But it’s not the most important one
With humble respect to the Bangladeshi heritage and unparalleled bravery in fighting a nine-month-long war to gain independence, Bangladesh has actually fallen behind in many critical indicators in the world.
Understandably, millions of Bangladeshi cricket fans are finding an essential identity in sports and now are tormented by the recent Test match that was lost against India.
The majority of Bangladeshi people do not hesitate to express their gratitude in India’s contributions to their motherland’s independence. Still, India’s disregard for the environmental impacts and creating a water crisis in Bangladesh due to building water dams have created bitter feelings against India among Bangladeshi people. This sentiment is now leaking into sports matches.
Bangladeshi cricket fans must comprehend that regardless of this cricket match loss, what they are seeing in their cricket is perhaps arguably the best representation of Bangladesh, but not the most important one. The country’s current ranking in several areas paints a vivid picture. The current ranking of Bangladesh in cricket is sixth, in soccer is 185, in GDP per capita ranking is 177, in corruption is 143 (from least corrupt to most), and in military strength is 57.
As such, cricket has become an indicator of how well Bangladesh has been shining for the last two decades. There are indeed many positive economic markers, but a large part of the population is dealing with chronic poverty.
India is one of the top cricketing nations in the world. One of the most significant contributors to India’s cricket success is its private sector’s investments. India is rarely in the leading position in any significant space in the world, although it has 18% of the world’s total population. Make no mistake that Indian nationals have a substantial influence in science and innovation on a global scale as their private sector has been passionately utilizing the multiplier impact by training on-demand based skills, such as computer programming.
However, the Indian government has little to no to claim any credit for its good image. In fact, the Indian government’s action more often than not embarrass Indians.
Worldwide, there are significant concerns about the Indian government’s treatment against minorities, uncontrollable corruption, hundreds of millions of people living under extreme poverty, below standard air, and water pollution.
The Indian government justified its funding and building of coal-fired power plants just miles from its border in Bangladesh while banning such in its land to curb environmental pollution.
If you give the benefit of the doubt to call it not a criminal act, it is at least a sheer example of absurdity. However, its dominance in world cricket is 180 degrees from the government standard and represents the best of India. Highly passionate cricketers who follow the footsteps of cricket legends like Kapil Dev, Sunil Gavaskar, Sachin Tendulkar, and so many more -- always ready to give their best.
It’s no surprise that India’s cricket is getting better and better with more and more of its private sector engagements, and less and less of its government engagement. Bangladesh’s success in the sport of cricket is exceptional -- particularly in comparison to its position on any other matrix.
The learning from the cricket analogy is that more private sector engagement is a precondition to success. One of the examples I would like to offer is recent statistics of H-1 visa in the US.
India was the recipient of 260,000 H-1 visas to the US, mostly in the IT sector, in 2017. Bangladeshi technical workers didn’t even receive a thousand. India is the number one foreign remittance earner, approximately $80 billion in 2019.
Many countries have received more H-1 visas than Bangladesh, where they are far from the scale of government intervention that Bangladesh has been doing -- even Nepal received a lot more than Bangladesh. It’s not that Bangladesh doesn’t care for H-1 visas -- $15bn worth of income was generated in 2019 coming from 10 million Bangladeshis working overseas.
However, the income could have been significantly more had more Bangladeshis qualified in the tech sector -- H-1 visa success is simply an indicator here. India’s privately owned IT sector has excelled for the last few decades, and they have been involved in creating skilled workforces.
The passion for cricket in Bangladesh teaches us one thing -- proper planning in order to educate the large young population to become more productive to an international standard is possible. Now the question, is who should take the right initiative?
Based on what we see in neighbouring India or practically anywhere in the world, we should be targeting education in modern technology, an area where the private sector needs to take a step forward. Technology is changing the world, and Bangladesh is falling behind. The footprints of Bangladeshi innovators are few and far in between.
In fact, it is so bad that the capabilities of utilizing borrowed technology seem to be good enough in Dhaka when even innovations from Africa are landing in Silicon Valley. Let’s set the Tigers’ global ranking as an example that allows us to believe in the rest of the Bangladeshis, who can be trained to do great jobs and compete with India on many more great fronts.
Mazher Mir is Adviser to Asean council.