In May-June last year, it emerged that despite receiving official requests from both the ACB and the Cricket Association of Nepal towards the end of 2013 for using training facilities in India for their national teams, the BCCI hadn't moved.
Cut to the 2015 World Cup, and Afghanistan have caught the imagination of cricket watchers across the world, chiefly with their pace bowling but no less with their spirit and confidence. Along with Ireland, Afghanistan are the reason many have questioned the ICC's call to reduce the number of teams for the 2019 World Cup from 14 to ten.
I, for one, agree with the ten-team idea (with a 1992-like format), but not with the top eight teams qualifying directly. I would rather the top six teams qualify directly and the bottom four (of the Test-playing teams) play off with the top non-Test-playing teams for the remaining slots.
But that's a digression. Let's return to Afghanistan and the BCCI. And UAE. And Nepal.
"Afghanistan is a poor country, a war-hit country. We haven't got as much support as England gives to Ireland and Scotland. Every time they have invited Australia, they (England) give one or two ODIs to Ireland or Scotland and they also play themselves. We haven't got that much support from Asian board members," Masood had said at the time (February 2013).
More than two years on, Masood's sentiments ring as true as ever. Even as Daniel Vettori says, "Afghanistan have got the makings of an exceptional squad", I suspect most Afghan players hearing him would say, "Yeah, right!"
Now, the BCCI are, technically, blameless - they are under no obligation to be big brotherly and altruistic. Also, I don't like the idea of forming blocs, with teams in the Isles helping each other and the ones in Asia doing likewise. Although that is the only way it makes logistical sense. And there is no denying that cricket is not football. It needs to grow, capture new markets, so to say. A little altruism could end up making financial sense in the long run.
So how about this? BCCI could start with Afghanistan, then Nepal, and, if the amateurs from UAE commit to becoming professionals, then the players from there. Choose the best. Then look at the 27 domestic teams, convince them of the need to do this for the greater good of world cricket, and get a player from one of these countries to play for each of these teams.
It could be true that some domestic teams are too strong or too well balanced to want Shapoor Zadran or Paras Khadka or Shaiman Anwar. Fair enough. Then why not allow Afghanistan, for example, to field a team in the Ranji Trophy? Will that shake the established processes too much? Okay, then why not the Vijay Hazare Trophy? It's one-day cricket these countries are chiefly after right now, aren't they? Traditionally, the county setup has found place for non-Englishmen - and Indian cricketers have benefitted from this too - surely, so could the Indian teams. My Bengal side, for instance, could do with a Samiullah Shenwari or a Shaiman or a Khadka to bolster the batting and the 140-plus Dawlat Zadran to complement Ashok Dinda up front with the ball.
That's Step 1.
Step 2 - or Step 1.1 - is to get top domestic teams, the Ranji Trophy and Vijay Hazare Trophy and Mushtaq Ali Trophy winners, to play Afghanistan and UAE and Nepal in four-way competitions, for each format, every year. That can't be too tough.
The next step, then, would be to do what England do with Ireland and Scotland: get touring teams to swing by for a game or two. If the touring team won't travel to Afghanistan, invite the latter to India. As for Nepal, the visitors could start their tours in that scenic country before hitting Nagpur, or wherever.
And the final step is the obvious one. Every third former Indian cricketer is a coach, a qualified one. Some of them could go to these countries - like Roger Binny and Sandeep Patil did once upon a time - and work the academies. Imagine the gains, maybe over a long period, if things go well.
I remember being in Guyana for the 2007 World Cup and going to the new stadium - Providence - that had been built for the World Cup. A large chunk of the money for building it had come from India. I remember the affection with which the cricket community there spoke about India at the time.
India, or the BCCI, has a grand opportunity as of right now to extend that help to the highly promising cricket team of a war-ruined country as well as Nepal. The financial cost will not be even a fraction of what the BCCI earns. The goodwill will last a lifetime, as all good deeds do.
No, the more I think about it, the more I feel India have a duty here, a duty to do good, a duty to the game that brings in so much money for the BCCI.
First Published: March 12, 2015, 10:42 AM IST