Suddenly, everyone is talking about cricket and Shakib al Hasan, our star all-rounder. From the 14-party political alliance to Bangladesh Nationalist Party to movie stars to the analysts on TV to the millions of Bangladeshis.
Everybody is now concerned about what Shakib has done, and how he has been punished, and whether it was justified.
We’re now going through a phase of opinion-overload regarding the fact that Shakib didn’t inform the authorities about the illegal offer he was approached with by a bookie.
But at the same time, the whole episode has revealed many aspects of our cricket, politics about cricket, cricket diplomacy, as well as the emotions of Bengali people about the game.
The good news is, as they say, that Shakib got the minimum penalty; he could have been banned for at least five years for his mistake.
But the bad news is that the incident has come as a setback both for him and for our cricket. The question would naturally arise as to why he didn’t, first, inform the BCB and then, the ICC.
Was he scared that something graver might happen to him if he had informed the authorities about the offer from the bookie?
If that is the case, we have a feeling that there’s a huge mental gap between the BCB administration and the players. The players don’t have the courage to open up to the BCB authorities.
At the same time, it is also evident that the BCB doesn’t have any monitoring mechanism on its players. No one, perhaps, cares to have two-way communication that should take place with the players. Anything might happen in this gap.
We did have an experience with another cricketer a few years ago and the BCB should have had a mechanism in place to make the players aware of possible dangers and prevent them from those.
The gap was also revealed to us when recently the cricketers threatened a boycott against the India tour, demanding a pay hike.
Although they should have discussed this issue with the board first, yet they went directly to threaten the board. The board, at the same time, took a very hard line which was evident from the president’s statements.
The president had also said that a “conspiracy” was being hatched to foil Bangladesh team’s India tour. When the president of BCB suspects conspiracy in a game, we certainly have something to worry about.
On the other hand, a former board president has alleged that there may be an alignment between BCB and ICC. He alleged that BCB might have propagated it.
We suspect something is really wrong in the state of the affairs with the BCB. We even read reports that one BCB official was alleged with a crime of running an illegal casino at a sports club.
The BCB officials should know and realize whatever they do and say has an impact on the image of Bangladesh cricket as well as the country’s image.
After all, our cricket is one of the few aspects of our life about which we are known globally.
Only blaming a player may not be right. The mentors or regulators also have responsibilities.
These are the times of corporate cricket. The present-day world doesn’t have the cricket that we used to know once upon a time. Money and wealth have invaded the cricket arena over the decades.
A huge amount of money is circulated keeping this sport at the centre: The ICC is earning money, the cricket boards in various countries are earning money, the players have gotten engaged in the commercial world, and they are earning money.
This piece is not to opine what Shakib did was right, but along with him, we also had some responsibility.
That Shakib was wrong has been quite clear from our prime minister’s reaction when she was asked whether the government could do anything about his ban. She said that there was nothing much to do, as he had made a mistake.
Now, Shakib should have known and fathomed the importance of cricket to the people of Bangladesh. This game has become synonymous with patriotism in this country, no matter how well or how bad we fair in the competitions and the matches with other teams.
The Bangladeshi audience and, for that matter, the people, have shown time and again that they are with their boys through thick and thin.
When they lose, the people become sad and when they win, the people’s happiness knows no bounds.
The world hasn’t seen such a cricket-loving lot ever in the face of the earth. Apart from that, the role of cricket is also important in diplomacy and other relations at the international level.
Now, Shakib has made a mistake; he hasn’t committed any crime. BCB needs to assess his mistake and find out whether it was fair on ICC’s part to punish him like this. Shakib is an important asset for Bangladesh cricket.
We don’t know when we will be blessed with a cricketer of his talent again.
Our BCB has also to ensure that he remains mentally and physically sound to make a comeback after one year.
First published in Dhaka Tribune.
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