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Opinion

Why inviting Bangladesh to the Sheffield Shield would improve international cricket

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Roar Rookie
4th December, 2021
27

If I were to show you a photograph of Shakib al Hasan, would you know who he was?

How about Mushfiqur Rahim? Tamim Iqbal? Or even Mominul Haque?

Bangladesh have been a Test cricketing nation for 21 years now. But if you were like 90 per cent of Australian cricketing fans, even the hardcore ones, your answer would be a resolute ‘no’. Or maybe even ‘who the heck are they?’

In this time, the gentlemen mentioned above have established themselves among the finest cricketers that Bangladesh has produced.

All of them have captained their country at some point in at least one of the genres of the game.

At various stages Shakib has scored enough runs and taken enough wickets to be the world’s top-ranked all-rounder in one-day international cricket.

Bangladesh captain Shakib Al Hasan celebrates a wicket

(Photo by Tharaka Basnayaka/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

Yet, to the majority of the cricket loving world, they remain anonymous.

Bangladesh has undertaken only one Test tour to Australia, and that was over 18 years ago in 2003 when none of the current squad were out of short pants.

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Two Test matches and three one-day internationals were played, over the traditional Australian off-season in the middle of the year at previously unused Test match arenas in Darwin and Cairns.

Needless to say, Australia won all matches comfortably against the fledgling cricket nation.

Since this time, Afghanistan and Ireland have also become International Cricket Council full members and joined the Test match roster.

Afghanistan were scheduled to play their inaugural Test match on Australian soil last month, but this was cancelled after the Taliban took charge of the Afghan nation in reaction to their attitudes to women’s cricket.

While the reason for the cancellation may have been justified, one thing that many observers have commented on is how predictable the cancellation of this match actually was, given Australia’s past attitudes towards supporting new and developing international cricket teams.

Rashid Khan

(Photo by Matthew Lewis-ICC/ICC via Getty Images)

The lack of opportunity for Bangladesh to play in Australia has been matched by that of Zimbabwe, who have also had one Test match series on these shores later in 2003.

As well as this, tours to Bangladesh have been cancelled in 2015 and 2020, but this has not just been a recent phenomenon.

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Going back through history, our closest neighbours, New Zealand, were granted one full tour in their first 50 years as a Test match nation.

Likewise, until the early 1980s, Test tours by India and Pakistan were comparatively rare.

Lest anyone think that I’m simply bashing the Australian cricket authorities here, it must be said that other established cricketing nations don’t exactly have clean slates in this regard either.

Doubtless Australia would point to the issue of public interest as a reason for their actions here.

They would also be rightly concerned about the profitability of home series against lower-ranked opponents at a time when competition for the public dollar is at its hottest.

MCG crowd

(Daniel Pockett – CA/Cricket Australia via Getty Images)

I would argue, however, that established nations have an obligation towards international cricket in general that can only be fulfilled by encouraging developing cricketing entities.

Therefore, to make future Test tours more viable, it is important that the gap in standard between the top teams and the rest is closed, and that all Test teams can meet on a more competitive level.

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This may be difficult where the domestic first-class game in developing nations is weak in the depth of talent, and the intensity of competition.

I can see a potential start to this process, though. My proposal may appear fanciful, but I believe that established cricket needs to think outside the square to safeguard the future strength of the game.

I would like to see Bangladesh invited to compete in the Sheffield Shield for a period of two seasons.

Fans cheer

(Photo by Ahmed Salahuddin/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

They could bring a squad of, say, 20 players, be based in a currently unused cricketing centre (Canberra would be ideal), and play each of our states home and away.

This would expose them not only to regular, tough cricket, but also to a variety of different wickets and conditions that they would not experience at home.

International matches could then be played by the team in the off-season.

This could be extended to other developing nations, such as by Ireland playing in the English County Championship, Zimbabwe in the South African domestic competition, and Afghanistan in the Ranji Trophy.

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Needless to say the home nations would need to be on board, and the ICC would need to assist in areas of administration and funding.

However, not only would the leading players from emerging nations benefit greatly but they could take their learnings back home with them to fast-track the development of the next generation of international cricketers.

And for that, the world of cricket in general would be grateful.

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