Thursday, January 13, 2005

Spare the rod

If you have a stick, and want to beat someone with it, steer clear of Bangladesh. That team, more than any other in the world, needs nurture. They were given Test status four years ago, and are now on the verge of recording their first-ever series win. Sure, it has only come against a lowly, depleted Zimbabwe team. But, if you have only critical things to say, everyone is probably best served by silence.

That Bangladesh were given Test status in an unseemly haste, for reasons that were more political and parochial than hard cricket, is a fact most people would accept. But, having given them Test status, it's no good bashing them. They're here to stay, and they will one day, in the not too distant feature, be competitive enough to give a few Test teams a run for their money.

Taking Test status away from Bangladesh is not the solution. That will just make all the effort that has gone into project Bangladesh thus far - and it's a considerable amount - a total waste. As Habibul Bashar told Rabeed Imam in an interview recently,
"I feel deeply frustrated when I hear such things. What I have learned in Test cricket is that if we do not play at this level, we will never improve. If we stay at a lower level, we will remain stuck there. The difference in standard between Test nations and associate members is huge. If we play them, we will never again be able to compete at this level; we will never learn anything. On the other hand, if we stay here, I'm absolutely sure that in a couple of years we will have a settled position in Test cricket"

And Bashar is dead right. More importantly, the sponsorship will dry up instantly, and cricket will suffer deeply in Bangladesh. Bashar makes this point as well:
"Besides, when you play at the top level, sponsorship and patronisation come easy, which is very important for the development of cricket in Bangladesh. Cricket is huge here. Every youngster wants to play the game. If we are not playing Tests, they will lose interest as there will be no role models, which will mean the death of the sport."

If you've been to Bangladesh, and I have, to cover India's tour, you will see the potential for cricket in the country. Cricket is not merely about producing teams that can stretch Australia. It is also about fans packing the stadium. It is also about sponsors keen to support the game. It is about a large population deriving joy from 13 people fiddling with a leather sphere out in the middle. And, from that point of view, Bangladesh has everything going for it, as a Test-playing nation.

When Mohammad Ashraful scopred that audacious 158 not out against India at Chittagong, the boost it gave the team was incredible. Suddenly, there was belief, that they could take on the best in the world. But, Wasim Akram, an astute observer of the game, had a word of caution for them. "Forget about Ashraful's 100. That's over. You can't rest on that for next year," he advised one of the Bangladeshi cricketers. And Akram knows a thing or two about the psyche of subcontinent cricketers.

Thankfully, Bangladesh have Dav Whatmore at the helm of affairs. He wasn't over the moon at Bangladesh's Test win. "We've done well against this opposition. But I have my feet on the ground. We have to make sure we win the series next week," he told Not Cricinfo, in response to a congratulatory email. Then at least, some of the people calling for Bangladesh to be shunted to a lower rung, will hold their fire for a few days.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Point well made, I have longed believed that cricket's future lies in inclusion and not exclusion. For all their flaws Bangladesh definitely has talend and their countrymen have more passion of the game than many Test Playing nation.

Also ICC has to look at a 2nd tier test so that in future teams stepping up to the test level would be used to the format of playing through long periods and not just the slam bang thank you ma'am onde day version.

Nattu -

11:45 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for a nice aricle (once again!)... but please explain me this - I had a look into the forum discussions on recently. And, quite a significant lot among them seem to be India-bashers... and very few seem to realize that their team is improving slowly but surely. Do you know any reason, why there is such anti-India sentiment among these 'brothers'?
Also, if we can justify 33 matches/4 yrs of insignificance for Bangladesh, can't we try the same with the even more promising yet undeveloped and better deserving Kenyans? Strange this ICC business...
Would like to have your opinions regarding these...
-Vasu, TN

12:18 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Im a Staff Member of Banglacricket and the thing is the Anti- Indians r not actully many... u will find that those threads hav been locked. Some of the fans r overly emotional. They became anti- Indians coz of a of articles by certain individuals, making them feel all Indian Jornelists r anti- Bangladeshi... This article will help in changing the view that this is not the case.

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Blogger Spitfire_x86 said...

To Vasu TN,

Kenya doesn't have enough cricketers, nor Kenyan people are interested in cricket. This is why ICC didn't give them test status.

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