Why not Kenya?

THE ICC has, in recent years, been mouthing the "spreading the game" slogan and a great deal that has happened in the name of that policy has not really helped the game. The numerous offshore contests between India and Pakistan are one of the outgrowths of this policy and we all know that it has not popularised the game, merely the practice of match-fixing.

But these aside, Bangladesh's admission into the elite group of Test playing countries is also an outcome of this move. And while there may be reason for some to celebrate, it strikes me as rather curious that while Kenya was never seriously considered, Test status for Bangladesh was always talked about.

When world soccer's governing body, FIFA, decided to increase the number of countries at the World Cup, there were murmurs aplenty. But this move only resulted in giving berths to countries like Nigeria who were more than capable of holding their own against the top soccer nations. But then soccer is an entirely different kettle of fish: it is played all over the world. Not so cricket.

Did the ICC have similar motives in mind? I doubt very much that any amount of serious thought has gone into this business. Bangladesh benefitted a great deal during the last three years, the years which saw Jagmohan Dalmiya at the head of the ICC. A large number of one-day internationals were played in a country which has few cricketing achievements to boast of: a win in the ICC Trophy and an appearance in the World Cup where they registered a victory over Pakistan that has given rise to a great deal of suspicion. Thereafter, we have generally heard more about politics in cricket there rather than actual cricketing deeds. Oh, and the resignation of an eminent cricketer who was coach was also part of the headlines.

Why was Kenya not considered? They have much better cricketing credentials and, indeed, have shown much more ability on the field. Their win over the West Indies was no mere flash in the pan. Even when they were hammered by other teams, they came out of the match with some pride, a good performance here or there. And the undoubted class which some of their batsman have cannot be denied. They have acquitted themselves creditably wherever they have played. The sad thing is, they have not merited as many invitations to tournaments as Bangladesh.

If Kenya was ever mentioned as being a candidate for Test status, then I have to hear of it. Bangladesh wil now be up against teams like Australia and a more cruel mismatch I cannot imagine. Having seen the team play many times, I can only wonder at the people who admitted them: was there any serious debate or was it based on other criteria? In the same way that Bangladesh has been invited to tournaments, why has the ICC not seen to it that Kenya plays a bit a more cricket? Why has there been this marked tilt towards Bangladesh?

The deed has now been done so there is no going back. It may strengthen the hand of some individuals, but it will not do the game any good, it will certainly not lift standards. I remember voicing similar reservations when Bangladesh were given official one-day status and I have seen nothing to indicate otherwise.

Now, for the flame mail...