Shakib Al Hasan may have lost his aura of greatness in the eyes of many Bangladeshi Test followers having spoken of his determination to miss the tour to Sri Lanka next month to play in the IPL but, based on cricket’s current values and structures, should he be judged so harshly?
The star all-rounder, who celebrates his 34th birthday on Wednesday, has claimed that the Bangladesh Cricket Board (BCB) has “misrepresented” his decision, saying that competing in the IPL would be “more meaningful”.
He said that the short-format tournament would help him prepare better for the T20 World Cup, which is scheduled to be played in India in October.
“These two Tests [against Sri Lanka] are our last matches in the World Test Championship, so it is not as if we are going to play the final,” said Shakib, who will return to Kolkata Knight Riders, the franchise he represented before moving to the Sunrisers Hyderabad in 2018.
“We are at the very bottom of the points table. I don’t think it makes much of a difference. The World Cup T20 is in India later this year. It is a very important tournament where we have much to achieve. There isn’t much to achieve in these two Tests. I think it is a better option that I prepare myself for something bigger.”
Shakib claimed that his letter of explanation to the BCB had been wilfully misinterpreted.
“People are continuously talking about this [skipping the Test series against Sri Lanka]. Those who are saying that I will no longer play Test cricket haven’t read my letter properly.
“I did not mention anywhere in my letter that I do not want to play Tests. I mentioned in my letter that I want to play in the IPL to prepare myself properly for [the] World Cup but despite that, Akram Bhai [the BCB cricket operations chairman] has repeatedly said that I do not want to play Tests.”
He added: “The ground where I will play IPL now will be the ground where I will play the World Cup match after four months. The players with whom I will play the IPL will be the players against whom I will play in the World Cup. For this reason, I will get more advantage than anyone else from Bangladesh, and it will also help me to share my experiences with the team that I will gain by playing in the IPL.”
Despite his words, there was no sign of reconciliation between the opposing parties, with tit-for-tat claims venturing into the field of development of the game in his country.
He said that the BCB’s player development process, particularly the high-performance programme, hadn’t produced enough good cricketers in the last five years, a claim countered by the board, who questioned his respect for former players on the board.
More materially, the board also threated to reconsider the No Objection Certficate, effectively the pass that frees him to play in the IPL.
While it is hard to escape the feeling that Shakib doth protest too much, they are sound arguments from the player’s perspective. Many cricket boards are softening their stance on the IPL, viewing it not so much as an unwelcome distraction, but more an established training ground and part of the the game’s economic landscape.
That’s certainly the stance of the ECB, in a T20 World Cup year, where Test team selection has been compromised to fit the IPL squarely into the already overcrowded schedule. Ben Stokes, Jos Buttler, Jofra Archer, Moeen Ali, Chris Woakes and Tom Curran have all enjoyed bubble breaks to ensure they can fit in their IPL commitments, which may impinge on their availability for the New Zealand Test series in June. [Archer, of course, having now withdrawn from at least the first half of the IPL to rest his injured elbow].
There is, of course, from Shakib’s perspective, the very considerable financial reward – one that very few could turn down, let alone a 34-year-old with more of his playing career behind him than in front and who has just emerged from a two-year ban for corruption.
According to Moneyball, over the course eight IPLs up to 2019, Shakib has earned £2.5m. In IPL 2021, he will make £320,000. As one of only four category A+ players within the BCB’s contract structure, Shakib will earn in the region of £42,000 and a match fee per Test of £2,500, plus other bonuses for the likes of a century, five-wicket haul, half-century, man of the match, even the maximum sixes. You do not need to be a mathematician of Isaac Newton’s standing to work out what best adds up.