Jagmohan Dalmiya: excuses, excuses
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You can give them all the benefit of doubt you want, but the officials of the Board of Control for Cricket in India rarely fail to disappoint. Their latest move - indefinitely postponing, for the second time, Bangladesh's tour of India - reeks of a narrow-minded and maverick attitude. The BCCI, it seems, has respect neither for Bangladesh, nor for the ICC's 10-year tours and fixtures program.
Step back to November 2000. Bangladesh took the field for their first-ever Test, at the Bangabandhu National Stadium in Dhaka. Although the decision to grant the country Test status was eventually a unanimous one within the ICC, few will disagree that it was Jagmohan Dalmiya, and the Indian board, for their own reasons, who spearheaded the process. Now, five years later, Bangladesh are yet to make their maiden full tour of India.
Since being granted Test status Bangladesh have played Tests in Zimbabwe, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, New Zealand, South Africa, Australia, West Indies, and most recently in England. Ultra-conspicuous by its absence is the big brother from across the border, India, who waste no opportunity in championing Bangladesh's cause. But, that is proving to be a matter of mere convenience for the Indian board.
Bangladesh's presence in the fold of Test-playing nations certainly helped the BCCI at the ICC bargaining table. In no uncertain terms an Asian bloc comprising four votes was formed. The BCCI wasted no opportunity in standing tall and defending the Bangladeshis - when it came to words, that is.
But deeds tell a different tale. The Indian board invited a Bangladesh XI to play in the Duleep Trophy last season. Having done so, they treated them like unexpected and unwanted house-guests. The board rescheduled virtually every fixture - both dates and venues - at the drop of a hat. The most obvious case was their match against Central Zone. Bangladesh were unhappy when told at the last minute that the match had been moved from Jaipur to Delhi, and livid when they learned that a friendly match had been played, only 48 hours prior, on the very pitch they would use. Would the BCCI dare to do this to a visiting Australian or English team?
In this case the BCCI has said that the proposed month for Bangladesh's tour - October - is unsuitable because the ICC Super Series would be on at the same time. But that ICC had announced the dates for the Super Series months ago, and the BCCI knew full well their key players would be involved in the jamboree. What's worse is the second excuse the board has put forth - that October is a month when two of India's biggest festivals, Diwali and Dussera, happen, and this makes it inconvenient to host Bangladesh. Have we forgotten, that only last year, India played against Pakistan in a one-dayer to celebrate the board's Platinum Jubilee, on Diwali day?
The bottom line is that India are not trying especially hard to fit in Bangladesh - and the onus is on the BCCI, since it was they who postponed Bangladesh's visit the first time around - because the tour does not mean much financially. The BCCI has bent over backwards in the past to accommodate full series, only Tests, or preferably only one-dayers, against the likes of Australia, England and Pakistan. That's the role commerce plays in today's high-stakes business of cricket.
But it cannot be merely about the bottom line. The ICC has put in place a 10-year programme where each team plays against everyone else home and away in that period. If the BCCI cannot respect the Bangladeshis merely as a Test country, or for matters of finance, they should do so because it is the right thing to do. Because the ICC cannot function smoothly if a board chooses to be a law unto itself.
Anand Vasu is assistant editor of Cricinfo