On-field problems have beset the Bangladesh team on their tour of South Africa, but the team management seemingly also has to deal with discipline off the field as three cricketers had visited an East London casino on Sunday night less than three hours after their 200-run loss against South Africa in the third match of the ODI series, which Bangladesh have lost 3-0. While team management maintained that there were no team rules broken as they returned within the curfew, it was learnt that the three had in fact returned later than the curfew.
The players in question were pacers Taskin Ahmed, Shafiul Islam and all-rounder Nasir Hossain. Their culpability increases a little more when their shaky stature is considered. Shafiul and Nasir have been in and out of the national team for years and seem on their way out again, while 22-year-old Taskin is enduring a prolonged bad patch. Bangladesh chief selector and manager for the current tour, Minhajul Abedin, informed on Monday morning that there were no rules broken as they returned on time. “Because there was not a match the following day we set a curfew for 10'o clock at night, and they told me that they returned within that time.
“They went out to have a bite and they walked over to the casino,” added Minhajul. “[South African players Kagiso] Rabada and [AB] de Villiers were also there.”
The main issue here, as far as team discipline is concerned, is the curfew. The three were seen going out together at around nine. As mentioned, it was learnt that the three had returned later than the curfew and a little alarmingly, the management were unaware what the three members had been up to and only seemed to learn of it when asked by journalists well after the time of the curfew.
“They did not play, but I will personally take up the matter in the team meeting at Bloemfontein,” said Minhajul when pressed on the curfew. That Minhajul will take the matter up in a formal team meeting is in itself a sign that he is not completely convinced by the players' version, a prudent stance given that he was not in a position to know where they were and when they returned.
While many may latch on to the social stigma surrounding the matter, it may be mentioned here–although it is beside the point -- that to the best obtainable information, the three had not indulged in gambling. It has been said by many who know a thing or two about the pressures of touring, for example ex-Pakistan off-spinner and former Bangladesh spin-bowling coach Saqlain Mushtaq on the 2013 tour of Zimbabwe, that the Bangladesh players should go out sightseeing more when they have the time, so as not to suffer from a kind of siege mentality by being holed up in a hotel.
But again, the crucial matter here is the curfew and team culture -- not just because the curfew is a seemingly arbitrary limit on time outdoors but because how strictly it is enforced and adhered to is a barometer of discipline and the extent to which all members – especially unproven players and juniors – are singing from the same songbook. The absence of that discipline has seeped and will seep into the field of play, with this tour being a prime example.
The other question that the powers that be may ask is what team culture is being promoted when seniors sit in quiet reflection in their rooms after a crushing loss and three juniors -- one of whom was in the playing eleven – see it fit to violate curfew and have a night on the town.