Following Bangladesh's defeat at Lord's there were the usual calls for their test status to be revoked. Indeed, Tamim Iqbal used a typically blunt comment from Geoff Boycott on this very subject as inspiration for his brilliant hundred on the Sunday.
When you consider this question in purely cricketing terms, it doesn't look good. Since their first test match in 2000, Bangladesh have played 67 tests and only won three. Two of these victories came against a third choice West Indies side and the other came against a Mugabe decimated Zimbabwe. Furthermore, Bangladesh have only drawn six tests (three against Zimbabwe), so the accusation that the Tigers lack bite and are perennial losers is an unanswerable one.
Progress has been painfully slow and even though in their test matches this year at home to India, away to New Zealand, and now home and away to England they have shone intermittently, the sorry run of defeats has continued.
Good players have emerged. Tamim is undoubtedly a world-class batsman and captain Shakib Al Hasan is a very good all-rounder. Others like Mahmudullah and Mushifqur Rahim also appear to have the talent to flourish on the international stage. However, the sad truth is that until Bangladesh produce a couple of decent seam bowlers (especially now that Mashrafe Mortaza's body can not cope with five day cricket), they will continue to struggle. The climate and conditions in Bangladesh are not conducive for fast bowling, but nor are they in the rest of the subcontinent and India, Sri Lanka and especially Pakistan have unearthed some real gems during their cricket histories.
But there is more to this story than cricket. Bangladesh is the seventh most populous country in the world, and the ninth most densely populated. She is no stranger to natural disaster and is subject to annual monsoon floods and cyclones, and poverty is rife. One only needs to have seen the news this morning about the devastating fire in Dhaka to see that misery and the Grim Reaper visit this country on a regular basis.
As such, cricket is a beacon of hope to the many Bangladeshis living in the slums of Dhaka and Chittagong. Despite the flood of defeats, the Bangladesh cricket team is well supported and their victories in limited overs and Twenty 20 internationals against the likes of Australia and Pakistan cause the kind of celebrations normally reserved for when a country wins the football World Cup. We only have to look back a few months to remember the noise and joy of a capacity Bangladeshi crowd when it looked like their side were going to beat England in a one day international in Dhaka before Eoin Morgan spoilt the party.
When you consider this, surely it wouldn't be right for the ICC to remove Bangladesh's test status and condemn it to second tier matches against the likes of Ireland, Zimbabwe and Afghanistan? But the ICC is not supposed to be a philanthropist and the endless run of defeats is not doing Bangladesh or cricket any good. So what can be done?
At the Reverse Sweep we believe there is something that the ICC could do to help Bangladesh whilst maintaining their test status and it would be a very simple move. Why not limit Bangladesh's test matches to four days? New Zealand only played three day tests in their formative years as a test playing nation, and whilst their win record was the same as Bangladesh in their first 67 tests, they actually drew 32 matches (the same as they lost). It would hardly be surprising if New Zealand took some solace from these draws and used it as a basis for their eventual improvement.
If Bangladesh only played four day tests, they certainly would have drawn their last two matches with England at Lord's and Dhaka. Losing becomes a habit, so if Shakib and his men had a real chance of at least earning a few draws, we believe there would be an undoubted improvement in their performances. And with the opposition having to take a few more risks in order to win in four days, more opportunities for the Tigers to actually win test matches will emerge. Surely, this would be good for cricket as well as Bangladesh and its fervent supporters? Then we would see more Tamim's, Shakib's and hopefully Mortaza's emerge.