By Nishad Pai Vaidya
Consistency has not been Bangladesh cricketing forte. An upset or two provided glimpses of their abilities, but they were few and far in between. But their successes in the Asia Cup have given ample evidence that they are a force to reckon with and are ready to move to the next level. The next step should be a marked improvement in Test cricket.
Bangladesh’s Test status has remained a topic of intense debate. Their introduction into Test cricket in November 2000 was labelled premature by some who believed they were not then ready for the cricket in its purest form. Results thus far have only gone to underline such doubts: just three Test victories - two against a weakened West Indies and one against Zimbabwe.
Stuart Law, the Bangladesh coach, said that his side doesn’t play a lot of international cricket. There is much statistical truth in that statement. Bangladesh home or away Tests are restricted to two-match series, which doesn’t help much in the development of a new entrant. A longer Test series would provide Bangladesh more exposure and the opportunity to raise the bar. It has been over 10 years since their first Test and the fact that they continue to play two-match Test series is indicative of the counter-productive approach of the administrators.
The International Cricket Council’s (ICC) Future Tours Programme (FTP) for the ongoing decade is a shocker, to say the least, as the custom of the two-match series continues through to April 2020. The FTP does little to bolster Bangladesh. As the game’s governing body, it is the responsibility of the ICC to ensure the progress of an emerging team. A revision of schedule to include three-Test series will help the growth of Bangladesh cricket. If other boards take the initiative to lengthen their respective series against Bangladesh, it would be a step in the right direction.
Bangladesh tour to India is conspicuous by its absence in the FTP. Bangladesh played its first- ever Test against India at the Bangabandhu National Stadium in November 2000. Since then India has toured Bangladesh in 2004, 2007 and 2010 for Test series. It is interesting to note that Bangladesh have never toured India for a Test series since they entered the big league. To add to all that, Bangladesh will not play in India until 2020. Thus, an upcoming Test playing nation will not tour a cricketing giant like India for almost two decades which is very illogical and hard to digest.
As their immediate neighbour, it is India’s responsibility to aid Bangladesh’s advance and allowing them to tour the country would be a huge step in that direction. Sunil Gavaskar has been vocal in his support of such a move as he highlighted the fact that this is a new Bangladesh team that deserves to tour more. Citing their performances against the bigger teams during the Asia Cup, he pointed out that they have good prospects for Test cricket as they are very positive in their approach. It is a huge compliment coming from a man known to uphold the values of the traditional game.
Nevertheless, the BCCI would be ready with excuses to avoid a Bangladesh tour. Their biggest excuse would be Team India’s tight schedule - made more hectic with the inception of T20 competitions such as the Indian Premier League (IPL) and Champions League (CLT20). Apart from that, they are also guilty of fitting in meaningless One-Day International (ODI) series like the one against England at home in October 2011. Instead of such inconsequential tours, a visit by the Bangladesh team can be accommodated which would do well to further the interest of world cricket.
Hosting Bangladesh wouldn’t do India any harm. The Indian board is trying to take international cricket to quite a few smaller centres in the country. If Bangladesh comes over, then it would be an opportunity to give this very policy some momentum. However, the Test matches should be played at the bigger venues as that is where one gets the most crowds for longest version. The limited overs fixtures can be held at venues such as Indore, Rajkot, Visakhapatnam, Goa etc. where an ODI is seldom played.
The turn-out for the England ODI series held last year witnessed a dismal response from the crowd. The bigger venues such as Hyderabad, Mumbai, Delhi, Kolkata, and Mohali hosted those games and yet failed to generate interest. However, a few weeks down the line, the ODIs against the West Indies were played in the smaller centres where people turned up in numbers to watch the games. These venues seldom host games and irrespective of the opposition, there is enthusiastic support and fervour throughout those cities.
The FTP is not a rigid policy and amendments can be made. Tours can be postponed or added. For example, England’s ODI tour is marked as “additional” in the chart, which means it wasn’t in the original script. As Gavaskar mentioned, “They (Bangladesh) deserve invitation from Indian board, but it depends on the relation between two boards. I think BCB should take initiative to convince the Indian Board.”
Thus, the only way a Bangladesh tour to India would materialise is if the two boards come together and set the ball rolling. But, the pertinent question is, will the BCCI agree?
(Nishad Pai Vaidya is a club-level cricketer with an analytic mind and a sharp eye. It was this sharpness which spotted a wrong replay in IPL4 resulting in Sachin Tendulkar’s dismissal. Some of his analytical pieces have come in for high praise from cerebral former cricketers. Nishad can also be followed on Twitter)