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Handle with care

  • Published at 12:05 pm October 23rd, 2018
Shakib Al Hasan
Adding insult to injury? MUMIT M

Detailing Shakib Al Hasan’s injury saga

No one should argue that Shakib Al Hasan is the best cricketer that Bangladesh has ever produced. But have we done enough to ensure we get the best out of him? To understand the latest saga between him and the board, and the fans revolving around the finger injury he suffered earlier this year, we have to go back to mid-2017.

Then, Shakib had just churned out some of his best bowling against an Australian side that had never lost in Tests against Bangladesh. There, the Tigers won the first Test in what was a gripping contest. But, by the end of the second Test, Shakib had started to show signs of fatigue. A rest was needed.

But given a tough series against South Africa away from home soil awaited, no one had seen Shakib wanting a six-month break from Test cricket. His formal request, and the board’s willingness to accept it, had eventually led to the resignation of the coach back then, Chandika Hathurusingha. 

While many started to paint their picture as to why Shakib took the break, including wanting to become the Test captain (which he eventually did in all fairness), along with him just looking for easier money by playing in T20 leagues instead of the less financially lucrative Tests, it was certainly a moment that needed to be dealt with care and caution.

The board managed to do an adequate job by limiting the damage, and convincing Shakib to come back to the Sri Lanka Test series, in which he was captain. But as fate would have it, the finger injury happened during the tri-nation ODI series against Sri Lanka and Zimbabwe earlier this year, and he would not be able to captain in the Test series, with Mahmudullah taking over. 

The injury in-detail was of two bones in the left little-finger clashing with each other as he landed awkwardly while fielding. Early reports suggested that he would require surgery, and even with surgery, his mobility in that finger would never get back to normal. 

A month later, he was rushed back into the Nidahas Trophy in Sri Lanka for the last two games. From there, he played in the IPL, the T20 series against Afghanistan in India, the West Indies tour, and the Asia Cup. Shakib had told the media he wanted surgery before the Asia Cup. The board had asked him if he wanted to play and to consult his doctors before playing, or whether surgery was needed sooner. That would mean over six months of him carrying the injury without getting surgery, and using injections to alleviate the pain during games.

But then, he changed his mind, and played in the Asia Cup after getting the green light from his doctors. In an unfortunate turn of events, his finger got infected during the grueling Asia Cup in hot middle-eastern conditions. He had to return back home and get the infection cleared out partially, before going to Melbourne to fully sterilize. Failure to do so would have meant him losing full function in his bowling hand.

While he is now back, the board is extra cautious about risking him any further. He will certainly not play against Zimbabwe, and might not return to action this year. There were initially fears that he might miss the 2019 World Cup. But that seems very unlikely now that surgery almost certainly will not be required.

Recent reports suggest that he might be back by the West Indies series, and he also requested an NOC to play in a T20 tournament which the BCB is yet to decide on. But sterner action to keep the players safe from injury should have been taken earlier on. Shakib complained about having trouble batting with the injured finger, and he’s struggled with the bat this year after the injury, even though his bowling has remained the same.  

The left arm all-rounder should have been given enough time to recover, even if it meant missing an important series. 

There were mixed responses from all quarters once the news of Shakib requiring surgery broke, and the possibility missing the Asia Cup came up. Many also questioned why he didn’t get it done earlier, perhaps during the IPL. These are questions that would remain unanswered, but ask yourself, what would you do? 

What this whole saga highlights is the need for better management for a player the ilk of Shakib, one that Bangladesh cricket has never produced before, and as things stand, will take a while to produce again. Our system in many ways was never ready to produce someone of his caliber. But now that it has, thanks to Shakib always looking to improve his game by playing all over the world, player management also needs to reach the next level. 

There is a tug of war going on between the player, the management, the media, and even the fans. It highlights the great Bangladeshi problem of pointing fingers and blaming one another instead of working together towards a solution. There is this propensity among us to taint one’s image when someone is doing well and showing the country in a positive light.

The fans will blame the player (sometimes personally attacking him on social media), the board, and the media. The player will blame the media if the news is not accurate, or try to prove it as inaccurate. The media may sometimes have its own agenda, instead of trying to be as factual as possible. The management might just be reactive to the situation instead of being proactive and be stricter and logical with regulations. 

The squad is already having to deal with injuries to some of its key players like Tamim Iqbal, Mushfiqur Rahim, and Mashrafe Bin Mortaza. 

We are all culpable, and we must share the blame instead of pointing fingers and blaming each other.

The 2019 World Cup is looming large and it is one we are targeting to do well in. But there will be cricket after that, and there is still a long way to go for our cricket before it becomes a dominant force in the world arena. 

The hope is that we learn from this and work on bettering these matters to move our cricket forward. There is enough time and money to take things forward and all it needs is cool heads and proper long-term planning from all ends to ensure such player management issues do not arise in the future. 

Shahnoor Rabbani is working in the Dhaka Tribune and is host of the cricket show Matha Noshto Cricket on Radio Shadhin.

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