Why it would improve international cricket to invite Bangladesh to Sheffield Shield

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

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

Bangladesh has been a test cricket nation for 21 years now. But if you were like 90 per cent of Australian cricket fans, even the hardcore ones, your answer would be a resounding ‘no’. Or maybe even ‘who the hell are they?’

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

All of them have been captains of their country at one point in at least one of the game’s genres.

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.

(Photo by Tharaka Basnayaka / NurPhoto via Getty Images)

But for most of the cricket-loving world, they remain anonymous.

Bangladesh have only made one test trip to Australia and that was over 18 years ago in 2003 when none of the current team was out of shorts.

Two Test matches and three one-day internationals were played during the traditional Australian low season mid-year at previously unused Test match venues in Darwin and Cairns.

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

Since that time, Afghanistan and Ireland have also become full members of the International Cricket Council and joined the Test match list.

Afghanistan was scheduled to play their initial test match on Australian soil last month, but this was canceled after the Taliban took responsibility for the Afghan nation in response to their stance on 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 previous positions in supporting new and evolving international cricket teams.

Rashid Khan

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

Bangladesh’s inability to play in Australia has been offset by Zimbabwe’s, which also hosted a test series on these coasts later in 2003.

In addition to this, trips to Bangladesh have been canceled in 2015 and 2020, but this has not only been a recent phenomenon.

Going back in history, our closest neighbors, New Zealand, were awarded an entire tour in their first 50 years as a test campaigner.

Likewise, until the early 1980s, test trips from India and Pakistan were relatively rare.

For no one to think that I am simply basking the Australian cricket authorities here, it must be said that other established cricket nations do not exactly have clean slates in this regard either.

No doubt Australia will point to the issue of public interest as a reason for their actions here.

They would also rightly be 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 audience

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

However, I would argue that established nations have an obligation to international cricket in general that can only be fulfilled by encouraging developing cricket units.

To make future test trips more viable, it is therefore important that the standard distance between the top teams and the rest is closed, and that all test teams can meet at a more competitive level.

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

However, I can see a potential start to this process. My suggestion may seem imaginative, but I think established cricket needs to think outside the box to ensure the future strength of the game.

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

Fans cheer

(Photo by Ahmed Salahuddin / NurPhoto via Getty Images)

They could bring a team of e.g. 20 players, be based in a currently unused cricket center (Canberra would be ideal) and play each of our states at home and away.

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

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

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

Needless to say, the home countries should be on board and the ICC would have to help with administration and funding.

Not only would the leading players from emerging countries benefit greatly from it, but they could take their lessons home with them to accelerate 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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