In 2017, when Shakib Al Hasan asked for a six-month leave from Test cricket, this is what he had to say: "It's not like I won't play cricket again. Of course, I will play. My wish is to retire from Tests at the very end. I want to retire from T20Is and then ODIs before I retire from Test cricket."
But in 2022, the same Shakib wants to take a break from cricket citing his lack of enjoyment for the game and mental fatigue.
The Bangladesh Cricket Board (BCB) president Nazmul Hassan, however, sees this differently, "Shakib didn't want to play Test cricket three years ago. He doesn't have that much of an interest in playing Tests as he didn't want to play. That's when we gave him the Test captaincy," Nazmul expressed.
In fact, Shakib has missed the last six of nine Test matches that Bangladesh have played and there seems to be a tug of war between the board and Shakib when it comes to his participation in the most elite format of the game.
Former Bangladesh captains Khaled Mahmud Sujon and Khaled Mashud Pilot and BKSP's head of cricket operations Nazmul Abedeen Fahim spoke to The Business Standard and gave their take on the matter.
Does Shakib want to play Tests?
"Shakib doesn't want to play all Tests. A Test is not about playing for five days only. A cricketer has to follow a longer process to prepare himself for a Test match. You have to understand whether he is currently in that state, mentally," Fahim believes.
Fahim however also emphasised that many other players have suffered from mental fatigue due to Covid and bio-bubbles and that is something the board needs to think about and plan accordingly.
"It's not about Shakib only. Cricketers are getting tired because of all these quarantines and bio-bubbles. The board has to plan regarding this, they will have to allow more players to skip matches if they don't feel up for it," he added.
Sujon feels that Shakib needs to call it a day in Tests if he does not want to play.
"I guess it's time to put a full stop ( to all the dramas), enough is enough. If you really want to play, play with your heart. If you don't want to play, clarify that as well. No one will stop you. The board president is also trying to say the same thing, I believe."
The team's planning gets hampered
"We are not being able to create a stable team for this. If he doesn't want to play Tests, that's fine. I really don't care much. BCB is not worried about that either. You can't force someone to play if he is not interested. We want him to play as long as he remains fit. But if he thinks he is not enjoying his game, I think he should clarify that," Sujon explained.
Pilot feels that Shakib should have told the board about not wanting to go to South Africa before the team was officially announced.
"He should have mentioned it earlier (about his mental health). Why did he come in after the squad was announced? Suddenly there's noise regarding Shakib, why couldn't the board produce more players or backups of him? Why do they have to run after Shakib before every series? You should have your new, young players coming through the ranks for this kind of situation," said Pilot.
Fahim feels that Bangladesh cricket has to plan and be ready for life after Shakib.
"There is no reason to think that the team will not work without Shakib. There is no reason the team will be obsolete without the likes of Shakib, Tamim (Iqbal), Mushfiqur (Rahim) or even Litton (Das). We have to find out whether Shakib has anything to give to the team. If we think he has nothing more to give (to the team), then that's another discussion," Fahim explained.
Has the board handled this professionally?
"Our board lacks professionalism. Every cricketer should be given options on which format they want to play before signing the contract. You can't just skip a series out of nowhere. Yes, there's a concern of mental health, but that can be addressed through discussions. You just can't come in and say you're mentally unstable before the match day. That's why the contract and rules are important," said Pilot.
He also added that both parties are at fault here and that is why this messy situation has been created.
"Both Shakib and the board are at fault for this situation. The team will leave on the 12th and we are discussing it on the 8th, it's too late. You have to have backup plans for situations like this. There's no need to make such noise about it," Pilot added.
"Definitely, BCB has the last say. They are products of BCB, not the other way around. Yes, they are the main stakeholders of BCB, but BCB has invested enough in them since the age-level days," Sujon said.
"Shakib has been given two days, so let him come and decide. We hope he will go on the tour. Of course, there is a difference between him going and not going," he added.
Shakib may have two days to respond to the BCB but it's quite clear that playing Test cricket is not at the top of his priorities at the moment
Hopefully, this is a lesson for the board for the future as similar situations with other players may arrive, and then, may things will be handled better, with a better plan for the future.
Translated by: Shahnoor Rabbani