England are planning to scrap home Test series against Bangladesh after 2010 because of the increasing commercial unfeasibility of such contests, suggest reports in the UK press.
The move, if formalised at an ECB-organised conference next month, will come as yet another blow to a Bangladesh side struggling to justify its status as a Test-playing nation; they are already an unattractive invitee for India, which has refused to invite them for a tour since they became the tenth country to receive Test status in 2000.
Giles Clarke, the ECB chairman, told reporters in Mohali about plans to hold a conference next month in which ways to ensure the primacy of Test cricket will be discussed. According to the Independent, members of the England team, former England cricketers and directors of cricket at the 18 counties will meet in Leicester on January 19.
Among other things on the agenda will be the quality of Test cricket and the number of one-sided contests. England, Clarke revealed, will not play Zimbabwe till they have a side of reasonable standard and, after 2010, will not invite Bangladesh, choosing instead to play there.
"If we are going to have a proper strategy for Test cricket we want to have games like that we have just had in Chennai," Clarke said. "It showed everybody just what a Test can be. There is a very hard-fought game between Australia and South Africa taking place in Perth at the moment. We have to make sure that the standard is there. Our friends in India feel pretty similarly."
A spokesman for the ECB, however, downplayed Clarke's stance. "The meeting on January 19 is designed to discuss every aspect of international cricket, from over-rates to crowds to development to staging," he told Cricinfo. "It's about seeking an improvement at every level, not about deciding who England should play."
The Bangladesh Cricket Board (BCB) said it would not react to Clarke's comments. "We have nothing to say at this stage unless we receive any official communication from the ECB on this matter or from the ICC," Jalal Yunus, BCB's media committee chairman, said.
An ICC spokesperson told Cricinfo that it expected all current FTP commitments to be fulfilled, and any subsequent arrangements would only emerge after the ICC board had decided on a way forward after the current FTP ends in 2012.
"The ICC expects all its members to fulfill their obligations under the FTP," the official said. "The ECB will fulfill this obligation by hosting Bangladesh in 2010. The nature of the ICC's FTP after 2012 is currently under discussion within the ICC board. From the ICC's perspective, we would like all members to play each other as often as possible. If the ECB chairman has a specific view on this, he can put them before the ICC board, of which he is a director."
According to the FTP, Bangladesh tour England in May 2010 for two Tests and three ODIs. Bangladesh, who were given Test status in 2000, have only one win in 57 Tests, that too against Zimbabwe. Though they have come close to upsetting Pakistan, Australia, South Africa and New Zealand, they have mostly struggled to avoid heavy defeat.
A mass defection of players to the ICL recently has also severely depleted their resource pool. With India, cricket's current financial centre, already not keen on hosting them, Clarke's comments suggest they won't soon be touring the spiritual home of cricket, which will only intensify the scrutiny on their Test status.