A bitter blow for Bangladesh cricket as Shakib Al Hasan earns suspension at the peak of his powers

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Shakib is the most adulated cricketer in Bangladesh.

It has been a period of turmoil for Bangladesh cricket in the past few days but the worst was yet to come for the Tigers, with Tuesday bringing another hammer blow.

Star all-rounder and talisman Shakib Al Hasan was slapped with a two-year ban from all cricket by the ICC, with a suspended sentence of one year.

Whispers had started to emerge late on Monday about the 32-year-old being the subject of an ICC anti-corruption investigation and the worst fears of Bangladesh’s passionate cricket fans have now been realised.

While he has not been found guilty of any attempts to fix matches, his failure to disclose multiple illegal approaches by bookies remains a serious infraction. Shakib, on his part, has fully co-operated with the ICC investigation and has accepted all charges laid out against him.

The country’s T20I and Test skipper has expressed regret on his part but the irreparable damage for Bangladesh cricket has already been done. The southpaw has been the poster boy of Bangladesh for more than a decade after breaking through as a promising all-rounder back in 2006.

The worst blow for Bangladesh, however, is the fact that his suspension comes at a time when he was just starting to fulfill that immense potential he has always carried since making his international debut.

Shakib had started to hit his peak with his recent displays in the 2019 World Cup in England confirming it. While the Tigers might have finished a lowly eighth in the 10-team competition, Shakib was arguably the player of the tournament with 606 runs and 11 wickets to his name from eight matches.

No other all-rounder had scored even 400 runs and picked at least 10 wickets in a single World Cup campaign previously. When it comes to premier all-rounders in the world, Shakib’s name is among the foremost with the Bangladesh man being ranked No1, No2 and No3 currently in the ODI, T20I and Test formats respectively.

He is the first name that comes to mind when Bangladesh cricket is mentioned, with no other star from the cricket-crazy nation being as highly sought after in franchise T20 leagues around the globe.

He was the only Bangladesh player, besides Mustafizur Rahman, to feature in the Indian Premier League (IPL) earlier this year. Besides, the widely adulated left-hander has also featured in Australia’s BBL, Pakistan’s PSL, the West Indies’ CPL as well as England’s T20 Blast.

Hence, to be deprived of one whole year of peak Shakib will be a bitter pill to swallow for the Bangladesh team management and the entire country. The stature the all-rounder carries was seen most recently when he led the indefinite strike called by Bangladesh’s top cricketers.

The strike, which called for better financial compensation for Bangladesh’s international and first-class cricketers among other demands, proved to be a successful one with the country’s board acceding to all requests.

It was Shakib who called the initial press conference to outline the players’ demands and he remained the rallying public face of that protest throughout.

His one-year absence from the game is akin to Australia losing the services of their star duo – Steve Smith and David Warner – due to the ball-tampering scandal in South Africa last year.

Shakib was magnificent in the 2019 World Cup.

Shakib was magnificent at the 2019 World Cup.

The Aussies suffered massively throughout those 12 months, with their results, especially in limited-overs cricket, taking a huge dip. They even lost a Test series on home soil to India for the first time in their history and they have only just now started to recover after Smith and Warner made their international comebacks in the summer.

Like Shakib, both Smith and Warner were at the peak of their abilities when the bans were announced by Cricket Australia.

Bangladesh are not the cricket powerhouse that Australia are, at least not yet, and Shakib’s suspension will hit them even harder. A man with 11,572 runs and 562 wickets to his name at the international level is simply irreplaceable.

They are about to find out the repercussions of Shakib’s actions soon enough, with a testing tour of India about to get under way.

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