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Last Updated: Monday, 31 January 2005, 15:24 GMT
What's best for weaker nations?
By Oliver Brett
BBC Sport

Bangladesh fans in Dhaka finally had something to cheer on Monday
Bangladesh fans in Dhaka finally had something to cheer on Monday

When Bangladesh came back from 2-0 down to beat Zimbabwe 3-2 in the recently-concluded one-day international series, it proved one thing.

When it comes to playing each other, Bangladesh and Zimbabwe are closely matched sides.

But when they play almost anybody else, one fearful mismatch after another has to be endured by paying spectators.

Aside from providing entertainment for the most sadistic and masochistic fans, what does the International Cricket Council really think of this?

In a briefing for journalists last September, the ICC gave some clues indicating even they realise something might have to be done.

It sought feedback from national board chief executives, current captains and former players, sponsors and broadcasters.

Finally, one option was mooted which would see Zimbabwe and Bangladesh involved in a "modified programme".

This would mean the other nations would not have to arrange home and away series every five years with the two weakest teams.

Yet a possible opportunity to have four teams playing in a second tier of Test match cricket was eliminated since it was "not felt there was enough interest in such a proposal".

The issue of making Test cricket more competitive is not a new one.

World players representative Tim May has been a long-time champion of two-tiered international cricket.

He was particularly vociferous at the height of the Zimbabwe player crisis, saying it made "cricket look stupid".

And two years ago, former Australia Test bowler Terry Alderman suggested developing nations should be allowed to field one or two players from other countries.

I canvassed opinion on the Test Match Special message boards, and Bangladesh fans were quick to come back with their views.

Monday's match-winner Aftab Ahmed soaks up the applause
Monday's match-winner Aftab Ahmed soaks up the applause

One of them, Hasnain, advocated that Bangladesh and Zimbabwe continue to play Tests against the leading nations, but not by playing full series - he prefers the idea of one-off matches.

Most called for the status quo to be preserved, arguing that the green shoots of improvement had already appeared.

Siddiq argued: "Teams struggling to climb the ladder should be given encouragement by those in the top rung by playing against them.

"After all don't they throw the babies into the pool to make them swim?"

There has been some fleeting evidence - at home against India, briefly in West Indies and Pakistan - that Bangladesh occasionally can compete against the best.

But for now, they are surely best served by avoiding regular batterings from the top teams in the world.

SEE ALSO
ICC ponders Test shake-up
07 Sep 04 |  Cricket
Expansion on the agenda
29 May 04 |  Cricket
Ponting wants tougher tests
24 May 04 |  Cricket


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