The national team is of course the most important facet under the Bangladesh Cricket Board's (BCB's) purview, but by reducing the ban on serial disciplinary offender Sabbir Rahman, the BCB has proven that they are willing to sacrifice everything at the altar of the Tigers' short-term future. The sacrificial lambs are team culture, the long-term disciplinary tradition not just around the team but also at lower levels, the future of Sabbir himself and last but not least, any semblance of professionalism.
Sabbir was banned from international cricket for six months on September 1 for abusing and threatening a fan on social media while on tour in West Indies. However, the hard-hitting batsman apparently remained integral to Bangladesh's plans for the 2019 World Cup, and with the New Zealand tour in February coming up, it has suddenly been decided that sending him on the tour is a must even if it meant violating the BCB's own ban. The reason given by chief selector Minhazul Abedin yesterday was that captain Mashrafe Bin Mortaza wanted Sabbir sufficiently prepared for the World Cup.
It would not be an opinionated stance to term this as the height of unprofessionalism. Consider what went behind the U-turn. When levying the ban, the BCB knew that it would end on March 1 -- by which time the New Zealand ODIs would have ended -- and they would have also talked to the team leadership about the decision. In other words, nothing but time had changed between the BCB levying a six-month ban in September and reducing it to a five-month one yesterday.
Therefore, having had all the knowledge then that they do now, BCB could either have displayed minimal long-term vision and planning acumen and started off with a five-month ban or, as more professional bodies do, stuck to the original punishment as an example to others as well as Sabbir.
And Sabbir is not even in the top five among Bangladesh's batsmen. By stark contrast, Cricket Australia had banned two of their best batsmen in Steven Smith and David Warner for a year for ball-tampering, which will end only at the end of March. In the meantime, Australian cricket suffered greatly, losing all series home and away. Australia want to win the World Cup too, but perhaps they have an appreciation that it requires not just good cricketers, but cricketers with a healthy mindset that contributes to the overall culture of the team.
Likewise India, who sent integral players like KL Rahul and Hardik Pandya home from their recent tour of Australia because of the pair's sexist remarks on a talk show. India also want to win the World Cup, presumably.
Even if Mashrafe wanted Sabbir back, is it the board's sole remit to satisfy the captain's whims at the expense of the overall health of the country's cricket? BCB has contributed to the problem that is Sabbir. In December 2017, he assaulted a young fan in Rajshahi while playing a National Cricket League match and then threateningly telling match officials not to reveal the incident. The BCB's response was to ban him from domestic cricket and levy a hefty fine, but he kept playing international cricket despite the commission of a crime that would have ended most cricketers' careers anywhere else in the world. The message to Sabbir was that as long as he held value for the national team, the board would bend over backwards to accommodate him.
As for Mashrafe, his legacy in the national team has been overwhelmingly positive but if he did play a part in this, he will have contributed to the deterioration of the team culture that he so painstakingly and lovingly helped create. There may be solid cricketing reasons for wanting Sabbir back, but surely they were not so compelling that the batsman would have to be brought back one month before his ban ended rather than in the Ireland tri-series in May.
While this will be a negative mark on his record, the bigger culpability is BCB's because the board have once again proven that far from performing the duties of a governing body -- which include securing the future of cricket at all levels and planning with a long-term perspective -- they are only adept at pandering to the sentiment of the day and ensuring problems of tomorrow.