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Cricket news - Do Bangladesh deserve more attention from cricket's Big Three?
It beggared belief so much that it had to be checked twice. Bangladesh have not played an ODI in India since 1998? More than twenty years ago? Surely not.
A refresh of the internet page confirmed it. Bangladesh have not played an ODI in India since a game in Mumbai in May 1998. India, the powerhouse of the modern game, have not hosted Bangladesh in a 50-over international in this millennium.
They are not the only country who have been reluctant hosts. Outside of ICC events, England haven't hosted Bangladesh in any format since 2010. Australia last played Bangladesh at home in ODI cricket in 2008 and in Tests in 2003. Neither England nor Australia will host them in the next four years either with Bangladesh not scheduled a visit to either country in the current Future Tours Programme (FTP).
Bangladesh may be at the top table of world cricket but the self-styled Big Three are sat at the other end of it, ignoring them for the most part.
Which makes Bangladesh's performance at this World Cup all the more significant. They have been one of the brightest and best parts of this tournament. Their brilliant opening game victory over South Africa injected some throttle into proceedings after a slow start. They demolished West Indies in Taunton with the best chase of the tournament. If they had batted slightly better, they could have beaten New Zealand. They made 333 chasing in defeat to Australia. They pushed India hard too.
They have also had the best player in Shakib Al Hasan who has scored more than 500 runs and taken more than 10 wickets, the first player to do so in a single World Cup. He is the world's best all-rounder and has been for years. Mushfiqur Rahim is averaging nearly 60 in this competition. Liton Das and Soumya Sarkar have proven there are vibrant young batsmen coming through. Mustafizur Rahman has taken more wickets than either Jasprit Bumrah and Pat Cummins.
There have been disappointments as well, of course. Tamim Iqbal has not had the World Cup he would have wanted. Nor has captain Mushrafe Mortaza. Aside from Shakib and Mutafizur, the bowling attack has been expensive and ultimately, they have not qualified for the semi-finals.
But overall, this tournament has been a success. For too long ignored and overlooked, Bangladesh have made their mark yet again. Just as they did in 2016 when they beat England in a Test match for the first time. Just as they did in 2017 when they beat Australia in a Test for the first time. No longer are Bangladesh a plucky underdog. This is a team which consistently challenges the world's best teams. They have done for a while.
Yet still, India, England and Australia hardly recognise them home or away. In between the last World Cup and this one, Australia played Bangladesh once in an ODI and that was in the Champions Trophy in 2017. England played Bangladesh four times with one of them also in that Champions Trophy. India played six ODIs against them. Contrastingly, England played Australia 16 times in that same period. India and Australia played 18 ODIs.
Bangladesh need more cricket if they are to improve still further. They played 63 ODIs between the last World Cup and this one while England, India and Australia played almost 50% more games each. No wonder that when Bangladesh found themselves in good positions against New Zealand and India, some of their players lacked the nous and experience to get them over the line. They simply don't play against the top sides often enough.
"I am very proud with the way we played against the big teams," head coach Steve Rhodes said after their loss to Virat Kohli's team. "We have three victories but we also pushed these big teams throughout the competition. We were desperate to do well to take it further. It wasn't to be."
The Bangladesh Cricket Board are frustrated and believe the main driver for their exclusion is financial. Series against Bangladesh have not been seen as lucrative for boards or broadcasters. Last year, Australia were due to host two Tests and three ODIs against Bangladesh but cancelled because the tour was not "financially viable" with Cricket Australia suggesting they were struggling to get interest from broadcasters to make the tour profitable. Shortly after, CA signed a billion dollar broadcast deal.
At the time of the tour's cancellation, the Bangladesh Cricket Board chief executive, Nizam Uddin Chowdhury, said: "This is really disappointing. All the series we hosted were not always profitable. If we can conduct them, we would expect the other cricket boards, especially bigger ones like Cricket Australia, to do the same."
Things aren't looking any better for the foreseeable future. The ECB line is that the ICC co-ordinate the opposition that England will play in the World Test Championship and in ODIs for World Cup qualification over the 2018 to 2023 FTP. As such, they simply weren't drawn to host Bangladesh although they will tour there in the autumn of 2021 for some white-ball matches.
However, if that was the case, it was a remarkably lucky draw for The Big Three. They were all picked to play each other and - even more remarkably - more than once. England are due to host India for ten Tests and 12 limited overs matches (as well as playing five Tests and six white-ball games in India) across the current FTP. Australia will host India for eight Tests and 12 limited overs games in that period.
In reality, although the ICC may have coordinated the FTP, the programme was based, according to the ICC's website, on countries playing against teams "they have mutually selected". That suggests it was not a straight draw at all, that it was within the gift of the ECB and CA to invite Bangladesh for a tour.
That they haven't been cannot be for cricketing reasons. This World Cup has proved that Bangladesh are more than worthy opponents for any side in the world. They are no whipping boys to be derided. If the decisions are financial, as they appear, the Big Three should gain a wider perspective. It is about time England, Australia and India recognised Bangladesh for what they are: a cricketing nation that deserves far more respect.
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