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November 12, 2000
Amidst the background of a swirl of matchfixing allegations in international cricket, this weekend is of great significance in the cricketing fraternity as the newest member of Test-playing nations took centre stage for the first time.
Opening batsman Mehrab Hossain began a new chapter in, not only Bangladeshi but, cricketing history last Friday when he scored his country's first run in Test cricket as that nation heralded its inaugural Test match.
By all accounts, Bangladesh's capital, Dhaka, was alive with excitement and anticipation as much because of the on-field battle against India as because of the importance of the moment. At last, they had arrived.
The sight of paratroopers - carrying the flags of all ten Test-playing countries - falling from the skies symbolised Bangladesh's entrance into cricket's inner circle. We at the West Indies Cricket Board (WICB) welcome our newest comrades and wish them the best in their cricketing endeavours both on and off the field.
President of the International Cricket Council (ICC), Malcolm Gray, summed up the magnitude of this event aptly in extending congratulations to Bangladesh.
No doubt this first match against India will be a sporting occasion of great significance and excitement. It is absolutely vital for the long-term health and development of cricket that new countries are encouraged and supported by the ICC and other nations to achieve Test status.
Bangladesh provides an excellent example to aspiring countries of what can be achieved with hard work, planning, dedication and, of course, talent.
'Cricket is a great game - the best as far as I'm concerned. Occasions like this inaugural Test match are very special. The eyes of the cricketing world will be on Bangladesh.'
The WICB is proud that the West Indies can claim a piece of personal involvement in this prestigious moment as Bangladesh were coached to the threshold of this great occasion by one of our finest players, Gordon Greenidge.
The region's leading international umpire, Steve Bucknor, was chosen to officiate in this landmark match.
It is regrettable, however, that Bangladesh's ascension to top-level cricket has come at a time when the sport is reeling from repeated and seemingly never-ending allegations of impropriety by players; some of the best at that.
Given the mire of speculation and accusations, the WICB is concerned that emerging cricket entities may be turned off from a sport once familiarly known as the gentleman's game. Also, one must ask how, in this prevailing climate of doubt and mistrust, can the ICC increase interest in cricket and successfully court the vast sponsorship necessary to build cricketworldwide.
As Gray quite rightly indicated, 'it is vital for the long-term health and development of cricket that new countries are encouraged and supported to achieve Test status'.
Clearly the growth of cricket in terms of numbers who play it and the number of countries embracing the sport will make it more commercially viable, thus ensuring more capital to develop the game across the globe.
To this extent, the ongoing saga of match-fixing is doing much to harm cricket's future or, as Gray would say, to its long-term health.
We have been able to attract Bangladesh and others are knocking on the door for Test status but, if this scourge of match-fixing is allowed to run unchecked, how soon will it be before we start to experience the tangible fall-out from match-fixing accusations and revelations?
The WICB supports any move to clean up cricket and has long pledged to deal with those in its ranks who are deemed guilty of such with drastic action.
So, as we celebrate Bangladesh's entry into our elite fold, we look ahead optimistically to a return to cricket's previously untarnished reputation, and the day when the only damage done by any cricketer is on the pitch with a bat or ball - in the pursuit of sporting excellence.
© The Barbados Nation