Shakib Al Hasan: Guilty victim of blind injustice
It is not easy to defend a cricketer who has kicked the stumps and uprooted them in successive overs in broad daylight, and that too on camera. His status as the world's number one ODI all-rounder makes that task impossible. And yet, a diagnosis is necessary for even a terminal case.
Cricketers not keeping wickets never have a brush with the stumps twice in the same innings, but last Friday, Shakib Al Hasan, a global pride of Bangladesh (often) not sung of loud enough, earned headlines that screamed "loses cool", "fit of anger", "rude behaviour", and "very angry", but there was no banner on the umpire's failing, so abhorred was the player's misdemeanour. Although the umpire is a Most Important Person in the episode, his name was blurred in most media reports. Howzzat?
In a Dhaka Premier League match at the Sher-e-Bangla National Cricket Stadium, Mohammedan Sporting notched 145/six. In reply, Abahani Krira Chakra were in dire straits being nine/three in the third over. In the fourth, the third delivery to be precise, Shakib's leg-before appeal trapping Mushfiqur Rahim was disallowed almost immediately. So prompt was the denial that the umpire could be guilty of premeditation. Normally, umpires take a while to deliberate on the merit when asked, "How is that?" By the way, that was the second denial. Therefore, the lovable "spoilt brat" of Bangladesh cricket broke the stumps. Appalling, as many times as you may review the footage.
Let us move on to the next hot spot: 5.5 overs, Abahani were 31/three. The umpires, without any climatic (read rain) or any medical emergency on the field, or a demand from either team, called off play due to rain. What prompted them to stall the match with only one delivery left to complete the sixth over remains a mystery because the minimum requirement for a result in a T20 match is five overs. But, oh yes, at one time it was six, and the social media was flooded with speculations.
Now, Shakib has played 57 Tests, 212 ODIs and 76 T20s for Bangladesh, scored 3,930, 6,455 and 1,567 runs, and took 210, 269 and 92 wickets respectively, to know that, in dismantling the stumps, although it was officially after-match, he was looking for a suspension of up to five matches.
Unless S75 was trying to carve out an unscheduled vacation, that level of gardening was not the hallmark of a man who registered 18 five-wicket and two ten-wicket hauls in Tests, two five-wicket hauls in ODIs and a fifer in T20s. Success has turned his head much more than the frequent magical spin that he generates on the pitch.
Shakib apologised immediately afterwards, and later on Facebook, he apologised to the teams, management, tournament officials and the organising committee for "losing my temper". He was full of remorse as "an experienced player" but conceded his reaction was a "human error" and this happens "sometimes against all odds".
Despite calls for his extradition from some quarters for his despicable conduct, Shakib was handed out a three-match Dhaka Premier League ban along with a fine of Tk five lakh, as ordained in the ICC rules, based on the grade of accusation by the all-important umpires.
However, there was not even a lashing with a chicken feather for Abahani's coach, Bangladesh Cricket Board (BCB) Director, national interim coach and manager, Khaled Mahmud Sujon—who kicked no stumps but had a broiling argument with Shakib—or for the umpires. You may clap with one hand.
Shakib is not the first to disgrace the game, nor will he be the last unless the game is played without stumps or by players without a soul, a heart and legs. Here, I am reminded of my previous column, "Why does the story always begin with Palestinians throwing stones?" The tale of Shakib too began on June 11 with him kicking the three uprights, for the umpires were not being so. Frustration creeps in for sportsmen who shed blood, sweat and tears.
To go to the root of Shakib's problems, his temper and insolence, we have to look at the entire composition of BCB, where club interest reigns supreme. Directors, originating from the various sporting houses, must rise above their respective clubs. To borrow from a political cliché, club is more important than self, country is more important than club. Organisers at all levels have to sever ties, emotional primarily, with their mother clubs. Otherwise they are not ready for city, district and national duties.
During my Sports Reporter days (1974-80) for The Bangladesh Times (The editor was Late Sheikh Fazlul Haque Moni), an umpire, by his own open admission, declared, "Khaiya felsi" (consumed it), meaning he gave a decision that was warranted. Those were the days before technology learnt to verify an appeal by the breadth of a hair. For fear that their "game is caught", cameras in live telecast league matches were allowed only very recently into our stadia.
Umpires must look no further than the boundary rope lest their eyes behold a sinful signal from the VIP gallery. The common fan's conviction is that umpires are fitted to a local match to force a desired result by off-field negotiation, threat, advisory and reward. Bangladesh and cricket are the woeful victims.
Bangladesh, being among the top ten cricketing nations in the world (no mean achievement, that), cannot afford such laughable controversies arising out of unnecessary poor umpiring and motivated decisions. In the absence of Hawk-Eye, field umpires have a field day, as do self-interested cricket organisers. Until the computer vision system is installed, to do justice to the labour and performance of our players, BCB should, in the least, appoint home umpires with international experience.
The umpire's word is final, and therefore umpires must earn respect and reputation through their neutrality and performance in good faith. Shakib is indeed guilty of bringing the game to disrepute, but by the number on his back, he is perhaps 75 percent guilty, but the management and the umpires are that much blameworthy as well.
Bangladesh cricket is a sorrowful victim of election, grouping and power politics. Some persons are holding office for decades, and some seem to fall from the sky. Then there is nepotism. There is a lure, but that certainly is not the wellbeing of the game or the country.
Dr Nizamuddin Ahmed is a practising Architect at BashaBari Ltd., a Commonwealth Scholar and a Fellow, a Baden-Powell Fellow Scout Leader, and a Major Donor Rotarian.