Shakib Al Hasan captains Bangladesh in Asian Cup, but BCB president is in charge and cricket is in chaos

Speaking on Bangladesh in the upcoming Asian Cup on Monday, BCB President Nazmul Hassan said: “There will be no head coach. We have a batting coach, a spin coach , a fast bowling coach and a field coach we have the captain we also have a technical consultant for the T20s he will give the game plan we will have the team manager Jalal [Yunus, the BCB’s cricket operations chairman] bay and myself. Who else do we need?”
It may sound strange, but Hassan was just being honest. The BCB have branded Sridharan Sriram as a “technical consultant for the T20s”, but he is the de facto head coach of the T20s, with Russell Domingo currently absent from the roster. Their back room has Jamie Siddons, Rangana Herath, Allan Donald and Shane McDermott, as well as team principal Khaled Mahmud. Well, the management of the Bangladeshi team actually extends all the way to the president of the BCB. If Hassan feels that the roster means there is no need to have a designated head coach, that is only the truth of how the Bangladesh team Actually works.
But decisions made by a group of very important people with very important designations weigh more heavily on the captain. Right now it’s Shakib Al Hasan. He will make the decisions on the pitch, and notwithstanding the outcome of the match, will be responsible not only to the coach(es) or selectors, but also to the head of council and directors. As if having an underperforming team to lead wasn’t hard enough.

The situation isn’t new for Shakib, but it won’t make things any easier.

The thing is, it all goes back to – and has for a while – Hassan in Bangladesh cricket.

The players know it. The coaches are aware. Selectors have had to get Hassan’s approval on squads since 2016. Hassan has in the past openly criticized team management for not consulting him on playing XIs. Hassan has wielded his power to make ‘drastic changes’ to the coaching staff less than two weeks before a major tournament. Hassan can ask players to appear in certain series and he really doesn’t like them retiring when he doesn’t want to.
He slams performance during and after the playoffs. It goes without saying that Hassan attends team meetings. He regularly summons players and coaches to his residence for discussions. And, of course, he likes to talk about all this in the media.

The BCB has had a reputation for being indiscreet when it comes to team matters for over a decade, ever since AHM Mustafa Kamal became the head of the board in 2009, in fact. He liked to control everything related to the national team. Unwittingly or not, Hassan resumed the trait a few years after his reign. In nine years as head of the board, he has established that regardless of the coach or captain, Hassan and the board directors will make all the decisions.

So where does that leave Shakib, or Bangladesh cricket captains in general?

On August 19, Hassan was questioned about Shakib’s roles and responsibilities.

“Remember one thing, there is never a problem who is the coach when Shakib is captain,” Hassan said. “He decides the best XI. You should know that. He decides it himself. Of course, he follows the coach’s advice. But the coach also gives priority to the captain when it comes to the best XI. He probably explains the game plan that he can do it. Even if we don’t have a head coach, we will have Khaled Mahmud and Jalal Yunus.”

When asked on Monday how difficult it was to lead a team under such unique circumstances, Shakib sounded diplomatic. “Challenges exist everywhere, be it our team, franchise cricket or another cricket board,” he said. “There are varying degrees of this challenge, regardless of the size of the cricket board or the franchise.”

Play it safe? Sure. The way BCB has treated some captains in the recent past is warning enough, even for someone of Shakib’s stature.

Mashrafe Mortaza, Bangladesh’s most successful captain, was expelled from the T20I team in 2017 and the ODI team in 2020. Mahmudullah, who was named T20I captain when the ICC banned Shakib, was sacked on last month. When the controversy over Shakib endorsing a betting company erupted, Hassan named Mahmudullah as one of the candidates for the captaincy. Shakib backtracked. Now he is the captain.
Mominul Haque couldn’t handle the title of Test captain on and off the pitch. On the pitch, his form suffered. Off the pitch, he appeared like a nervous wreck. Eventually, he resigned from his position just days before the team left for the West Indies in June.
Among the current batch of captains, Tamim Iqbal is in a strong position. He has led Bangladesh well in the ODIs, keeping them second in the World Cup Super League standings, winning five of their six league series. He’s also been a prolific goalscorer during this run, but Tamim will be aware that things can go pear-shaped at any moment. He did well to continue Mortaza’s work with a team that likes to play ODIs. The 2-1 series loss to Zimbabwe was a blow recently, but as it didn’t involve Super League points it escaped scrutiny.
But the next three months are different. Bangladesh have at least six matches to play before the T20 World Cup, and poor preparation is not only disappointing the fans, it will put pressure on Shakib. While Hassan is expected to visit the UAE, the Bangladeshi media contingent will expect a generous flow of news. He likes to host press conferences after all the other games. If the team loses, like in the World Cup last year, there could well be hell to pay, especially for the captain. And the players immediately learned that they are not allowed to question, forget to criticize, Hassan.

Shakib will play cool. He hopes to engage constructively with the head of the board and the trustees, and get the team to focus on the issues on the ground, rather than Facebook Watch. Mashrafe revolved around a tough campaign at the 2015 ODI World Cup. It may be chaotic, but Shakib is hoping for a similar twist of fortune and will prove to the squad and board that he can carry through this chaos. If he can, he might be rewarded with some peace and quiet.

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