On 21 October, Shakib Al Hasan leads a players' strike against the Bangladesh Cricket Board.
One week later, he gets banned by the ICC in a completely unrelated matter.
The number one all-rounder in the world with 13 years of international experience apparently decided to risk his entire career and flout very well-known ICC anti-corruption guidelines and chose to not report three different and very obvious instances of approach by a bookie.
He now finds himself banned for a year, without a contract that he was revolting against at the start of last week, and leaves behind a long list of unanswered questions, many doubts and some very big question marks. Like the timing of the ICC’s announcement of the sanction, that suits the Bangladesh Cricket Board at a time when their star player was not just making big demands, but also signing big-buck contracts with companies that the BCB claimed was cutting into their profits.
Because after all, the investigation into Shakib had started in Jan this year and the sanction was announced in a week when the BCB was threatening legal action against Shakib.
The board, however, said they knew nothing about the ICC investigation despite the president letting slip that revelations on ‘match-fixing’ would be made soon, when he misheard a question on players’ match fee at a press conference last week.
Now even as Shakib’s teammates are posting emotional messages on social media saying they want to play the next World Cup under him and fans back home in Dhaka are protesting the ban questioning the quantum of punishment for something ‘as small’ as not reporting an approach – one thing needs to be clarified.
Shakib knows the ICC rules and he knows them very well. He himself had reported an instance of an approach to the ICC in the past that led to the ban of Mohammad Ashraful and as the biggest star of Bangladesh cricket – the onus was on him to report this approach as well.
Not just one approach, but there were three of them across 12 months.
So yes, one can indulge in all the whataboutery around this ban, talk about Smith and Warner’s ball-tampering ban and Amir’s 5-year spot fixing ban but there is no doubt that with a one-year ban and a one-year suspended sentence the ICC has gone easy on Shakib.
Because in a fight against corruption in cricket the board and the fans can only trust and rely on the players to be honest and adhere to the rules that are explained to them before almost every tournament.
So why did Shakib not report the approach? Did he not realise he was being contacted by a bookie? The ICC’s report reveals some of their conversations and it is very, very tough to be on Shakib’s corner after this.
The first approach was in November 2017 when Shakib was playing the BPL for the Dhaka Dynamites. He knew his number was passed onto Deepak Aggarwal, the bookie, and there were WhatsApp exchanges between the two.
In January 2018, during the Tri-series against Sri Lanka and Bangladesh, Shakib received a WhatsApp message from Aggarwal saying, “Do we work in this or I wait till the IPL” – by saying ‘work’, he was basically asking Shakib for inside information, according to the ICC.
Later that month, he received another message saying, “Bro anything in this series?” which Shakib admitted to the ICC was the bookie asking for inside information.
Then in April 2018, when Shakib was playing the IPL for Sunrisers Hyderabad, he received a message asking whether a certain player was going to take the field against Kings XI Punjab. Following this, the two had a conversation where they talked about bitcoin, dollar accounts and the bookie asked Shakib for his dollar account details, after which Shakib said he wanted to meet Aggarwal “first”. The ICC says there were also some deleted messages on Shakib’s WhatsApp, which he admitted were again of Aggarwal asking for more inside information.
Now, while the ICC has added that Shakib said he never shared any inside information, the interaction between the two is no mere innocent exchange. It is clear that Shakib was talking to a bookie, there was talk about bitcoin, there was talk about player selection and there was talk about a meet.
The ICC guidelines categorically state that not reporting an approach can amount to anything between a 6-month and five-year ban.
Shakib has been given a one-year ban and can avoid the second year if he complies with a few guidelines set by the ICC.
Still think the punishment is unfair?
The timing of the ban, though, could be argued.
Shakib, after all, was at the front line of the players' revolt against the board, making big demands that would see the BCB lose big money. The ICC press release had followed leaks in local dailies about the investigation that, by the way was underway for the last 10 months.
The BCB was quick to release a statement saying they knew nothing about the investigation or the two times he was interviewed by the ICC, in Jan and August.
But as former BCB President Saber Chowdhury points out – why, then, did the current BCB President Nazmul Hassan let slip the news of impending match-fixing revelations in a press conference one day after the player strike last week?
I think @BCBtigers was fully in the know and Mr Papon is not being truthful when he says he didn’t have a clue, am sad and sorry to say. From attached video clip of 22nd Oct, looks like Mr Papon was IMPATIENTLY waiting for the @ICC announcement ... @Isam84 https://t.co/0BBYSXvkOv pic.twitter.com/dLQCU4414O— Saber H Chowdhury (@saberhc) October 30, 2019
While the BCB will now look for a replacement for Shakib and build a squad for the 2020 T20 World Cup there is probably a need for a little soul-searching on the part of the cricketer, of course but of his national cricket board as well.
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