ICC World Cup qualifier to move to Bangladesh?
It does not seem likely that there will be a great deal of pleasure among the leading Associate countries at the news, which leaked into the open last week, that the ICC is considering moving next year's World Cup qualifying tournament from the United Arab Emirates to Bangladesh.
The problem facing the ICC has been widely known among the Associates for some time: the key venue for the event, scheduled to take place next April, is a three-ground complex at Dubai Sports City, and it is unlikely to ready in time.
Six grounds are needed to host the twelve-team tournament, and while the main 25,000-seat stadium in Dubai will probably be completed more or less on schedule, joining the existing grounds at Sharjah, Abu Dhabi and Al Dhaid Cricket Village, the two outside facilities have run into trouble.
The root of the problem is the ambitious plan to create conditions resembling a variety of cricket environments at Dubai Sports City: reportedly, permission has only just been granted for soil to be imported from Australia for one of the grounds.
So the ICC is faced with a choice between deferring the tournament until later in the year – which some Associates are said to oppose because it would cut short the preparation time for the 2011 World Cup – and finding a new location.
Malaysia would be one possibility, the only Associate with the necessary facilities where the event could be staged in April, but it seems that Bangladesh is the ICC's own preferred option.
And that would presumably mean Dhaka, one of the poorest and most overcrowded, polluted
and chaotic cities on the planet.
It's not Eurocentrism that makes this seem a perverse choice: there are all kinds of practical arguments, not least Bangladesh's desperately overstretched health system, that make it a bad idea.
You only have to ask the Scots, who had to deal with a serious facial injury to Ryan Watson in December 2006, to understand why players and management alike might quite reasonably dread a two-week visit to the country.
Then there's the climate, with a steeply rising likelihood of rain once you get into April, combined with temperatures above 30̊ C and a level of humidity well over 80%.
If the April timeslot really is sacrosanct, why not locate the tournament in South Africa, where the domestic cricket season will have just about wrapped up but where the climate would be a lot more favourable and the infrastructure much easier to deal with? If it's possible to play an ODI series against Australia up to 17 April, there's no reason why the World Cup qualifier shouldn't take place there as well.
The objective must surely be to create a competition which is as fair as possible to all the participants. It might properly be observed that the fact that three of the five qualifiers from the 2005 ICC Trophy and all three from the recent World Twenty20 qualifier came from Europe was not unrelated to both tournaments having taken place in Ireland, and it's time the conditions were closer to other countries' experience.
But to opt for Bangladesh would be to place entirely unreasonable strains on the players' health and fitness, and to run the risk of very unpleasant consequences.
Unless, of course – perish the thought! – political considerations are at work . . . . .