Should Bangladesh play test cricket?

I haven’t watched very much of the Bangladesh v Pakistan test this week. It hasn’t been on TV here to the best of my knowledge, and in any case after the first two days of Australia v New Zealand I don’t really need to watch any more poor strokeplay for a while. What I’ve seen on Cricinfo has been incredibly one sided though. The Bangladeshis were bowled out for 135 in their first innings (after Pakistan opened the bowling with a spinner) and proceeded to concede 594-5 declared.

It’s yet another pretty pathetic performance from a Bangladesh side that don’t seem to be improving. Right now they don’t look like a test quality side, and really they never have. They were granted test status on the back of ODI performances and whilst they have looked intermittently competent in the shorter formats their bowlers have never had the quality to take twenty wickets and their batsmen have seldom applied themselves and played a proper innings. (Though they are not the only ones, as we’ve seen in the recent Australia series.) I would not back them to win the County Championship were they playing in that competition.

It raises the question again of whether they ought to have their test status revoked. Whilst they are reflecting poorly on test cricket as a whole, the loss of funds would immensely damage cricket in the country. The loss of test status would also mean they would play more limited overs cricket, which would not help them. In addition, most of the test nations except the original three were very weak for many years after starting to play test cricket. New Zealand were probably the worst (26 all out still being a record) but even they improved enough that they had a period of respectability. It was many years before England sent a full strength squad to tour India, or before the West Indies stopped playing ‘calypso cricket’. It is quite possible that Bangladesh may come around eventually and play at a respectable level.

At the same time, constantly losing (and usually losing badly) is not likely to be productive. They need to be tested against similar opposition more often than they are. And whilst Bangladesh may come around, there is no guarantee that they will. India and the West Indies did not start off playing one day cricket, as it hadn’t been invented yet. They could and did devote their resources to improving as test sides. One day cricket has always been Bangladesh’s strong point however and watching them play gives the strong impression that they are a one day team trying to play a test match. If they continue to focus on those formats (as they could be forgiven for doing, since ODIs are more lucrative for them and usually more of a contest) they are unlikely to improve as a test side. Least important, but still relevant I think, allowing Bangladesh to have test status and not Ireland is inconsistent. I strongly suspect that Ireland would beat Bangladesh in a test match at the moment.

I would prefer if Bangladesh had their test status revoked. What I would like to see is Bangladesh and the Associate nations play a lot of first class cricket amongst themselves and against the ‘A’ sides. (Full tours of three or four first class matches, ideally four days, plus limited overs matches would be ideal.) I don’t know how this would be financed, but if the ICC want to spread cricket around the world I think they need to find a way for the smaller nations to play more cricket in the longer format. Otherwise we will have more sides like Bangladesh playing test cricket when they are clearly unsuited to it.

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