A wake-up call for BCB
The Bangladesh Cricket Board (BCB) partially assented to Shakib Al Hasan's plea for a break from Test cricket, and as a result the selectors announced a 15-member Test squad for the upcoming South Africa tour sans the ace all-rounder.
The 30-year-old top-ranked all-rounder in the world has missed only seven Tests since his debut against India in May 2007 at Chittagong, but the previous reasons were different from the latest one as he has asked the BCB for a six-month break from Test cricket.
This request for a break from the national team breaks new ground for the country's cricketers as well as for the people who run the game.
It is needless to say how important he is to the team. Forget his batting and bowling and just reflect on his exceptional fielding; his brilliant direct hit to send Peter Handscomb packing at a crucial moment in the recent Chittagong Test against Australia should still be fresh in the minds of cricket fans.
Therefore, it is almost impossible to replace the 'three-in-one' man in the side. Above everything else his presence in the dressing room and on the field will be acutely missed in the Test series against South Africa.
That is of course not to say that his decision should not be respected, even applauded. If a player feels that his body and mind does not speak in favour of giving hundred per cent and takes the step that Shakib has, you can only see it as the decision of a true professional. If he wants to spend more time with his beloved family, then one should respect that.
It should also be easy to appreciate the toll that the schedule of the world game can take on a player like Shakib, who not only has international commitments but is also an advertisement for Bangladesh cricket in T20 leagues the world over.
Cynics may also ask whether Shakib has become the latest victim of T20 cricket, that he is sacrificing Test cricket rather than limited-overs cricket. Even if that view is correct, there is not much blame to be assigned because the player in question has given 10 years of service with utmost sincerity in all three formats. At least he is forthright and will not compromise with the effort he puts in.
So, it would also not be a surprise if Shakib decides in the near future that he will not continue in Test cricket.
The bigger question is whether the game's governing body is ready to take such decisions in a positive manner. As Shakib's request came as a new experience to the officials, they might not have responded in the proper way as they offered the cricketer a break for only the Test series in South Africa when Shakib desired a six-month break. Even this allowance was tempered yesterday with the proviso that Shakib could join the squad for the second Test as the 16th member if he wished, an ad-hoc condition that can only increase the pressure on Shakib. The request should instead be a wake-up call for BCB, especially when they think about the future of Bangladesh cricket without the current core group.
The recent success of Bangladesh cricket has mostly been the outcome of the coming of age of a highly talented generation of cricketers who came through a process, and Shakib is one of the most important members of this group. The BCB must think whether everything is in place to continue Bangladesh's upward graph without the presence of any key cricketer. Can they maintain or strengthen that process which helped cricketers like Shakib and Mushfiqur Rahim to fulfil their talents?
So it is not only a question of how the team management can minimise the impact of the absence of a player like Shakib in trying conditions like in South Africa, but also how the board react to this new phenomenon.