SHAKIB Al Hasan, our ace all-rounder , has been subjected to reduced one year ban from all formats of international cricket by the cricket world’s apex body International Cricket Council. ICC version of slapping sanction on Shakib goes like this: Shakib has failed to report to ICC Anti-Corruption Unit about the full details of corrupt approaches made by a bookie in 2018 during Tri-nations series involving Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Zimbabwe and also involving Indian Premier League during the same year. He received invitations from the bookmaker during these tournaments who requested him to provide inside information for betting purposes. Shakib did not disclose information to ICC about these corrupt approaches which is a gross violation of ICC Code of Conduct. Therefore, for breaching ICC Anti-Corruption code Shakib Al Hasan is officially banned for two years, later reduced to one year for accepting the charges, from taking part in all formats of international cricket. According to Alex Marshall, ICC general manager (integrity),‘Shakib Al Hasan is a highly experienced international cricketer. He has attended many education sessions and knows his obligations under the Code. He should have reported each of these approaches.’
Yes, it is a mystery why a hugely experienced player like Shakib Al Hasan decided to suppress the matter to ICC. It needs to be mentioned here that Shakib was also approached by the bookies in 2010 and 2013 to engage in corrupt conduct but he quickly brought this information to the knowledge of ICC and thereby avoided any possible penalty action by the ICC. This indicates that Shakib was fully aware of the need to comply with the ICC rules.
On 29 October 2019, ICC verdict on Shakib was announced. Just a few days before this verdict, Shakib spearheaded a movement of national cricket players against Bangladesh Cricket Board and directly went to the press and media to realise their 11-point demand without initiating any prior dialogue with BCB. Shakib mobilised the players to announce that they would not take part in any cricketing activities unless their demands are met. According to BCB, Shakib also violated terms and conditions of his contract with BCB by making unlawful sponsorship deal with a telecom company. In fact, Shakib kept on setting unacceptable precedents by flouting existing rules and regulations all through that left BCB and our cricket embarrassed. In an article published on October 30, 2019 in The Daily Sun Atif Azam listed all of Shakib’s controversial acts so far. In the meantime, BCB accepted most of the demands of the players on October 23, 2019, albeit grudgingly. But, finally this brought an end to the on-going feud between the players and the BCB.
Then arrived the devastating news about Shakib that he had been banned from all formats of international cricket by the ICC. It is bombshell news for the millions of Bangladeshi cricket fans at home and abroad. They are simply shocked. It caused a deep pain and anguish for all of us. It is still difficult to come to terms with this discomforting development in our national cricket because we, as an independent country, cannot accept any damage to the image of our country.
Yes, ICC has the cogent reasons to be forthright in showing zero tolerance against corruption of any form in world cricket, but people are also expressing reservations about the timing and magnitude of their action against Shakib. This is why some people find issues to level against the BCB and their possible indirect role in Shakib’s fall off the pedestal. Former Bangladesh Cricket Board president and current member of our parliament Saber Hossain Chowdhury made this comment about Shakib’s suspension, ‘the sanction slammed on suspended Shakib Al Hasan may be an outcome of an unholy collaboration between the BCB and International Cricket Council’ (Dhaka Tribune, October 30, 2019). This particular comment of ex-president of BCB is a serious one and brings into focus the possible questionable role of the BCB management in Shakib’s present difficult situation.
People are also raising the point why sanction on Shakib by the ICC has been imposed just before the India tour of Bangladesh and right after players movement against BCB to realise their 11- point demand led by Shakib. Is it a mere coincidence or there is something more to the whole issue. A national English reports in its sports page reported on the issue, ‘The BCB came to know about the incident (Shakib issue) during the last ICC board meeting but was utterly surprised that the cricketer in question did not inform them about it earlier.’ Perhaps the last board meeting of ICC took place on March, 2019 in Dubai and since then Shakib’s misconduct didn’t come to light from any sources. Now, it has come to the surface like the bolt from the blue and caused a catastrophic effect on our national cricket. This is difficult to accept.
Cricket analysts are also questioning the duration of suspension for Shakib fixed by the ICC. Some say it has been a harsh punishment for Shakib to face the ban because Shakib didn’t commit any crime like match fixing or spot fixing. He has simply made a mistake by not informing the ICC on time about the corrupt approaches made by the bookie. The ex-Indian captain Rahul Dravid has described the ICC suspension period for Shakib quite disproportionate to the kind of omission he has made.
Shakib’s predicament is certainly a serious personal setback as much as it is a national setback. Shakib is a shining star in world cricket. His brilliant performance in world cricket has certainly elevated the status of our cricket, besides bringing Bangladesh into limelight. At this unfortunate moment, our hon’ble prime minister, sports minister, BCB president and countless fans of Shakib have not only expressed their sincere sympathy for him but also assured to stand by him fully in every possible way. The absence of Shakib will affect the performance of our national squad, particularly when Mashrafe Mortaza, our ace team captain, is also out of the squad. During his absence, Bangladesh will have to play 36 international matches (twenty T-20, thirteen tests and three One Day Internationals) and all these matches are to be played without Shakib. It is likely that his absence will impact our overall performance. It will certainly make our task quite challenging and difficult, after all, Shakib is not just a good bat but also a good bowler, a very dependable all-rounder. On several occasions in international cricket, he turned out as a redeemer for Bangladesh team. Having said so, it should also be said in a louder manner our national squad is blessed with so many talented and dedicated players. They need to be guided and motivated to deliver the best performance. Given the proper and timely support extended to them, our boys will certainly come together and rise to the occasion in the coming days brushing aside all the odds and bring distinctions for our great country.
Some cricket analysts hold the view that Shakib’s setback, in a way, is a blessing in disguise for our cricket. For Shakib, it is a moment to reflect and rectify. In the hindsight, he will have the rare opportunity to introspect and to make amends. In the end, as everyone is hoping, Shakib will come out stronger, more responsible and more emotionally intelligent. He will keep contributing to our cricket in the same lofty manner as he has been doing so far. For our other existing players Shakib issue is also a valuable lessons to be learnt. It will make them more disciplined and more educated as far as ICC Code of Conduct is concerned.
Today cricket is not just a popular sport; it is a billion dollar industry with a huge involvement of legal and illegal transactions. The bookmakers have their own designs and exclusive way of doing transactions. On the other side of the fence, there is a powerful watchdog body called Anti -Corruption Unit of ICC who are also acting in a highly professional manner and hitting the bull’s eye. So, players should seriously learn to look before they leap in a world of huge temptations. Shakib factor has put our cricket board in the dock despite the fact that present management of BCB is working hard to make our cricket internationally competitive. Some quarter are indulging in raw politics which will not take our cricket forward, rather it will hamper our phenomenal strides forward. Let’s overlook our petty differences, shun our myopic attitude and forge total unity and thereby underwriting sustained progress of our cricket.
M Ashiq is former teacher of Scolastica and Sunbeams
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