, 16:23 GMT

    Great idea which im suprised hasnt happened. I think a tour to India will decide who has the better spinners out of the 2 teams but that is pretty much it.

  • smukhles on March 8, 2014, 13:53 GMT

    @Great_Chucker, Who is playing in today;s Asia Cup Final! The Toothless Bowler's Team!

  • Great_Chucker on March 8, 2014, 10:31 GMT

    @Smucklies if you can now make India all out for 42 with your toothless bowlers then SL can be bowled out for 5 runs by indians ..since they are not playing in flat bed colombo tracks... and since SL has not even won 1 test in SA or AUS they cannot claim to play short balls..LOL

  • smukhles on March 8, 2014, 7:09 GMT

    @kumar_anindian, So we should live in a cricketing world of what has happened before and that is going to be the story for ever? Once your mighty India was all out for 42 in test so we should just not play with them any more because of that kind of mediocre record? Try Sri Lanka of today and come out of obscure past. Short ball has been India's weak point for example, home or abroad. Wish you have at least one Malinga or half of Lankan pace attack.

  • ashok16 on March 10, 2014, 20:26 GMT

    A test match, even if it happens will be a temporary flash in the pan. A more lasting alternative may to be make a Bangladesh-A team a permanent fixture in Ranji trophy.

  • on March 9, 2014, 9:57 GMT

    @Smukhles India was once allout for 42,that was once.Before 40 years back.And the World's best batting lineup Sri Lanka was done and dusted for 43 very recently remember? 2

    Lol we want Malinga?Please no jokes here.We dont need Pie chuckers.Our Junior batsman Virat Kohli plundered Lasith Malinga mercilessly for 24 runs in an over in the BOUNCY AUSTRALIAN PITCH.Your so called premier world spinner averages 45 in India-Muttaih Muralitharan.Look at Sanga and Mahela both played around 350 and 420 matches respectively in ODIs KS has 18 tons and MJ has 16 tons but Virat has alone got 18 tons in 140 odd matches.

  • on March 9, 2014, 5:01 GMT

    Test match aside, reunion between Bangladesh and West Bengal are far too common these days. Musical soirees are quite frequent, literary get together, poetry seminars, folk music festivals, and the regular events at Tagore's university,, Shanti Niketan are far too common. A test match, can only be a test match, or better still is a Bangladesh vs West Bengal match.

  • mahtabtanim1 on March 9, 2014, 4:12 GMT

    Well thought, Samir. The financial issue on the part of BCCI will not be a cause hosting Indo-Bangla test at Eden. The collection would be much higher than match with some of other established teams. No seat at Eden will be left vacant.

  • on March 8, 2014, 22:26 GMT

    Very interesting article,and yess we would be the most fitting host nation in eden gardens!

  • on March 8, 2014, 17:15 GMT

    Our so called elder brother doesn't seem to be in acquintace with the younger sister Bangladesh. India needs to think at times out of the economic lines. With the sheer size, broadness, and power it should also realize the responsibilities it needs to take.

    Questions to BCCI:

    1. Why haven't you hosted us? Answer: Financial issue. 2. Why can't you lend us experts as a gesture at times? : Answer: You don't care. 3. Sidhu, Sehwag and several others seem to have a negative attitude towards us, why? : Because we are a new nation, new cricketing nation?

    I request BCCI to see the movie 'Lagaan' which was made where else- India! Never misuse your power.

    India & BCCI should be our friend.

  • on March 8, 2014, 16:23 GMT

    Great idea which im suprised hasnt happened. I think a tour to India will decide who has the better spinners out of the 2 teams but that is pretty much it.

  • smukhles on March 8, 2014, 13:53 GMT

    @Great_Chucker, Who is playing in today;s Asia Cup Final! The Toothless Bowler's Team!

  • Great_Chucker on March 8, 2014, 10:31 GMT

    @Smucklies if you can now make India all out for 42 with your toothless bowlers then SL can be bowled out for 5 runs by indians ..since they are not playing in flat bed colombo tracks... and since SL has not even won 1 test in SA or AUS they cannot claim to play short balls..LOL

  • smukhles on March 8, 2014, 7:09 GMT

    @kumar_anindian, So we should live in a cricketing world of what has happened before and that is going to be the story for ever? Once your mighty India was all out for 42 in test so we should just not play with them any more because of that kind of mediocre record? Try Sri Lanka of today and come out of obscure past. Short ball has been India's weak point for example, home or abroad. Wish you have at least one Malinga or half of Lankan pace attack.

  • kumar_anindian on March 8, 2014, 6:12 GMT

    @Smukles excluding SL?Be happy that he did not mention about the Mighty Lankan attack which was not able to defend 330 inside 36 overs against India overseas.Also Sri Lanka has Zero Test Wins in India even after playing for a period of 23 years in India.No wonder why he did not mention Sri Lanka in his comment.

  • smukhles on March 8, 2014, 5:14 GMT

    @Subho Dfw, An worthy opponent who can beat the the hell out of Indian team at home or abroad? How calm you are excluding Sri Lanka? ESPN Cricinfo, please publish.

  • on March 8, 2014, 3:30 GMT

    i hope this never happens - Eden Gardens is the best ground in India and should be reserved for worthy opponents - Australia, South Africa, England, and the West Indies and Pakistan of yore. Not for Bengladesh

  • Bang_La on March 8, 2014, 2:14 GMT

    @ Prabhakar Muthukrishnan, you are living in obscure past, sir. This Bangladesh would not crumble in 3 days against Indian toothless bowling. Mark my words.

  • on March 7, 2014, 12:15 GMT

    If I remember correctly, Bangladesh did play at the Eden Gardens in 1990 during the initial Asia Cup. India, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka were playing and I am sure there would have been an India Bangladesh ODI. As someone whose parents came across to Kolkata in 1947-48, and studied in Barisal till Class XII (what was called IA those days, Intermediate Arts), I have often wanted to plan a trip to Dhaka during the cricket series. Unfortunately it has never happened. From an India-Pakistan perspective though, my limited understanding if that there is much more usual traffic between Bangladesh and India than there was / is between India Pakistan.

  • on March 7, 2014, 10:46 GMT

    But will a test match between India and Bangladesh be as competitive as ( rather was) between India and Pak. Chances are that the test match will not last more than 3 days at the most.With no "Star power" in the BD team, the BCCI and the media will have a tough time promoting the tour. Will it be a profitable one? Will the crowds flock to the match? In fact this is the reason why BCCI has not invited BD to play a test series in India till now.

  • ImonG on March 7, 2014, 7:23 GMT

    The relationship between the bengalis of two bengals ( East i.e. Bangladesh now & West Bengal in India) is extremely amicable, unlike the Western Indian states. Inspite of having a history of partition and extreme violence (Bengal was the largest state to be partioned in size & population, also had the biggest riots), the Muktijuddho in 70's resulting in cooperation among the two populace & the common bengali affinity for the art music & literature have brought the two diasporas closer. The visa regulations are less stringent & people do travel more frequently. One such re-union post mukti juddho would have really stirred up the emotions, but I don't think a series now will have the same impact. The divide is their, but much loose as compared to Punjab. We bengalis are much closer, and do beleive in the unified Bengali identity, our language & literature being the biggest binding factor. Kolkata hosting BD test would be a great event, but not as much an ocassion Samir is expceting.

  • AndyZaltzmannsHair on March 6, 2014, 22:01 GMT

    Sorry the BCCI and its corporate buddies are too busy trying to ban live scorecards, (seriously what's all that about, bizarre?!?!) to care about actual cricket that gets played on actual cricket fields. 'Cause that would mean they actually care about cricket.

  • dijkstra77 on March 6, 2014, 21:28 GMT

    The article does pose a good question! Why BCCI hasn't hosted BD for a test thus far?

  • Lucky K on March 6, 2014, 13:37 GMT

    The article makes little sense. The India-Bangladesh equivalent of an India-Pakistan Test at Lahore would be an India-Bangladesh Test at Dhaka, which has already occurred. An India-Bangladesh Test at Kolkata would be akin to an India-Pakistan Teat at Amritsar or Mohali.

  • D-Ascendant on March 6, 2014, 7:20 GMT

    If it had been held in 1978, an India-Bangladesh Test might have been relevant. Today the average person in West Bengal under the age of 60 sees himself/herself as vastly different from their Bangladeshi counterparts (aside from of course, the huge numbers of immigrants -- illegal and otherwise -- from Bangladesh that have taken up residence in WB and Calcutta in the past few decades).

    And that, of course, leads to the other point: Before Thailand and Malaysia became shopping destinations for wealthy Bangladeshis, Calcutta was the destination of choice for buying stuff and getting medical treatment (still is, to some extent). So it's not like Bangladeshis haven't experienced Calcutta.

    And as for Indians born in Jessore, Khulna, Sylhet etc: I wonder how many really want to visit Bangladeshi? Most people in their 60s and 70s have a vague vision of some utopia they left behind, and I'm sure most would like to keep it that way.

  • on March 6, 2014, 5:06 GMT

    we bangladeshis are also hoping for this..

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  • on March 6, 2014, 5:06 GMT

    we bangladeshis are also hoping for this..

  • D-Ascendant on March 6, 2014, 7:20 GMT

    If it had been held in 1978, an India-Bangladesh Test might have been relevant. Today the average person in West Bengal under the age of 60 sees himself/herself as vastly different from their Bangladeshi counterparts (aside from of course, the huge numbers of immigrants -- illegal and otherwise -- from Bangladesh that have taken up residence in WB and Calcutta in the past few decades).

    And that, of course, leads to the other point: Before Thailand and Malaysia became shopping destinations for wealthy Bangladeshis, Calcutta was the destination of choice for buying stuff and getting medical treatment (still is, to some extent). So it's not like Bangladeshis haven't experienced Calcutta.

    And as for Indians born in Jessore, Khulna, Sylhet etc: I wonder how many really want to visit Bangladeshi? Most people in their 60s and 70s have a vague vision of some utopia they left behind, and I'm sure most would like to keep it that way.

  • Lucky K on March 6, 2014, 13:37 GMT

    The article makes little sense. The India-Bangladesh equivalent of an India-Pakistan Test at Lahore would be an India-Bangladesh Test at Dhaka, which has already occurred. An India-Bangladesh Test at Kolkata would be akin to an India-Pakistan Teat at Amritsar or Mohali.

  • dijkstra77 on March 6, 2014, 21:28 GMT

    The article does pose a good question! Why BCCI hasn't hosted BD for a test thus far?

  • AndyZaltzmannsHair on March 6, 2014, 22:01 GMT

    Sorry the BCCI and its corporate buddies are too busy trying to ban live scorecards, (seriously what's all that about, bizarre?!?!) to care about actual cricket that gets played on actual cricket fields. 'Cause that would mean they actually care about cricket.

  • ImonG on March 7, 2014, 7:23 GMT

    The relationship between the bengalis of two bengals ( East i.e. Bangladesh now & West Bengal in India) is extremely amicable, unlike the Western Indian states. Inspite of having a history of partition and extreme violence (Bengal was the largest state to be partioned in size & population, also had the biggest riots), the Muktijuddho in 70's resulting in cooperation among the two populace & the common bengali affinity for the art music & literature have brought the two diasporas closer. The visa regulations are less stringent & people do travel more frequently. One such re-union post mukti juddho would have really stirred up the emotions, but I don't think a series now will have the same impact. The divide is their, but much loose as compared to Punjab. We bengalis are much closer, and do beleive in the unified Bengali identity, our language & literature being the biggest binding factor. Kolkata hosting BD test would be a great event, but not as much an ocassion Samir is expceting.

  • on March 7, 2014, 10:46 GMT

    But will a test match between India and Bangladesh be as competitive as ( rather was) between India and Pak. Chances are that the test match will not last more than 3 days at the most.With no "Star power" in the BD team, the BCCI and the media will have a tough time promoting the tour. Will it be a profitable one? Will the crowds flock to the match? In fact this is the reason why BCCI has not invited BD to play a test series in India till now.

  • on March 7, 2014, 12:15 GMT

    If I remember correctly, Bangladesh did play at the Eden Gardens in 1990 during the initial Asia Cup. India, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka were playing and I am sure there would have been an India Bangladesh ODI. As someone whose parents came across to Kolkata in 1947-48, and studied in Barisal till Class XII (what was called IA those days, Intermediate Arts), I have often wanted to plan a trip to Dhaka during the cricket series. Unfortunately it has never happened. From an India-Pakistan perspective though, my limited understanding if that there is much more usual traffic between Bangladesh and India than there was / is between India Pakistan.

  • Bang_La on March 8, 2014, 2:14 GMT

    @ Prabhakar Muthukrishnan, you are living in obscure past, sir. This Bangladesh would not crumble in 3 days against Indian toothless bowling. Mark my words.

  • on March 8, 2014, 3:30 GMT

    i hope this never happens - Eden Gardens is the best ground in India and should be reserved for worthy opponents - Australia, South Africa, England, and the West Indies and Pakistan of yore. Not for Bengladesh