The Politics of Shakib Al Hasan’s Captaincy

Posted on January 1, 2011 by

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Finally the Bangladesh Cricket Board (BCB) took the decision to appoint Shakib Al Hasan as the full-time captain of the Bangladesh cricket team, albeit the job is for only a year – 2011. Tamim Iqbal has also been named as his deputy, which was a surprising pick and the player himself has said so.

A good decision nonetheless as these two are the only consistent performers in the team and while Shakib has led regularly (always on a series-to-series basis), Tamim has also patterned his game according to the format and 2010 has been quite a productive year for the left-hander.

So giving these two the responsibility, a big one at that, for the World Cup and a year that could see series against Australia, Pakistan, New Zealand, Zimbabwe and the West Indies, could be an effective one but the way it has been dealt with, just symbolizes the cricket board employing them and largely, the country they play for.

Shakib has said in a recent interview to The Daily Star that he could hardly have expected anything else from the cricket board. “Definitely you can’t expect more than that in Bangladesh. We are like that in every aspect of life. Believe me, I was not ready to lead the team in the last series against Zimbabwe and I had a lack of motivation as captain,” he told the Dhaka-based English newspaper.

Why the BCB delayed giving him the captaincy full time is quite ridiculous yet simple.

You see, the BCB is run essentially by various club members (Dhaka has 72 clubs in the Premier Division right down to First, Second and Third Division Cricket Leagues), most of whom are either voted as directors and if they are, they select other club members to run the different committees. This, apart from the so-called ‘professional’ setup, makes what you know as the Bangladesh Cricket Board.

These elected directors and the other committee members call the shots in the board so much so, the CEO is sometimes made into an administrative head rather than the boss of the office.

These club members have their likes and dislikes and you guessed it, they like to see their own players selected in the various selections all over the country, including the national team.

The link with the captaincy issue is that since Shakib plays for Mohammedan Sporting Club this season, the board members (predominantly belonging to rival Abahani and some of their political allies) are unwilling to give the No 1 all-rounder in the world the captaincy full-time, dangling it in front of him.

Shakib didn’t like the idea and he’s shrewd enough to get the point. The media, at least the smarter part of it, hinted in a number of articles of this divide and how it is working against the good of the country’s cricket.

The BCB chief AHM Mostofa Kamal recently told the cricket reporters that this wasn’t so and he was unwilling to announce a captain because there aren’t enough good candidates (the same guy coaxed Shakib to be captain before the Zimbabwe series when the cricketer had said no to the series-by-series system and the same guy said that Shakib has every right to bring players into the team after Shakib’s outburst following a Bangladesh loss against Zimbabwe on December 1).

It might sound all confusing and the system dysfunctional but that is how it is. Though they took the decision, seemingly with a grudge that a Mohammedan player is now the national captain (Tamim also plays for that club, mostly run by the opposition party of the parliament), they have ultimately done the team some good.

Shakib apparently made it very clear a few days ago that he won’t do the job if it’s not for at least a year.

So who did the BCB bow to? The player? The media? Or to Bangladesh cricket?

Trust me, they didn’t bow to anyone. The story here is as complicated as politics in any South Asian country is. Probably a section of the board members/directors would put undue pressure on Shakib to win the team the World Cup (not an unlikely statement from them) or create a situation through their friends in the media to put the guy under a lot of stress.

It has happened before (1999 World Cup selection scandal) and it will happen again, unless club power is taken away from Bangladesh cricket.

But it could all be swept under the carpet if Shakib can lead the side into the quarterfinals. Not an unlikely thought here, but that will require a near-perfect performance against England, India, West Indies or South Africa.

Bangladesh are capable, will the board let it be?

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Article by Mohammad Isam

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