There is nothing much to discuss about Shakib again becoming the captain. Take me for example. I was more mature when I got the captaincy for the second time. The third time around I was a different type of captain. Definitely, the same will happen in Shakib’s case.
The biggest challenge for Shakib this time around will be that he will lead the Bangladesh Test team. In one perspective, he has huge potential in this format. Shakib is the only player we have that can lead Bangladesh to a new dawn in Test cricket. To do well in this format, the responsibility of captaincy needs to be handed to a player like Shakib, who is highly rated universally.
I am not expecting Shakib to take Bangladesh to fourth or fifth in the rankings. But I believe he can at least improve our performance graph in Tests. From that point of view, I will say the BCB has picked the best possible person to lead the team in Tests.
Another challenge for captain Shakib will be his age. I’m a little concerned that he assuming captaincy at this age could have dire consequences for the team in the 2023 World Cup. We have a chance to do well in the next World Cup and I want a completely fit Shakib to play in it. As the Test captain, he will have to soak up a lot of pressure.
I fear taking up so much pressure at this age could burnout Shakib. He will play and lead the team in Tests, play ODIs, Twenty20s and franchise cricket. He will be fatigued from frequent travelling. At 35 years of age, how Shakib would handle such a heavy workload is also a concern. I want to thank Shakib for taking up captaincy keeping all of these things in mind.
Right after Shakib became the captain one question came up – will Shakib regularly feature in Tests? Before, he was taking breaks between playing Tests. From my point of view, it was a very good decision. But after becoming the captain, Shakib will have fewer opportunities to take rest. He will have to battle against his body, his mind and take up the challenge to usher in a new era in Test cricket for Bangladesh.
If he can balance all of these things, I don’t think there is anything to fear. Our team is struggling in Tests anyways. From here, things can only get better and that can happen only under Shakib’s leadership.
Shakib’s biggest plus point as captain is his strong personality. On the ground, a captain operates the team with his wits. If he fails in this, the coach, the management doesn’t stand by him. In the team, there is no one like Shakib who can fight in such a situation. In this era, cricket coaches want to be like Mourinho, Guardiola. They think of themselves as football coaches. Football is a coach dependent game, but cricket is completely a captain’s sport. If you don’t value the captain’s preferences, ideas while forming the squad and selecting the playing XI, you have no right to ask for an explanation from the captain. I’m hoping that this won’t happen in Shakib’s case like it did for Mominul. Then again, even if someone wants to do it, they won’t have the guts to do it against Shakib.
Shakib has faced controversies throughout his career. But the more important matter is how Shakib is handling such discussions and criticisms. I feel that this will not affect Shakib as a player or a captain.
When you are at the top, many things will be said about you. Some will be good, some will be bad. Other than Shakib, most of our players get disheartened by this. This doesn’t mean that Shakib is completely unaffected by such talks. But he always had this ability to control his emotions.
Making Liton Shakib’s deputy in Tests is also a good decision. I would say this was the most important decision. If the captain gets hurt and is taken off the field, the coach won’t go down to the ground and tell a player, “Hey, you are the captain now.” This will create tension in the team. The others will say, “I could’ve been the captain!”
But when the board announces- Liton is the vice-captain in Tests or someone else is the vice-captain in ODIs or T20s, in the captain’s absence the responsibility automatically falls to his shoulders. There is no scope for misunderstanding. The vice-captain also needs some mental preparation. For example, if Shakib goes off the field for 10 overs to take some rest, as vice-captain Liton will lead the team. Liton’s captaincy training will begin right there. It will be better if a vice-captain is selected for ODIs and T20s as well.
There is one other thing I must say. We could’ve been in a better position in Tests right now. But in an attempt to hide one mistake few more mistakes were made, that’s why it didn’t happen. I think it was a mistake to remove Mushfiq from captaincy when we were heading towards a good position in Tests.
Still, I thank the BCB for finally taking the tough decision to hand Shakib the leadership, for convincing Shakib to take up captaincy, play in all three formats and for taking this risk before the World Cup in 2023 keeping the challenges in mind- which was definitely a difficult thing to do. I congratulate Shakib in advance as I believe he will undoubtedly succeed in this risky endeavor.
*This column appeared in the print and online edition of Prothom Alo and was rewritten for the English edition by Ashfaq-Ul-Alam Niloy