Unlike the previous two occasions that Shakib Al Hasan had attended the press conference during the one-off Test against Afghanistan, there was no smile on the Bangladesh captain’s face yesterday following a humiliating 224-run defeat at the Zahur Ahmed Chowdhury Stadium in Chattogram.
Why not? With rain allowing just 13 balls to be bowled in the first two sessions of the fifth and final day, Bangladesh had just to survive 18.3 overs or 70 minutes with four wickets in hand and, most importantly, with Shakib at the crease.
There were many prayers by local supporters for rain to wash out the entire day’s play, but it seemed that destiny was not to be denied for the deserving winners as the Bangladesh players showed hardly any character, of which there was plenty in the opposition camp, despite Afghanistan playing just their third Test.
It was Shakib’s horrible shot selection, when he went for a cut off the first ball he faced after play resumed and only managed to edge chinaman bowler Zahir Khan, that was the hammer blow for the hosts.
It did not take long for Afghanistan to wrap up the Bangladesh innings. Soumya Sarkar was the only recognised batsman and he became the last wicket to fall as player-of-the-match and Afghan skipper Rashid Khan picked up his 11th wicket of the match, having picked up a five-for in Bangladesh’s first innings.
When dissecting their performance after the match, Shakib was asked how many marks, out of hundred, he would give his team for the performance over the past five days, and his reply was brief and to the point: “Zero’.’
That made one wonder about why a team, after playing Tests for 19 years, would not get even one point from their captain and what that said about the culture of cricket in the country.
“It is definitely hard to accept [the result]. It is very disappointing because we had four wickets and we had to play one hour and ten minutes. It’s difficult to explain about the others’ [dismissals], but I can explain mine. Because I got out off the first ball, that made the situation very difficult for the team. The responsibility is mostly on me. I could have done without playing the cut, as the ball was not there for that shot,” Shakib told reporters when asked how hard it was to accept the result.
Although he was not willing to call the defeat a shameful one, he did say that if Bangladesh really want to improve in Test cricket they need to improve the quality of the players.
“If we want to play more consistently, we need to improve the quality of the players. We need more quality players. Otherwise, we will have to continue banking on conditions and situations favouring us,” he said.
Over the need to improve the domestic structure, there was a bit of needle in the captain’s voice when he said that it should have been looked after from the moment Bangladesh started playing Test cricket 19 years ago and that he is not the one to answer that question.
It is certainly a steep fall from being one of the top contenders to win the man-of-the-tournament award in the recent World Cup to being on the receiving end of a humbling loss. When asked if it was a difficult transition to accept, Shakib said, “I am right where I have always been, after the World Cup and now. Everyone can see it how they choose, that depends on them. I always try to perform. I cannot contribute in every match, that’s normal. And if a player is always selected [and plays well], he should get more match fees [than those who play badly].”
When asked whether he would give his suggestions to the BCB as the leader of the side, Shakib said, “If I don’t have to [lead the side], I think it will be better for my cricket [laughs], on a personal basis. But if I have to lead, of course I need to discuss a lot of things.”