Bangladesh bashing must end
The Rediff Team
Let's face it, a defeat by an innings and 310 runs does not put Bangladesh at the top of the big-losers list -- that honour actually goes to Australia, which lost to England by an innings and 539 runs, in the 1938 Test at the Kennington Oval; a result largely powered by Len Hutton's innings of 364, the then highest individual score in Test cricket.
Also ahead of Bangladesh, in a list no country would want to advertise, are the likes of South Africa (an innings and 360 runs at the hands of Australia, Wanderers Stadium, 2002), India (an innings and 336 runs, vs West Indies, at the Eden Gardens in 1958 -'59); England (an innings and 332 runs, at the hands of Australia, Brisbane, 1946 -'47); New Zealand (innings and 324 runs, at the Gaddafi Stadium, Pakistan, 2001-'02); and New Zealand again (innings and 322 runs, at the hands of the West Indies, Basin Reserve, 1994 -'95).
By way of sidelight, Pakistan does not figure in the list of top 25 heavy losers of all-time, while Australia has the most entries, having gone down by an innings and plenty 5 times in the top 25 occasions (India is honorably second, with 4).
However, Bangladesh's latest defeat, at the hands of the West Indies, sets the seal on easily the most miserable debut by any team in the Test arena.
The accompanying table tells its own tale.
Country Test Won Lost Drawn Success%
Bangladesh 15 -- 14 1 3.33
Zimbabwe 15 1 7 7 30.00
Sri Lanka 15 1 8 6 26.67
Pakistan 15 3 3 9 50.00
India 15 -- 10 5 33.33
New Zealand 15 -- 6 9 30.00
West Indies 15 2 10 3 23.33
South Africa 15 3 11 1 23.33
Australia 15 7 5 3 56.67
England 15 5 7 3 43.33
Bangladesh has 14 losses in 15 Tests (and one draw, thanks to rain), and a success percentage of 3.33; comparing unfavorably with the 23.33 per cent recorded by both the West Indies, and South Africa, in their first 15 Tests. (Again, an interesting sidelight is Pakistan's record -- at 50 per cent, quite outstanding).
India and the West Indies both suffered 10 defeats in their first 15 Tests, South Africa went one better with 11 -- and look where those countries are now. In comparison, therefore, Bangladesh's record of 14 defeats does not sound all that alarming.
The difference, however, lies in this: Cricket has moved away from its bucolic past, and into an age of frenetic activity. Schedules have never been this crowded -- take, for instance, an India that has, in this year alone, played Tests and ODIs against the West Indies (away), England, West Indies (home) and now New Zealand.
Consider, too, the fact that the International Cricket Council has introduced a world championship of Test cricket, with a schedule mandating that each Test nation should necessarily play all the others, both home and away, in the specified time period.
In an earlier age, a weak debutant had the luxury of spacing out its engagements, of ensuring sufficient space for recovery between one thumping defeat and the next. Also, the stronger nations could space out their tours of the weaker countries, in order that their own standards did not atrophy from a lack of strong challenge.
Neither luxury obtains now.
When Bangladesh was accorded Test status, in the year 2000, then chairman of the ICC Jagmohan Dalmiya -- well, who else? -- argued in the face of criticism that this was part of an effort to globalize the game. 'Trivialize' would have been the more appropriate word.
That Dalmiya, for reasons of his own that had little if anything to do with cricket, was intent on promoting the cause of Bangladesh is a given -- witness the fact that the Dhaka, with just the one stadium, has hosted 42 one-day internationals since October 1998 -- as against, say, 32 at Lord's since 1972. Even more interestingly, 36 of these games were played between 1998-2000 -- and only six after Dalmiya demitted the ICC office.
Why the current BCCI chief chose to favour Bangladesh so inordinately -- to the point where, when in August 2000 England refused to formally kick off that country's Test status by touring, Dalmiya squeezed a Bangladesh tour into India's overcrowded itinerary -- is a question only he has the answer for, and he isn't telling.
The damage was done when the status was accorded. The 15 Tests Bangladesh has played since then have proven just this: that the fledgling Test side is way out of its depth in the modern era of cricket; and that a tour by a top team is a waste of time.
Isn't it time to reverse the decision?
The counter argument often extended -- it is, in fact, an argument once trotted out by Dalmiya himself -- is that if you don't play in the big leagues, your standard won't go up.
Fair enough -- but by that yardstick, do you tell a club level chess player to improve his standards by playing Garry Kasparov? Or do you ask him to test his skills in a state level competition?
If the ICC is all that concerned about developing cricket around the globe, and if the 'globe' does begin with Bangladesh, wouldn't it be better to mandate instead that each year, three of the Test nations should, in turn, send their A teams on tours of that country? Based on the results achieved against these A sides, a decision could then be taken in the future to reinstate Bangladesh as a Test nation.
That is a sensible option. It is also the more humane one -- if the cricketers that are Bangladesh's pride and joy continue to be shamed so ruthlessly in the international arena, the young ones back there will end up with no heroes to emulate, no reason to take to the game.