The country’s cricket descended into chaos with Test and T20I skipper Shakib Al Hasan keeping the Bangladesh Cricket Board (BCB) guessing about his availability for the tour of India. Without informing the team management, Shakib missed three of the four days of the pre-tour training camp in Mirpur, including missing the practice game on Sunday even though his name was on the players’ list. This was after he breached the terms of his contract with the board by signing a deal with telecom giants Grameenphone last Tuesday. BCB President Nazmul Hassan, still reeling from a three-day players’ strike last week that was spearheaded by Shakib, talked with The Daily Star’s Bishwajit Roy, Mazhar Uddin and Sakeb Subhan about the trouble and uncertainty caused by Shakib’s actions and his discontent at the players’ strike. The following are excerpts from the interview:
On calling up players from the NCL and selectors’ job
Any person will say that. That eight players would have to be called up, does anyone need a directive for that? Why didn’t you postpone the third round of the NCL since the [practice] game is tomorrow? The thing is that everyone got confused. The players’ strike messed up our plans. We didn’t even know whether they were coming to the camp even the day before [Wednesday].
See, it’s actually not that we don’t have leg-spinners. We are not allowing leg-spinners to be created. I don’t know why. The clubs don’t play them and, in this season’s NCL, even after pushing for it many times, they didn’t play leg-spinners. Think about the risk we took with [Aminul Islam] Biplob. Even after knowing that we might not play the final if we lose against Zimbabwe, we took the risk. Why would we have to trial a leg-spinner in an international tournament?
I have been in a professional environment for a long time. Here, I have seen something different. Changes were not possible in all areas. But I have tried to bring changes. Not everyone is capable of doing everything. Personnel are not available in the board. I don’t even see 60 percent of the directors. This is the reality.
On Test defeat to Afghanistan
We had decided three months earlier about the kind of pitch and our strategies. We decided on a sporting wicket since Afghanistan are stronger than us in spin. Before I left the country [for ACC meeting] I heard that we were not playing any pacers. I asked Akram [Khan], [Minhazul Abedin] Nannu. They said they weren’t being heeded. I don’t know if they were telling the truth. I am now investigating that, just to know. Most of them said that Shakib chose the pitch himself. After the first day, I saw Shakib’s interview where he said that “I haven’t seen a worse pitch in my life”. I was shocked. Everyone said that Shakib had chosen this pitch. I don’t know what was happening. Either everyone is lying or what Shakib said is not right. So I am looking for an answer and running an independent search.
On criticism of his relationship with BCB director Lokman Hossain Bhuiyan
It [arrest] was a big shock and so was the discussion and criticism following his arrest. I have said before that the person I know did not gamble or drink liquor. I have said that he is my friend. Mahbub Anam [BCB director] was brought in by Saber Hossain Chowdhury [former BCB president] and in an illegal way. He was vice-president during [AHM Mostafa] Kamal bhai’s tenure. Why is it a problem when it comes to me?
I hear that I brought Lokman to the board. Councilors come from two places -- the clubs or district. How can I say who will come from where? So, from the Mohammedan club, Lokman and Mahbub arrived. It was Mohammedan’s decision. I don’t decide that. If you check, you’ll find it is very hard to suspend councilors and that constitution has been there from the very beginning. The ICC has further reinforced it, especially in case of directors. I am not saying he [Lokman] cannot be evacuated from the board but a process has to be followed.
On players’ strike
The countries [cricket boards] I have talked to, asked me: “They didn’t present the issues to you beforehand? Just throw the demands away.” No country even wanted to believe that they went for a strike without presenting their demands first.
As far as I know, they were unified about their demands but they didn’t know anything about stopping all cricketing activities.
Not joining the national team camp was never in the players’ agenda. Some even said that they didn’t know that if the demands aren’t met, they would stop playing. An unfounded source informed that there was a plan to scrap the India series. I didn’t believe it but then I heard that some players won’t be going.
The first shock I received after the meeting with the players, was when Tamim [Iqbal] told me that he would not be going on this tour. Earlier he had said that he may miss the last Test due to personal reasons. After the meeting he came to me and said that he was not going.
Now I don’t know who is going. I am confused. I am not saying they are not going but I am confused.
On confusion over Shakib touring India
Actually, nothing is clear yet and that is my problem since the team is leaving day after tomorrow.
To my knowledge, he [Shakib] was going to play [the practice match on Sunday]. When he talked to me, he said that he was going to go and I said I was going there as well. When I went there, I heard that he talked to the coach and he was on vacation or resting. I heard it from someone else.
One thing is certain... there is no relation between this and what you guys are thinking. My assumption is that we will know in a day or two. The team is going on the 30th, so we will find out.
If Shakib doesn’t go then the whole team combination will change. He did not turn up for training on the first day and then arrived the second day only to leave after half of the session. Then on the third day he didn’t come. Don’t you think there is enough reason to be suspicious? Can’t I be suspicious? I have to come up with an alternative but if I say that now, everyone will say that I am asking for Shakib to be dropped from the tour. Can’t imagine what I am dealing with. I can only say that it’s not normal.
Everything is murky. If someone doesn’t want to go, there is no issue if they communicate early. There is a kind of feeling of being indispensable within the team. Attitude has to be right. This [attitude] was not there before. There may be logical reason and I will see to those later. Right now, my concern is the India tour. I am not worried about the pipeline. We have many players.
I have told the coach to look at two players for this series. [To] play one in the T20s and the other in a Test. We have to look at players or how will we play the World Cup ahead? We have to give exposure until the World Cup.
On Shakib not turning up for training
If we don’t find a satisfactory answer for this, then he won’t get any more chances. It has to be something really convincing. Let’s see. It’s one more day.
On the job he has done
When I came to the board, Bangladesh’s Test status was going to be revoked along with Zimbabwe’s. I tried talking to many people but nothing was going to change their minds. Even the press release was written and the board approved it. There was going to be two tiers and the lower tier teams will have to play amongst themselves before making a jump to play the top tier teams.
[Narayanaswami] Srinivasan joined me on skype in the ICC meeting. I got very emotional there and gave a half-hour speech. Srinivasan told them to scrap the two-tier idea. Two countries opposed but he remained firm on the decision and everyone else supported me after that. I was very emotional and I think I even cried. So we managed to keep the Test status.
Bangladesh didn’t have any position in ICC meetings. It had to be changed and after so many activities it has come to a point where if Bangladesh does not support, a bill will not be passed. I saw that Bangladesh had been earning half what they should have and I challenged that in a board meeting. They did not believe me but after looking at everything they agreed and from the next period we will be earning as much as Australia.
I tried to do my job as professionally as possible but in Bangladesh it’s not easy. Change was not easy. If I had let things run as they were, I would have been very popular.
On luring sponsors
Next year we will have to sell the team’s sponsorship rights. If I want to sell, the telecoms can pay us the most. So Grameen and Robi are the main ones. Last year [in 2015] we got Robi for 20 crores a year. Grameen didn’t even participate. What they did was they got a player for 1.5 crore to make ads and the other players weren’t going to do ads for Robi. So Robi withdrew after filing complaints as we could not stop their rival companies from acquiring players. Then after a lot of discussion we decided that no player can have an agreement with a telecom and even if they go for other companies, they will have to take permission from the board. The objective was to get a sponsor. But will anyone come now? Shakib may have gotten 2-3 crores but we will lose at least 100 crores. So are the other players not affected by this? Does the board not get affected? He [Shakib] couldn’t agree to that contract in any legal way.