Did Shakib believe he was invulnerable?
The corruption in Bangladesh is becoming surreal, with an unending list of names. The latest to hit the deck was the superhero of Bangladesh cricket, Shakib al Hasan.
He was accused of not disclosing overtures made by cricket bookies to him. As per ICC rules, whenever such contacts are made, ICC has to be informed. Three such instances were cited by the ICC, leading to a ban of two years.
Shakib has admitted his guilt and the sentence was reduced to a year. The news has sent Bangladesh into full turmoil. Politicians are expected to be corrupt, but sports heroes?
It’s true that he was not a party to any match fixing, but the point is that bookies don’t discuss metaphysics -- so please report. That is why the ban on Shakib.
The ban following the players strike
For the last week or so, Shakib was big news as he led a players’ revolt. They were demanding hikes in pay, match fees, and the rest. It was a wildcat strike and the players refused to work until the demands were met. The Bangladesh Cricket Board (BCB) chief Papon became the villain to all after he trashed the players for the strike. The situation became so bad that the PM had to step in and ultimately the demands were met.
But dark shadows were probably already looming. When the players should have been jubilant at the deal signing ceremony, Shakib was incredibly glum faced. There were many speculations about it all and most centred around the hostility of Papon/BCB and Shakib.
Shakib was charged the next day by Papon for signing an endorsement contract without the permission of the BCB. This was not that serious sounding, but did smell of the growing bad blood between BCB and the players. And then ICC entered the scene and unexpectedly dealt a gut blow.
Nobody thought that the sword would fall on Shakib, who is in the no-faults- possible zone of many. But the ICC released details of the conversations so the evidence is clear. Meanwhile, the BCB and the PM promised support but also mentioned that if ICC acts, there is not much that can be done.
Cricket corruption is not unknown in Bangladesh and at least one other “hero” Ashraful is cooling his heels for years on match fixing charges. During the players’ strike, many, including the media, were hinting that Bangladesh Cricket League matches are regularly fixed.
Who knows and who doesn’t?
Dhaka has a lively cricket betting scene, illegal, but nobody does anything about it for whatever reasons. So why aren’t the ones who are pointing fingers not blowing the whistle?
The PM recently asked this question at a media meet when cracking down on big time gambling -- for which many ruling party biggies have been taken in. So if media knew of this, why didn’t they say anything? Apparently, no answers were forthcoming.
Point is, these are not big secrets in a corrupt country. Knowledge of corruption is common. But why is nothing done if it is known?
In the case of the casinos, many apparently knew. But as they were run by ruling party bigwigs, they were not reported and accepted as normal business of the powerful. It was considered beyond the pale of reporting because the consequences of reporting such activities could also be risky. Meanwhile, names of media members have surfaced since the crackdown who are supposed to have been on the take from the casino crowd. So if fingers are pointed, one would need more fingers than that are currently available. It’s a country where just about anyone who has an ounce of clout is also making money using the same.
The Shakib ban fallout
Meanwhile, a fan-crowd crisis around Shakib’s ban is on. Many are saying it’s Papon who sold him down the river as revenge for leading the strike. Some are saying that ICC itself violated the rules, and few point out that, as this has come just before a tour of India, who else to blame than the unpopular neighbour who is a big fish in the cricket sea?
Shakib is a big fish in a country where living by the law is unknown, if not impossible. He must have felt invulnerable to a degree, as he obviously knew that not reporting a bookie making contact violates ICC rules. But he is from Bangladesh, where being powerful and, hence, being beyond the law is taken for granted -- unless someone decides enough is enough.
In a country where a strict definition of corruption is nowhere to be found, it’s tough for people to know what is haram and what is halal.
Afsan Chowdhury is a researcher and journalist.