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Persecution of Bangladesh is just not cricket

Richie Benaud was my first 'paper hero' because I learnt all about his cricketing heroics either through old newspaper clippings or books bought on the pavements near Flora Fountain in Bombay.

Later, Benaud became my first 'non-playing TV hero' because his daily roundups of Test matches are unmatched to this day for analytical depth and unbiased assessment.

Benaud behind the TV screen was as sublime as he was in front of the wicket; nothing out of place as his impassive face revealed very little even if the gravity of the situation out in the middle was catastrophic.

But when Benaud called for a ban on Bangladesh from Test cricket in his column for a popular English newspaper, it was a bit difficult for me to swallow even though the ensuing chorus in support of the former Australian great was deafening.

That Bangladesh is an embarrassment to Test cricket is as real as a traffic jam on Exhibition Road on Thursday night, but I think calling for a ban at this juncture is downright preposterous.

The timing of the call is also important here because Bangladesh is not being tormented just by the England team but also by the English media.

Did Bangladesh become 'banable' overnight is my point of contention.

If a team suffers a certain number of innings defeats in Tests should it be ostracised when its entry into the Test fold itself was questioned?

I'm sure if Bangladesh was suffering a similar fate in any other country against any other team, the call for a ban would not have been as insistent and intense as it is happening in England right now while its own Test team's dismal run of 10 defeats by an innings since the turn of the century is being conveniently forgotten.

The Guardian carried a well researched article on this topic following Bangladesh's innings defeat at the hands of England in the first Test; and as the minnows suffered another ignominious thrashing on Sunday in the second, some of the points raised in that article came to mind.

The Guardian wrote: "When England lost to Sri Lanka in Colombo by an innings and 215 runs only 17 months ago, The Daily Telegraph concluded: 'Stronger products than this England team would have melted in Colombo in three back-to-back Tests'."

Michael Vaughan, England's captain said: "Full credit to Sri Lanka. They played exceptionally well." There is no record of the Colombo Daily News demanding England's expulsion from Test cricket.

I have also not read the Times of India or the Jamaican Observer calling for a similar ban when England were at the mercy of India (1993 home series) and the West Indies (in the mid 90s).

No one called for a ban when Australia went through a series of defeats following the simultaneous retirements of Greg Chappell, Rod Marsh and Dennis Lillee or when West Indies and Zimbabwe cricket was in a shambles on and off the field.

At the height of the Packer controversy or during the betting and match-fixing rumpus too there was no talk of banning any country for its direct or indirect involvement.

After England's second successive innings victory over Bangladesh on Sunday, captain Vaughan tacitly and sarcastically admitted that the two sides had not been playing Test cricket while one of the reports termed the victory one achieved with 'eyes shut'.

I think a little bit of magnanimity, like the The Guardian said, towards Bangladesh's failings at this juncture might not go amiss.



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