Cricket: Bangladeshi learning curve

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BANGLADESH ARE out of the 1999 World Cup, but there are millions of reasons why they will be back.

For the cricket-mad Bangladeshis are ensuring the future of the game in a country that is expected to be the next to be granted full Test status. The disappointment writ large on the players' faces when they lost by seven wickets to Australia on Thursday was proof that Bangladesh had hoped to perform better on their Cup debut. One victory, in the "mini Cup final" against fellow newcomers Scotland, is poor reward from the four games in which they have sometimes been outplayed but never humiliated. They play Pakistan in their final Group B game on Monday.

"Our batting was OK, but our bowling and fielding was not up to much. Still, playing teams like Australia has been a good experience for us," said their captain, Aminul Islam.

Cricket is now the most popular sport in Bangladesh, according to Islam. Money has been poured into the sport and many top foreign players are earning a living there - the Kenyan batsman Steve Tikolo is the latest recruit for next season, according to his country's team officials.

However, the Bangladesh coach, the former West Indian batsman Gordon Greenidge, is expected to leave his job when his contract expires next month.