Bangladesh’s planned tour of Australia in August-September this year, the existence of which has been subject so far to an inordinate level of indecisiveness and evasion from Cricket Australia, keeps getting murkier in the months leading up to it. It became foggier still yesterday as ESPNCricinfo published an article that declared Bangladesh’s tour cancelled, carrying quotes that CA chief executive James Sutherland gave the site ‘earlier this year’ saying that the tour would not be commercially viable.
He had also intimated this to the Bangladesh Cricket Board (BCB) earlier this year, but presently it seems that even board high-ups in Bangladesh are reduced to getting the tour’s status updates from the media. When contacted yesterday, BCB CEO Nizamuddin Chowdhury said that the board had no knowledge of the cancellation, if indeed the tour is cancelled. If it has been cancelled, at the very least it shows disrespect and a lack of professionalism from CA towards BCB because they are yet to respond to a counterproposal that the BCB sent immediately after receiving CA’s commercial viability letter. Meanwhile, on April 30, a story on CA’s official website revealed their home schedule for 2018-19, but there is not even a mention of Bangladesh or the planned tour.
“Three or four months ago Australia sent us a letter expressing that they will not host us for financial reasons,” Chowdhury told The Daily Star yesterday evening. “We issued a counterproposal immediately to shorten the tour by playing ODIs only. We are yet to receive any response.”
The International Cricket Council’s (ICC’s) Future Tours Programme (FTP) — which is supposed to govern and regulate bilateral ties between member countries — shows two Tests and three ODIs between Bangladesh and Australia in Australia in August-September this year.
“It [the tour] had been mutually agreed upon before being inducted into the FTP. It is unfortunate on the part of the member [CA] not to fulfil that commitment, especially if the reasoning is commercial or financial concerns. We also have FTP commitments that are not financially viable, but we honour those commitments.”
As Chowdhury said, the current FTP is based on reciprocal arrangements between boards. Even before CA’s refusal to host Bangladesh, reciprocity was not the word to describe relationships between the boards. Bangladesh toured Australia just once, in 2003, but the FTP — which was binding in its first cycle but has not been since — dictates that member countries play each other home and away twice during an eight-year cycle.
“This is an issue that has been discussed in the ICC meetings and members are voicing their support for the FTP agreement to be reintroduced so that agreements become binding,” Chowdhury added.
In ESPNCricinfo’s report, Sutherland’s quotes told the story of a board blatantly disregarding the FTP. “Every six years you are at least committed to playing away, but we don’t have to play at home or we can vary the programme at home according to our needs and I think we just got squeezed a little bit.” This attacks the very notion of reciprocity, because it is only logical that one country will host while the other tours, and if every country had the attitude that CA is presenting, international cricket would come to a halt. But according to Sutherland, “There’s obviously an element of reciprocity between what we do, we do that with England, India and South Africa.”
He also said that when the next cycle, incorporating the World Test Championship, comes around and playing Bangladesh would matter in terms of points, then they would host the Tigers. But seeing how commercial viability seems to rule the roost, what guarantee is there that they will invite Bangladesh if they have enough points in the bank? The dysfunctional ICC – who recently had to prematurely release the 2019 World Cup schedule because it was leaked to the media – certainly cannot make any guarantees because they are presiding over a system that prioritises individual boards’ commercial aspirations instead of cricket’s global ones.