Cricket

Published on September 13th, 2017 | by Faisal Caesar

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Was Shakib Al Hasan’s decision justified?

It’s a different world

We are living in a different world. It’s the world which is changing its course each and every second and gifting us a bucket full of surprises, which neither could we accept nor could we ignore. At times, we are forced to accept those gifts either in the name of modernisation or democratic thoughts.

Democracy has its sweet rewards, but when a crazy person becomes the ruler of a country in the name of democracy and free thinking, definitely, there is something wrong with the existing democracy. Then, when the majority of a community suffers and the rest watch silently in the name of a ‘peaceful world’, democracy is not moving the right way and when, expressing and accepting the wrong concept in the name of ‘freedom of speech’ and ‘open world’ is widely celebrated, I think, democracy is losing its way.

In sports, democracy matters. The opinions of different people and changes bear weight. But it is very important for the thinkers of the game to judge about the outcomes of the change rather than accepting it for the sake of ‘democracy’ and self-interest.

Cricket is a sport which teaches one the value of accepting various changes and make the best use of those changes in the most sensible manner. No games in the history of sports have ever undergone so many changes since its origin. Each change enriched the game but at times, proved handy for the health of the game. As for example, the emergence of Twenty20 Leagues so far has not proved anything good for world cricket other than ensuring eye-popping cash and unnecessary glamour.

The celebrated experts continue to sing songs in support of Twenty20 Leagues. But they fail to understand, Test cricket is suffering the most and it is at risk of losing its best students. Sadly, the celebrated experts and high profile cricket officials don’t even bother to notice this. As because, in the name of modernisation and democracy, accepting the change, no matter how bad it is, is the indication of an intellect of this era.

All are trapped in the tricky web of hype generated by the media.

But the sane brains do exist and they don’t step back to tell the facts.

Mike Brearley sounds ominous about the future of cricket

Mike Brearley in his final meeting as chairman of the MCC World Cricket Committee expressed his fear not only about the future of Test cricket but the limited-over formats as well. According to him, the absence of AB de Villiers from Test series against England was a “wake up call” for international cricket   that it “symbolizes the problems and tensions facing it,” Brearley stated the game “could soon reach a point of no return” and led calls for a “rethinking of the distribution model in international cricket”.

Brearley stated, Test cricket is suffering the most due to the rise of Twnety20 Leagues in all the leading Test playing nations.  He said, “There is a looming crisis for Test cricket. It’s already there to some extent. But it’s likely to get worse unless something is done about it and the looming crisis has two facets”.

“One is that there is a conflict or tension between 20-over and 50-over cricket on the one side and five-day cricket on the other”.

“Secondly, there’s a tension between domestic leagues, like the Indian Premier League and also now the South African League and the Big Bash in Australia, the T20 competition that’s going to start in England, and so on”.

“There’s a tremendous conflict of time and money to attract players away from Test cricket. Especially if they’re near the end of their careers and have had a very long run in Test cricket, like Brendon McCullum or AB de Villiers”.

Brearley’s opinion about cricket and its future bear enough weight. But whether the big fishes of world cricket realised the importance of his statement or not remains a moot question. Since Twenty20 cricket announced its presence in the world and since the major cricket boards understood, it’s a cash making machine, the priority of earning cash became more important than the health and well being of a game named cricket.

Was Shakib Al Hasan’s decision justified?

The last decade was tough for Bangladesh. Their performance in five-day matches was disgraceful, but they started to justify their Test status at the start of this decade and in last two years, they have elevated their level under the guidance of Chandika Hathurusingha. And of course, the charismatic Shakib Al Hasan, who played 58 Tests since his debut in 2006, has been one of the vital reasons behind Bangladesh’s brilliant display. Bangladesh could realise his absence three years ago when he was suspended due to various controversies off the field. But thankfully, the best allrounder in the world, has been free from controversies on and off the field and Bangladesh paid rich dividends due to his presence in the team.

Shakib’s presence in the team matters, as he creates an impact. But sadly, in South Africa, he would not be available for the two-match Test series. He requested a sabbatical break for six months to Bangladesh Cricket Board (BCB) and later on, BCB partially accepted his offer by giving him a break of three months which means he’ll miss the Test series against Proteas.

According to Shakib, he deserves a break to maintain his focus and fitness. He believes, he takes a lot of workload as an allrounder in Test cricket and thus, should take a break from five-day matches. But interestingly, he would be available for the limited-overs formats which give an indication, Shakib is disinterested to feature in Test cricket.

Definitely, he takes a lot of workloads while playing for Bangladesh, especially in Test cricket. But also, one needs to realise, how many Tests Bangladesh play each year? The number of Test matches are not as huge as England, India or Australia. If only talk about India, they play at least ten to eleven Test matches a year at home and abroad. Players like Virat Kohli, Ravichandran Ashwin or Ravindra Jadeja takes a lot of workload throughout the year but still remains focused while playing in Test matches.

Then in comparison to the other prominent allrounders of world cricket, Moeen Ali Ben Stokes or Angelo Mathews, Shakib’s workload is lesser than them.  Shakib has played 765 days of top level cricket in comparison to Moeen’s 918 days.

Shakib has played just fourteen Test matches since 2015, a number of Test matches which teams like England and Australia play in a year, and still, if he thinks, playing five-day matches are taking a heavy toll on his mind and body, it really sounds funny. Whereas, he played more Twenty20 League matches in these two years than Tests.

A champion always relishes tough challenges

A champion always relishes tough challenges. Sachin Tendulkar might not have been fully fit before a Test series against Australia or Pakistan, but he would not dare to miss the ‘maaza’ of facing the fury of Australia and Pakistani pacers at their own backyard. He would go out there, no matter how unfit he is, and weather the storm with utmost authority and responsibility.

Sachin knew, he would only be regarded as one of the bests in the history of cricket after proving a point in test cricket against the best in the business at their own dens.

Sachin took more workloads than any cricketers in the history of the game. He not only carried the hope of a team but the hopes of a nation who discovered the courage to conquer adversity by watching Tendulkar bat. He never requested for a break or depression. He played on, on and on.

Then there was another high profile allrounder, Jac Kallis, who like Shakib, used to bat and bowl and took a lot of workloads. He played sixty consecutive Test matches since his debut and apart from injuries, he never stepped back from playing for his country by citing excuses about a mental stress. As because Kallis was a champion and like Tendulkar, he relished riding vehicles on the rough roads and tough circumstances build temperaments.

Shakib should have played the Test series in South Africa

The Test series against South Africa would have been a great opportunity for Shakib to claim his place as one of the best allrounders in the history of the game. This Bangladesh team is different from 2008 and have the mojo to win under any circumstances. With South Africa, struggling to rediscover themselves, Bangladesh might have been in a better position to test them and Shakib’s presence would have meant a lot.

My heart keeps me calm by saying, Bangladesh need to move on and play positive cricket by forgetting the absence of Shakib, but my brain tells me, his absence would create a big hole which would be hard to fill.

Being an ardent follower of Shakib since his debut and one of his fans, I don’t think, Shakib’s decision to take a break from two-match Test series, was justified enough. I wanted him to wave his magic in South Africa as Bangladesh hardly get the opportunity to tour such high profile cricketing nations. It is us, who always shout about the lack of support from big nations towards Bangladesh regarding Test matches and if Shakib was given the opportunity to play enough Tests like Ashwin or Moeen, he would have rewritten history, but when Shakib himself, shy away from playing Tests in the name of workloads and mental pressure, people like me are left stranded.

The high profile cricket officials need to wake up

Shakib deserves a break. He can request and express his wish as in the democracy of modern day, you are free to speak and do whatever you wish. BCB handled the matter smartly for the sake of modern democracy despite knowing, would be a big loss.

Like AB de Villiers, he decided to skip Test series, which should make the cricket officials at ICC and powerful cricket boards to take the statement of Brearley seriously. At first, it was AB and then it’s Shakib who skipped a Test series, perhaps, only to remain focused and refreshed for the commitments with Franchise-based Twenty20 Leagues.

Definitely, the future is not looking good. Today it’s AB and Shakib and tomorrow it might be someone else.

The time has come for them to clarify their priorities. If they think, Test cricket needs to stay alive then they should give this format more importance and cut short the amount of Twenty20 Leagues. Sooner or later, Test cricket might lose its prestigious place and what would be left, one might not call it cricket but a ‘taamasha’ run by some greedy people.

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About the Author

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Faisal Caesar is a doctor by profession and passionate cricket writer. He is the cricket editor of Cricketsoccer.



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