Spare the rod
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.