3 tier test cricket and Bangladesh
I have sent the following letter to ICC. Perhaps we shoud begin a campaign using this site:
May 29, 2004
Mr. Ehsan Mani
President, The International Cricket Council
The Clock Tower
Lord's Cricket Ground
London NW8 8QN
Fax: +44 (0)20 7266 1777
I am writing in response to an article recently published in cricinfo.com regarding a possible plan to create a multi-tier test cricket pool. This article below talks about building a relegation league, which I strongly oppose.
Possible move to preserve the standards of Test cricket
Three-tier system for Test cricket?
Wisden Cricinfo staff
May 28, 2004
With so many leading cricketers clamouring for a two-tier format for Test cricket, the International Cricket Council may finally put such a system in place. According to a report in SuperSport, a South African sports website, Dave Richardson, the ICC's general manager, is currently presiding over discussions on a proposal to restrict Test cricket to eight teams, while the next two rungs would consist of 12 teams, split into two divisions of six each.
Teams in the elite group would be required to play each other in home and away series – comprising of two or three Tests each – which would ensure that a full round of Test series takes not more than three years instead of the current five, with every team playing 14 Tests a year.
The report also says that the second-division matches would be four-day games, played on a home-and-away basis. The winner of the second division would then take on the team which finished last in the elite group in a one-off Test. Victory in that match would promote the second-division winner into the elite group. So, as per current standings in the ICC Test Championship table, West Indies will be battling Zimbabwe or Bangladesh to avoid relegation.
For teams not good enough to make it to the top 14 but still harbouring hopes of climbing the rungs, there is also a proposal to include a third tier as well. As with the second division, the team topping the third tier will also get an opportunity to move up the ladder with a play-off against the wooden spooners of the second division.
An ICC spokesman said: "Malcolm Speed [the ICC's chief executive] announced a review of the structure of international cricket in June 2003. This review is on-going and will not be completed for several months. Until it has been completed it is impossible to speculate what the outcomes or recommendations will be."
The need to separate the top teams from the rest has been felt especially strongly of late, with Zimbabwe weakened considerably by the absence of 15 of their best players and Bangladesh struggling to make an impression.
The examples this article refers to are poor performance of Bangladesh in test cricket and the current crisis in Zimbabwe. I have also noticed over the past few months that there are few arguments that are used to support this relegation or multi tier test cricket. I would like to take the opportunity to express my opinion on how these arguments are wrong and biased.
1) Player’s like Ricky Ponting and Sourav Ganguly seeking competitive standard in Test Cricket: The point Ganguly and Ponting are trying to make is absolutely harmful to the future of cricket. The issue on standard is certainly a relative term. Test cricket is a mode of the game where a consistent effort is only achieved over time. Ganguly should be the last person talking about standards as India has began to produce some competitiveness in the test arena only in the recent years. For over decades, they have played defensive test cricket and had the reputation of being successful only at home ground. In the 60’s, 70’ and 80’s the “standard” of Indian cricket was significantly lower compared to other test playing nations. It took them a long time to learn the trick to be successful. However, they have learned. A few good batsmen and quality pace bowlers have come to the scene and Mr. Ganguly is riding high. The key however, I believe is not lack of talent but sponsorship that has poured into Indian cricket in the recent years. Bangladesh has started playing cricket in the test level only recently. The sponsorship in the game is slow given it is not the most prosperous country, economically speaking, in the world. I personally believe that Mr. Ganguly and the likes of him are scared about the fact that Bangladesh has the potential to rock the sub-continent because of a fan base larger than Pakistan. Despite the fact that Bangladesh is a new country and not the strongest economy in the sub-continent, the team has shown relentless improvement in the international arena of cricket. We are a few steps away to take our place in the test playing world. It would be unfair to deprive us of that opportunity
2) Mr. Ponting can speak of “standards” as he is a member of the current Australian team. Everybody appreciates the fact there are teams like Australia playing test matches and the rest nine test playing nations have an opportunity to compete and learn from them. Just a point to ponder, Bangladesh significantly improved the quality of the game after playing Australia in a test match. The more we play teams like Australia the faster we climb up the ranks. I was of the impression that Mr. Ponting is equally helpful as his skills in the field to help developing test nations as Bangladesh. Australia has lot more money pouring into the game compared to Bangladesh. The test team Bangladesh is staging right now is the first generation of test players. The first generation of test players is bound to get a bit of humiliation. If one can recall the difficult times Sri Lanka went through in the 80’s, the truth is obvious that Sri Lanka suffered in their 5 day matches. It is completely unfair to point fingers at Bangladesh to relegate them to a second tier test playing nation.
3) Andrew Miller, a Wisden staff, is a strong critique of Bangladesh speaking of drop in TV rating and sponsorship for the sport as countries like Bangladesh play test cricket. I think he is solely considering the fan base that the 9 test playing countries that had test status before Bangladesh. Although I agree there are fewer people in England watching or following a Bangladesh vs. England test match , the number is slowly increasing on the Bangladesh side watching and following cricket (from Bangladesh or Bengali’s all over the world). The bulk gain that Andrew Miller or the likes of him are completely unaware is the Bengali’s worldwide following the match. For example, Cricinfo.com (probably the most popular cricket related website) was selling the India-Pakistan matches on recorded video. However, they weren’t selling the match video that Bangladesh won against Zimbabwe recently. The world is unaware of the passion that the fans of Bangladesh cricket. The fan base the tigers are building is large, and is gaining mass everyday as we get closer to our first test victory. To drop Bangladesh to a second tier would be to deprive people like myself all over the world and a fan base that have been eagerly following Bangladesh test team and growing in volume everyday. People like Andrew Miller could best be described as having tunnel vision.
I, on behalf of millions of Bengali all over the world, would request ICC not to look at such short sighted views as dropping Bangladesh to a second tier in test games. We are a revolution waiting to happen in the test cricket world. Zimbabwe did have a better result in the beginning part of their test games probably because of the fact that their “white” players had exposure to English cricket and in general strong ties to South African cricket. Unfortunately, Bangladesh had to build everything from scratch and the process is ongoing. The current situation with rebel players in Zimbabwe is temporary and will probably be gone in a few months with proper and constructive intervention from ICC. People like Heath Streak will soon play test cricket.
I would like to end my letter with one last point with the number eight. Why is this the “magic number”? If there are nine test playing countries or ten or even eleven playing competitive cricket then there should be 9, 10 or 11 countries playing test cricket. I see this number as totally an irrational concept. Given the right opportunities and chances, Bangladesh can supersede any test playing nations in the very near future. The least I can say is Bangladesh is on the right track to win their fair share of test matches. We have struggled and will probably struggle a bit more to get the rhythm in place along with more money and sponsorship poured in the game. Even if there is an idea of multi-tier test playing, Bangladesh should be in tier 1 where Australia plays test cricket. Belonging to any other tier would simply retard our pace of growth. I am hoping we start our winning stride at St. Lucia on the first 2 days of June 2004 and once and for all shut out the “nay sayers” .