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4 November, 2019 10:42:04 AM

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The shocking Shakib saga

What Shakib Al Hasan did was definitely not cricket and he deserved the punishment
Syed Mehdi Momin
The shocking Shakib saga

At present Bangladesh cricket is going through a crisis of serious proportions. Just after the millions of fans and followers of the most popular sport of the country breathed a collective sigh of relief when the stand-off between the players and board was resolved, came the deeply saddening and shocking news that the ace player of the team, and arguably the best ever cricketer produced by Bangladesh,  Shakib Al Hasan, has been banned by the ICC from all forms of the game for two years, with one year of that sentence suspended, after he accepted three charges of breaching the ICC anti-corruption code.
The fact that he was the skipper of the national Test and T-20 team adds an extra dimension to his offence.

To say that such an action was unexpected from one of the best and most beloved cricketers– and indeed sportsmen– would be an understatement. There are differences of opinion regarding whether Shakib Al Hasan is the most talented cricketer ever produced by Bangladesh but there is no question whatsoever that he is the most successful one. And his cricketing success has been defined his great intelligence. Like any intelligent sportsperson he knows his limitations and plays within them. He is not a big turner of the game but takes the wickets of the best batsmen, he is not a flamboyant stroke-maker but scores his runs at a rapid pace, he is not a flashy fielder but often takes the most spectacular of catches. However off the field intelligence is not enough for a cricketer. With intelligence must bust be added the essential quality of integrity.   ICC, the global body running the game, has always adopted a very strict policy regarding match fixing issues and other misdemeanours.  Famous players like Mohammad Azharuddin, Hansie Cronje, Salim Malik, and a host of other cricketing luminaries had to pay a steep price for their involvement in match fixing. Even Bangladeshi superstar cricketer Mohammad Ashraful had to lose a number of prime years of his cricket career for being involved in similar albeit worse incident.

Many feel that Shakib Al Hasan is somewhat unfortunate as most cricketers facing ICC wrath were one way or the other involved directly in match fixing while Al Hasan rejected the approach by the bookies.    The writer does not agree with the Al Hasan apologists. His crime, and by all definition what he did was a crime that is way more serious than the brazen ball-tampering that put Steven Smith and David Warner out of the game for a year. The punishment for failing to report not one but at least three obvious approaches from a bookie is by no means Shakib Al Hassan’s alone; the damage is must more serious. He, both as a cricketer and also as a role model has let down his team, the fans, and more importantly cricket the very sport that has brought the all rounder tremendous fame and fortune. The ICC report regarding said “During these (with investigators) interviews, Mr Al Hasan was cautioned that the answers and information provided by him could be used as evidence to support a charge or charges in relation to a breach of the Code, if they revealed that Mr Al Hasan might have breached the Code, either by acting corruptly himself or by failing to report corrupt approaches or corrupt actions by others. After receiving these cautions, Mr Al Hasan admitted various failures to report approaches made to him to provide Inside Information to Mr Aggarwal."

All sportspersons must know that any involvement in match-fixing is the most serious of all sporting crimes. Match fixing rids the glorious game of cricket of its much vaunted honour, faith, belief, truth and heroes. Of course sledging is awful and ball-tampering is indeed a form of cheating, but it can be argued that these misdeamenours are employed in the pursuit of winning the.

On the contrary fixing, diminishes cricket as only willful underperformance can be prearranged. Shakin Al Hasan and the other players know very well that corruptors lurk in every corner, preying on greed and weakness of character. These are enemies not merely to be wary of but warded off to the extent possible. Just one little slip and a player is drawn into a web that is hard to break free from.

The fact that a player of Shakib Al Hassan’s stature failed to learn from previous incidents is bewildering to say the least. There is a reason why cricket has a unique place among all sports. “It is not cricket” is a term in the lexicon to describe unfair actions. What Shakib Al Hasan did was definitely not cricket and he deserves the punishment he got.     It is very difficult to understand why Shakib, the game's premier allrounder (he is ranked third in Tests, first in ODIs and second in T20Is in the ICC's player rankings), failed to report the approaches to the ACU, especially as he has previously reported corrupt approaches.

Ironically when the action was taken against Mohammad Ashraful Shakib Al Hasan was one of the first persons to openly question Ashraful's motives during the fateful BPL match in Chittagong later identified as one of the compromised by the BPL tribunal. Al Hasan was a key witness in that case, speaking up against an incident he felt was tarnishing the game. Now is a time when he himself should look in the mirror and he will not see a very pretty picture. The offence of Shakib Al Hasanhas taken the gloss off Bangladesh cricket and has left behind a shaken team, and millions of broken hearts.

Former Bangladesh captain Habibul Bashar has called it the "saddest day in Bangladesh cricket". Akram and chief selector Minhajul Abedin, both former captains, expressed their shock as well. In fact excepting a very few, most international cricketers feel that the punishment has been a bit too low.  Michael Vaughan, the former England skipper and one known for his impeccable behavior both on and off the field said “No sympathy what's so ever for Shakib Al Hasan ... Non what's so ever ... In this era the players get briefed all the time about what they can and can’t do and what that have to report straight away ... Two years isn't enough ... Should have been longer ..”

The ex Pakistani cricketer Ramiz Raja said “Shakib Al Hassan's ban has a lesson for all sports lovers and sportsmen: if you disregard the game and try to become bigger than the game by sidetracking the laid rules and protocols then be ready for a fantastic fall!”

Quite interestingly Shakib Al Hasan, who has been handed the ban had reportedly wanted the ban to be imposed on him before the tour of India. Speaking to Bangladeshi portal BDcrictime, Bangladesh Cricket Board (BCB) director Akram Khan revealed that the Anti-Corruption Unit (ACU) had said that the ban would be imposed after a few more days. But Shakib insisted to get it done away with as early as possible. Reportedly, he was concerned and wanted it to happen before the India tour so that the players or team didn’t get affected by it. Bangladesh’s tour of India will start with first of the three-match Twenty-20 International (T20I) series in Delhi on November 3.

However, thankfully there is a redeeming feature in the whole sordid saga. Cricketers are expected to be gentlemen and ladies. And like a true gentleman, Shakib Al Hasan accepted his guilt in a gracious manner. Shakib Al Hasan is indeed a world class player and his records speak for themselves. His genius in the cricket field has been lauded by experts throughout the cricketing world. For a classy player like Shakib Al Hassan, the duration of the ban is not too long. He is still relatively young and also a fine athlete with an enviable fitness level. He has the sympathy and best wishes of the prime minister of the country, BCB, his fellow players and indeed Bangladeshis throughout the world. We hope that he will bounce back in his inimitable fashion once he returns. Cricket needs an all rounder like him.

The writer is the Senior Assistant Editor of The Independent

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Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman
Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

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