News about the Bangladesh cricket went viral on the social media recently when the president of the Bangladesh Cricket Board (BCB) gave a bonus of Tk 10 million (one crore) to the players. The big bonus was given after the Bangladesh had won the match against Sri Lanka to reach the final of the Nidahas tournament that the Sri Lankan Board had arranged to celebrate the 70th year of the country's independence. The Sri Lankan Board had also invited India with Bangladesh to the tournament.
The BCB showed its latest generosity to its players (that has now become its habit because its coffers are full) for winning not the championship but the game to go to the final while going into the denial about the despicable act of its captain and another player in that match that shamed the team and the image of the country. This also exposed its ignorance about issues of good relations between countries. The action of the two players should have encouraged the BCB to decide to hold an inquiry against the players and punish them to assure Sri Lanka that it regretted their despicable acts. The BCB's bonus gave Sri Lanka the opposite impression - that the BCB was not at all bothered by the actions of the two players.
Bangladesh needed 12 runs in the final over with Mahmudullah Ryad at the crease looking more than likely to take the team across the finishing line. The over did not start well for Bangladesh though with Mustafizur Rahman, who was with Mahmudullah, playing a dot ball off the first ball, a bouncer that went flying to the keeper. In the backdrop of building excitement, captain Shakib with Nurul, who was an extra, and a few other players entered the field, something that the manager of the team and its coach should not have allowed knowing their temperament. These players were seen not just excited but carrying out unpleasant verbal exchanges with the Sri Lankan players who had the right to be in the field which they did not have.
Then came the controversial second ball of that fateful over. The Sri Lankan bowler Udana bowled what appeared like another bouncer that led the square leg umpire to half-raise his hand to signal a no-ball that he eventually did not. That infuriated Shakib who began gesturing furiously his disapproval with the umpire's decision. His disappointment with the umpire's decision was understandable because a no-ball would have given to the Bangladesh team, first a run; second, a free hit and, more importantly, an additional ball that would have virtually ended the game for Sri Lanka.
However, in a game of cricket, a decision of the umpire however unpalatable for the side at the receiving end cannot be questioned under any circumstances. The laws of the game and its rich culture and tradition do not permit it. Shakib and Nurul gave a damn to cricketing tradition and its laws and not just went around throwing tantrums but Shakib also decided to end the game and aggressively signalled to Mahmudullah and Rubel (who meanwhile had gone to the field because Mustafiz was run out in that dramatic second ball while running to the other end to give Mahmudullah the strike). Many minutes lapsed during which the captain continued to gesture angrily to the batsmen to walk off the field.
The game was re-started after many agonising minutes by the intervention of a member of the Bangladesh team management although no one was in the field to calm Shakib and his partner in their act of temporary insanity. And what happened with the 3rd, 4th and 5th ball made Shakib's totally unacceptable behaviour appear even worse. Mahmudullah dispatched the 3rd ball for a boundary, took 2 runs of the 4th ball and calmly sent the 5th ball sailing over the boundary to give Bangladesh a sterling victory.
Shakib and Nurul were punished for their behaviour by the third umpire of the game, the severest under the rules. Unfortunately, that did little for the harm that the two had done to Bangladesh's good name and to its excellent relations with Sri Lanka. The two convinced the Sri Lankan cricket fans to desert the Bangladesh team en masse and support the Indian team in the final. The Sri Lankan fans, who had purchased tickets in advance expecting a Sri Lanka-India final, appeared in the final match in thousands and not one of them supported Bangladesh. That was surreal; such kind of support the Indian team would have expected only if the match was played in India and against Pakistan!
The team's on-field behaviour was not the whole of the sordid episode. No senior BCB officials, many of whom were present in the field, tried to put sense into Shakib and Nurul. TV cameras showed them seated cosily in their seats in the VIP enclosure unconcerned and some of the players were so rowdy in the dressing room that they destroyed glass panes.
It was unbelievable that the BCB officials were so oblivious to the facts that, first, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka have excellent bilateral relations and second, that the Bangladesh team had gone to Sri Lanka to celebrate the 70th year of the country's independence!
Shakib and Nurul's tantrums notwithstanding, the Bangladesh team played excellent cricket in the tournament. And it was not on the back of Shakib that the team did so. Bangladesh won the two games against Sri Lanka and came close to winning the final on the back of Mahmudullah, Mushfiq and Shabbir with an over from Mustafizur in the 18th over of the final match that gave Bangladesh the chance of almost winning the tournament.
Nevertheless, this performance of Bangladesh was against an Indian team that had rested Virat Kohli, MS Dhoni and the other top players except for Rohit Sharma and Shekhar Dhawan. And player for player, Bangladesh was more than a match for the Sri Lanka team with more playing experience. Therefore, even if Bangladesh had won the tournament, it would still not have deserved the money-spinning generosity of the BCB. In fact, there was no way to justify the Board's decision of the bonus even without the tantrums and despicable acts of Shakib and Nurul. It is, therefore, time that some higher authority came forward and stopped the culture that the BCB is creating of reaching into its rich coffers and giving out bonus to the players on flimsy pretexts while the team is yet to win a single championship.
The main problem of the Bangladesh team at present is not its cricket playing ability but its temperament both in the field and out of it and the BCB's failure to guide it. It has left such a temperamental team without a regular coach now for a pretty long time.
The Bangladesh cricket team has not yet achieved anything to deserve the Zamindari-style generosity and benevolence of the Board. The Board people must stop acting like modern-day Zamindars.
M. Serajul Islam is a former Ambassador.
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