A cricket match took place in Fatullah this week to make iconoclasts weep. Bangladesh, with one Test victory in 42, dominated for two-and-a-half days against Australia - 313 in 680 - and came within three wickets of finishing them off.

It was predictable that Ricky Ponting should script a great escape, but it was an addictive, enduring drama to match anything at last summer's Ashes. Five years is nothing in the ancient timeline of this game. Bangladesh have, in fact, grown up just as quickly as cricket has. They have suffered landslide defeats but all the pain will be worthwhile if they keep playing like this.

Had the stance proposed by Matthew Engel in Wisden this week been taken by the authorities at the turn of the century, Bangladesh would not have been able to make this grand statement of belonging. They would have remained an amateur obscurity, locked out of cricket's cosy elite. Australia would have had eight months to contemplate the Ashes instead of seven.

Engel was right about one thing. Cricket is not a global game. At least not yet, the editor should have added. Geographically, Australia, South Africa, West Indies and India could not be further apart but no veil will disguise the fact their interest in cricket grew as a result of a common diaspora.

However, the beauty is that none of those countries today are remotely alike. Diametric cultures are reflected in the way they play the game. Urban bowls become fascinating melting pots when competition is fierce. Rivalries are formed, and 18-month gaps between series are just about bearable. Five or six years would be achingly long if the rest was just filler.

Hang on. That's what it has been in recent years. Over the past decade only one team, India, has made an Australian summer interesting, and before the Baggy Greens ambushed them at Lord's last year, England had won ten straight Tests at home. This is not the fault of the International Cricket Council, it is because two nations got their houses in order and others fell behind. Everything is cyclical. Not so long ago England were a shambles.

The trouble with cricket is that it takes too long. For a Test you have to write off five days, for a major tour three months. Sadly, it wasn't designed to cater for 205 countries, as football now does. Scotland are ranked 62nd by FIFA and 12th by the ICC, but the comparison means nothing because in football, quality opposition is only ever an hour away. Trips can be done in two days.

Cricket has serious problems, but it would be too easy to give up on expanding. It goes against the grain of sport to clamp down on the aspiring. Engel wants the ICC to alter its mission statement and abandon its "global game" catch-cry. If it did that, what would be left to do? Cricket would survive, but it would never thrive.

Rugby union suffers from very similar issues. Rugby league's condition is probably incurable. The big countries have been supporting themselves for decades and have lately grown in strength, rather than simply accepting troughs and waiting for the next peak. New contenders, like Argentina and Italy, have purged some of the mould from rugby, keeping pretentiousness at bay with the odd scare.

Cricket has to remain inclusive, and in a crowded calendar the World Cup is the only place to accommodate everyone. Those who label this the greatest game are guilty of the most risible hypocrisy if they add the caveat: "But it's our game. You can't play."

There will more than a couple of weak teams at next year's World Cup. Sixteen is a record quota, but the format has been adjusted to more quickly separate the wheat from the chaff. There will be gross mismatches, and it will be very long in comparison with other major events. But what's new? This is cricket.

If the tournament was shorter and comprised eight teams, the cricket would be of a higher standard. But is that all we crave? In last year's Ashes the cricket was magnificent, but a great Ashes does not make a game great. It merely reflects the parity of the leading teams.

Engel's view resembles that of the elite clubs in European football. The strong should be fortified in order for their every meeting to be auspicious. He sees countries where the game remains a minority pursuit as a waste of time and resources. Didn't anyone tell him about the chicken and the egg?

It's a view described as "blinkered" by one of the few who has seen both sides, Dougie Brown of Scotland and England. It is also one that many cerebral observers share. But it's no coincidence that it should be broadcast in the very year when Lord's became proud of itself again. When the garden is rosy, why invest in a new spade? This is the kind of conservative bunkum that stymied cricket for generations.

Last year, after the intermittent misery of two decades, an English summer was truly captivating again. Not only that, England completed the set of teams they have beaten under the hawkish supervision of Duncan Fletcher. What appeared to have revived the game's popularity didn't have a purely positive impact. It also awoke an ethos that had long been dormant.

Now there is the hiss of an old order being restored, and with it comes the oaky thud of a door being shut. Members only, gentlemen. This is our club. No riff-raff.

It will only strengthen the resolve of the outsiders.