BanglaCricket.com: Article


Friday, October 24, 2014
Updated: Tuesday, September 06, 2011
Fall from grace

Abu Choudhury
 

Abu Choudhury examines the Bangladesh captain’s fall from grace.

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In May 1940 as the British Conservative government teetered on the brink of collapse having horribly miscalculated the prospects of war in Europe, Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain did the honourable thing and resigned.  The King first asked Chamberlain's Foreign Secretary, Lord Halifax to form a national government.  Halifax politely declined.  It was only then that Winston Churchill became Prime Minister and the rest, as they say, is history.

Time to go
Time to go
It is on such twists of fate that history turns.  When Mohammad Ashraful was relieved of the captaincy in 2009, the Bangladesh Cricket Board (BCB) first turned to their pace spearhead Mashrafe Mortaza to replace him.  It was only once Mashrafe injured himself on his first tour in charge that his deputy Shakib Al-Hasan took over.  With the exception of a brief period in July to October 2010 when Mashrafe attempted an ill-fated comeback, Shakib has captained ever since.  That was until earlier this week when the BCB announced that both he and his deputy Tamim Iqbal would no longer serve as captain and vice captain respectively.

The BCB’s decision comes at a strange time.  Bangladesh is currently caught up in a football frenzy as the Argentine football team are in town.  Yet once that excitement recedes, the spotlight will once again fall on the state of the nation’s cricket.   So far very little detail has emerged from Dhaka as to the reasons for the decision.  The much-awaited BCB inquiry into the aftermath of Bangladesh’s disastrous tour of Zimbabwe (where they lost the one day series and the sole test) has apparently been published and digested by the powers that be.  The outcome is hazy, but overall Shakib is accused of poor leadership and indiscipline.

There will be those who condemn this as a grotesque overreaction by the BCB to a lacklustre  tour.  Such a conclusion, however, is misleading and ignores a pattern of poor behaviour by both the captain and his deputy.  Shakib’s fall from grace is in fact the culmination of a series of acts by the Bangladesh skipper which could at best be described as naïve and at worst considered wilfully arrogant. 

Rumours of indiscipline and discontent have been circulating for the best part of the last twelve months.  We are told by the BCB’s Jalal Yunus that Tamim Iqbal argued with the coach during the Zimbabwe tour.  Shakib and Tamim are both fermenting discontent in the squad and are rumoured to have dined separately from the rest of the team on that same tour.  Both men are also rumoured to have insisted on business class plane tickets when travelling for specialist treatment abroad.

Moreover, a former member of the coaching staff recently told of how during a crucial ODI, while the top order battled to set a score, their captain Shakib was napping in the dressing room for a significant portion of the Bangladesh innings.  Shakib also publicly accused the selectors of picking a squad without consulting him (an allegation denied by chief selector Akram Khan) and declined an invitation in November last year to captain the side on series-by-series basis, preferring instead a longer term appointment.

On the field, one can find little fault with Shakib’s performances.  He is a competitive cricketer with acute cricketing acumen.  His field placings and bowling changes have at times been ordinary and at other times inspiring.  He led Bangladesh to victory against a depleted West Indies side in 2009 and then orchestrated a whitewash of a full strength New Zealand side a year later.  Although Bangladesh also experienced some heavy defeats under Shakib’s stewardship, ultimately there is nothing in his on field performances to date which warrant a demotion.  

Yet the role of the modern international captain is far more nuanced than purely performances on the field.  He must act as a guide, motivator and role model for fellow players, a diplomat in matters concerning officials and administrators and an ambassador when dealing with the press and opposition.  So diverse are the range of skills required, that sporting prowess alone is no longer the sole barometer of success.

Shakib’s indiscretions, however, are merely the symptoms of a deeper malaise affecting Bangladesh’s captain; fundamentally Shakib has unfortunately lost his humility. 

When the allrounder from Magura first led Bangladesh against the West Indies in 2009, he was just 22 years old.  Just three years earlier, he had been playing under-19 cricket.  While his under-19 contemporaries from England and Australia were beginning careers in first class cricket, Shakib had become his nation’s captain.  The period thereafter coincided with his rise to becoming the world’s number one ranked allrounder.  It would be difficult for anyone to remain unaffected by such a rapid rise and the attention, adoration and responsibility that comes with it.  To believe that Shakib would remain humble in such an environment was perhaps optimistic.

In modern cricket arrogance and confidence has become almost synonymous with success.  We expect and admire bravado and bombast in our cricketers and often mistakenly view this as proof of being competitive; a vital ingredient in sporting prowess.  Yet it was not always thus.  Some of the past’s greatest cricketers have achieved profound success in a quiet and understated way.  Indeed even today while the likes of Broad, Pietersen, Sehwag and Yuvraj play with aggression and swagger, others like Bresnan, Cook, Dravid and Tendulkar quietly achieve as much, if not more, in more understated fashion. 

Shakib and Tamim may have believed that emulating the Sehwags and Pietersens is the best way forward.  In truth, aggression and egotism are not the only way of achieving admiration and success or even the best way of doing so. 

As Shakib gears himself up for a series against the West Indies without the burden of captaincy, he may take the opportunity to ponder his mistakes.  Shakespeare’s plays are often instructive in moments of deep introspection and he could look the Prince of Denmark for inspiration.  In Hamlet, Polonius (Claudius’ obsequious chief counsellor) offers his son Laertes a range of advice.  Among the suggestions around dressing well and neither lending nor borrowing money, Polonius wisely observes: “This above all: to thine own self be true”. 

Shakib Al Hasan is young and talented enough to learn from this experience and emerge the better for it.  Going forward, he would do well to heed the fictional Polonius’ advice.