Editor's note: Published unaltered with permission. The article originally appeared on www.charlierandallcricket.com/.
Feb 28: Interviewed Shaun Williams, the Bangladesh national cricket development manager, who is one of a group of Australians employed to shape cricket strategy on the Australian model. The question of whether Bangladesh are worth Test status is easily answered â€“ there is no turning back now. The investment of money and other resources has been enormous. The countryâ€™s first class four-day championship, in its fourth year, is currently being fought between six divisional sides, excluding those players in the World Cup or on duty for the A side against England. There are more than 100 full-time professionals on the circuit, 20 of them centrally contracted to the BCB.
All the high-performance and development â€˜corporateâ€™ infrastructure is in place, including a fine national academy at Savar churning out good, physically fit players. Bangladesh might be low in the Test ladder, but they are streets ahead of the minor nations such as Kenya, Holland and Scotland -- and Zimbabwe for that matter.
Williams said to me today: â€œThe BCB are very supportive to having outside ideas come in, which has been encouraging for all of us. Thatâ€™s why weâ€™re here. I think the BCB are moving forwards, but it all takes time. If you look at all the other countries, theyâ€™ve been going for years and years, in Englandâ€™s case more than a hundred. Bangladesh is basically five years old in terms of international cricket.
"Having seen the growth and seen the interest explode, I think to take Test status away from Bangladesh would be a massive step backwards for cricket in general. Cricket needs to grow. If we just want to have eight teams playing international cricket against each other for ever, then fine, but if weâ€™re trying to expand the game globally to places like Bangladesh that have a major foothold in cricket, then why not.
â€œI do understand ex players saying standards are dropping and that itâ€™s not right for records and so on. I do understand that. However we have to look at the broader picture and that is â€˜letâ€™s grow the gameâ€™. If you take Test status away, the game wonâ€™t grow here. The interest is very good here. Bangladesh can improve. They are improving.â€
My own view now is that this Test issue is a no-brainer. There are at least three excellent international venues in Bangladesh, they have a proper first class structure after years of hesitation and the players confronting England A are fitter, more competitive and more sophisticated than in 1999, when I last toured here. An old Bangladesh team, on losing five wickets on the first morning of a four-dayer, as at Mirpur last week, would have packed their bags within three days. This Bangladesh A side fought to the bitter end and finished distraught at losing in the final over.
Bangladesh, as Williams conceded, lack powerful seam bowlers. Mortaza is one at the World Cup, but he lacks quality support. Otherwise they are well equipped. They pushed the Australians close in a Test at Fatullah last year, with Shahriar Nafees hitting a century. Certainly it will take years before Bangladesh are competitive in a Test abroad, but Sri Lanka went through such doubts 25 years ago, and they have at least won the World Cup. That is more than England have achieved.