Why England’s March tour of Bangladesh doesn’t count… but also does

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Who’s up for the contest then? No? Got somewhere else to be, have you?

We don’t know if you’ve ever seen the highly violent Indonesian martial arts ballet, The Raid, but there’s a character in that who’s really, really, very much up for a fight.

He’s called Mad Dog, so there’s a clue there. Late in the film, the lead character, Rama, finds Mad Dog beating his brother, Andi, who is chained up. Rather than fight Rama while Andi is trapped – which would be the sensible way of going about things – Mad Dog instead steps away and allows him to be be released so that he can fight both men at the same time. That’s psychopaths for you, we suppose.

Rama obviously isn’t delighted about his brother getting tortured and Andi’s a tad peeved about it too, so it’s pretty obvious it isn’t going to be Marquess of Queensbury rules. Mad Dog’s okay with that. They fight.

Rama, Andi and Mad Dog fight quite brutally for really rather a long time. Towards the end, everyone has broken everything and somehow they’re still fighting. Even when Mad Dog has a strip light sticking out of his neck, he carries on fighting.

What we’re saying is that Mad Dog was definitely up for that contest. And what we’re equally saying is that England very obviously aren’t up for touring Bangladesh for three T20 internationals and three one-day internationals (ODIs) next month.

If the home team had themselves down as Rama and Andy, they’re actually Inigo Montoya.

Some place else to be

It’s not that any of the England players are citing security concerns, as they sometimes have in the past. It’s just that quite a lot of them seem to have other cricket matches they’d rather play instead. And that rather diminishes the tour’s status as a supposedly major international engagement.

Cricinfo’s Vithushan Ehantharajah reports that Sam Billings, Liam Dawson and James Vince are all likely to join Alex Hales in playing in the Pakistan Super League instead. T20 players Richard Gleeson and Tymal Mills may skip the shortest form leg for the same reason.

While you could watch an England white ball match lacking those players without particularly noticing their absence, there’s greater erosion afoot. Board-sanctioned erosion. Erosion that is a direct consequence of the ECB’s decisions in fact.

The first ODI will be played on March 1. The second and final Test in New Zealand is scheduled to finish on February 28. Even in a leap year, that would be a bit of an ask.

That scheduling means that none of Joe Root, Harry Brook, Ben Duckett, Olly Stone or Will Jacks will be available either. ODIs may technically be a distinct format, but it’s more the overlap in a Venn diagram. Running separate red and white ball squads doesn’t solve this. If you take all of the Test players out of a one-day game and also most of the T20 players, what are you honestly left with?


We’re not necessarily bemoaning this situation. (Okay, we’re bemoaning it quite a bit – but that’s not really our point today.) What we’re wondering is how we should try and view what we’ve ended up with?

Series like these are where the competing pressures of high level cricket are felt most acutely because, to put it bluntly, these are the matches that are losing. These are the games where if there’s a choice, people are choosing the other thing.

Writing earlier this week, when laying out the 2023 King Cricket Essentials calendar, we said there were a lot of international matches that we kind of wish weren’t being played. Now that we look at a pretty perfect example, we have to ask ourself: is that actually true?

Because it’s always going to be the Bangladesh tours, isn’t it? And we do fundamentally like the idea of Bangladesh playing international cricket. If everyone decides to bin off playing Bangladesh because the matches are always diminished by absences then Bangladesh cease to be an international cricket team.

Viewed in that light, wilfully ignoring these series because they’re “meaningless” seems unhelpful. Except they are meaningless. So where does that leave us?

We don’t really have an answer. The whole situation feels massively out of anyone’s hands.

Is the best that we can hope for that Bangladesh trounce England and then trounce them on their next tour and then keep on trouncing them until there’s such a massive desire for retribution that Bangladesh v England finally becomes A Big Deal and everyone wants to play?

What made Mad Dog mad?

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  1. Is the situation going to come to a head and provoke an active solution from the ICC and individual boards, or are we just going to carry on like this until we have a morass of interchangeable T20 leagues, the Ashes, whatever format India are best at in a given moment, and then everything else being relegated to the international equivalent of the Second Division of the County Championship or the Royal London Cup?

    Seems increasingly like it will be the latter

    1. Essentially the second with series and tournaments waxing and waning to some degree according to recent history and context.

  2. Good to see Tom Abell get an international nod. Decent player, terrible interviewee. Takes a big deep breath in through his teeth before every answer.

      1. Very similar.

        ‘Tom, you must be delighted with your first England call-up, give us your thoughts?’

        ‘Pfffff. Gonna cost you, mate.’

  3. This happened because we’re still seeing scheduling aches and pains floating about from the time the scheduling took a sledgehammer to the knees that was COVID.

    England were originally meant to play Australia in July 2020. That was cancelled because England had to reschedule the test series against Pakistan, so they played it in September. Then they were supposed to play India, but that was rescheduled to March 2021 because there wasn’t time to play it between the end of the rescheduled Australia series and and the start of the rescheduled IPL. And so on and so on and so on. England have just played a series in SA that was rescheduled from origianlly being in early 2020, and this Bangladesh series was postponed from September 2021 owing to a squeeze between the rescheduled 2021 IPL and the rescheduled 2020 (now 2021) world T20 tournament.

    All they’re doing now is cleaning up the dregs of obligation that were set up by the ODI Super League, which was ambitious, an actually good idea for giving ODIs context and oppertunities for lower ranked teams, and completely screwed over by COVID. And the reason we’re seeing players skipping out is because ‘dregs of obligation’ is a less than stellar billing.

    My point is this mess isn’t an omen of doom from the future, as anything that involves T20 leagues is usually framed as, it’s an irritating knock on from the past, and it’ll stop soon.

  4. Also it’s bugging me that ‘Alex Hales has opted out of the Bangladesh tour’ is the headline story just because people are somewhat likely to have heard of him compared to Sam Billings or Liam Dawson. Hales hasn’t played a 50 over game in four years. He wasn’t going anyway.

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