Shakib Al Hasan and Tamim IqbalShamsul Hoque

If one starts a countdown to Bangladesh’s first match in the World Cup, then it would read, ’11 Days to go’. And if one starts the countdown for the Bangladesh team’s flight to India for the World Cup, it would show the remaining time in hours as the team is set to board the fight tomorrow afternoon.

A little over 24 hours remain before the Bangladesh team’s flight to India, still, the World Cup squad is yet to be announced. This information is shocking enough on its own. But on top of that, the uncertainty over the squad’s makeup even one day before the flight adds another dimension to the astonishment.

At midnight on Monday, captain Shakib Al Hasan and coach Chandika Hathurusingha informed the board president Nazmul Hassan in a meeting at the president’s residence that they don’t want to carry and ‘unfit’ or ‘half-fit’ cricketer for a tournament like the World Cup. Shakib has apparently even said that he will not captain the team if there are any unfit players in the squad.

Right after the second ODI against New Zealand in the ongoing series, Tamim told the media that he isn’t completely fit. He has personally conveyed the same message to a few other board directors and the selectors.

As Tamim has been suffering from back injuries for months and his problem could resurface at any moment, the selectors and the team management needed to know about his health before announcing the World Cup squad.

Coach Chandika Hathurusingha, captain Shakib Al Hasan and Tamim Iqbal in the same frame
Shamsul Hoque

Tamim, most likely, wanted to be upfront, so he explained his fitness situation with them. He said, if the management names him in the World Cup squad, they will have to do it with the knowledge that Tamim is not completely fit.

To the team management and selectors, this was a clear hint that even if they pick Tamim in the squad they won’t get him in every match. Should Bangladesh carry a player in a tournament of the magnitude of the World Cup?

It’s true that in a tournament where the team is set to play at least nine matches, there is no guarantee that all the players will play every match. Someone could suffer an injury, some might need some rest, some might have to sit out due to team combination.

But when a player keeps repeating before the tournament ‘I’m not fit’, – it’s natural for the management to question why should they carry a player who has declared himself ‘unfit’? They might feel that it would be better to go with some other player who maybe a bit short on experience and at least completely fit.

The coach and the captain are seeing the situation from the same perspective and have conveyed their opinion to the board president. Hathurusingha calling Mohammad Naim, who is not part of the New Zealand series, to Mirpur today noon could also be seen as a hint.

But all of this doesn’t mean that Tamim exclusion from the World Cup squad is already final. There is a good chance that the selectors will respect the opinions of the coach and the captain and exclude Tamim from the squad. There is also a chance that Tamim could still remain in the World Cup squad.

The matter will be cleared up in the mid-innings break of the Bangladesh-New Zealand third ODI, when the squad is likely to be announced. Before that, the BCB president could have one final meeting with the involved parties.

The funny part is, the central character in all of this, Tamim, was the ODI team captain even three months back and was supposed to lead the team in the World Cup.

But a World Cup will happen and there won’t be any drama with the Bangladesh team, that simply just can’t happen. The ‘Tamim episode’ is only the continuation of this horrid tradition.

There is no doubt that Tamim is the Bangladesh team’s most experienced and dependable opener. His form may not be the best, but his replacements have also failed to cash in on their opportunities. Moreover, the other experienced opener Litton Das has also lost his form. So, in terms of form, there is no scope of dropping Tamim from the squad.

Dropping him is unlikely from another perspective as well. Tamim had announced his shock retirement from international cricket midway into the Afghanistan series in July. After that, he returned with the direct influence of the top brass of the country. Tamim changed his decision after the directive of the prime minister. So, the board can’t just decide to keep him out of the squad.

The run of events is in favour of Tamim. However, the team management and the vibe inside the board is quite against the veteran opener. The internal belief is that by repeatedly talking about his fitness, Tamim is setting up excuses for any failure in the World Cup. So that if he plays poorly in the World Cup, the blame would be put on his lack of fitness. He will have the opportunity to say, “I had told you all before…”

The tiff between Shakib and Tamim is old news. But amidst the recent development, it has once again come into light. Some think that Tamim is feeling he will not be at ease playing under Shakib. Some are saying Tamim is doing this to put Shakib in a difficult spot ahead of the World Cup. It may seem a little disheartening, but even some members of the team are uncertain whether Tamim will give his best while playing under Shakib!

How much importance was placed on these question, will be clear in a few hours. Then, everyone will know, is Tamim in the World Cup squad or not.

*This report appeared in the online edition of Prothom Alo and has been rewritten for the English edition by Ashfaq-Ul-Alam Niloy