Shakib Al-Hasan receives two year ban from ICC

Bangladesh captain Shakib Al-Hasan has been banned from cricket for two years - with one of these years a suspended sentence - after it was discovered that he failed to report an approach from a corrupt bookmaker. The penalty is a major blow for cricket in Bangladesh, which has spent much of the past 15 years trying to make itself competitive on the world stage and for whom Shakib has played a huge role in their ability to do just that.

The star all-rounder was banned for incidences which occurred in a 2018 ODI tri-series in January, and the 2018 IPL tournament. The 32-year-old was charged under 2.4.4 of the ACU code, which relates to the failure to mention an approach for corruption.

In handing down their verdict, the ICC stated their belief that Shakib was fully cognizant of the intention behind the advances made by the bookmaker, Deepak Aggarwal. Aggarwal allegedly initially got in touch with Shakib in November, 2017, when he attempted to arrange a meeting between the two.

Then, in the tri-series between Sri Lanka, Zimbabwe and Bangladesh in early 2018, Aggarwal’s intentions became more clear when he sent messages to Shakib via Whatsapp asking, ‘Do we work in this or do I wait til the IPL’, before four days later asking if there was ‘anything in this series?’

A few months later, during the IPL, Aggarwal was again in contact with Shakib, speaking about bitcoins and dollars. According to an ICC statement, the Bangladesh captain then began to sense that the bookie was ‘dodgy’, but he still failed to report the approach to the relevant authorities.

The reasons behind his failure to make the necessary reports is unclear, particularly given Shakib has, in the past, reported approaches by corrupt bookmakers to the ICC. Following the announcement of his punishment, he stated: ‘I completely accept my sanction for not reporting the approaches. Like the majority of players and fans around the world, I want cricket to be a corruption free sport and am looking forward to working with the ICC Anti-Corruption Unit team to support their education program and ensure young players don’t make the same mistake I did.’

Of course, the depth of corruption in cricket has become increasingly evident in recent years, and with that invariably comes an increased level of responsibility for players to report events such as these. With so much experience at the top level and holding Bangladesh’s captaincy, it has come as a surprise to many to hear that he failed to uphold this responsibility, not least the Bangladesh Cricket Board, who stated that they are ‘shocked and disappointed that an experienced player like Shakib’ would be found guilty of this.

The ICC’s general manager of integrity, Alex Marshall, offered little sympathy for Shakib: ‘He has attended many education sessions and knows his obligations under the Code. He should have reported each of these approaches.’ Likewise, former England captain and current media personality Michael Vaughan blasted him, tweeting that ‘in this era players get briefed all the time about what they can and can’t do and what they have to report straight away…two years isn’t enough…should have been longer.’

It’s worth mentioning that at no point has any suggestion made that Shakib participated or even intended to participate in anything untoward. The punishment is purely based around the failure to report the approaches and uphold his responsibility to stamping out corruption in cricket.

The two year ban includes a one-year suspended sentence, meaning that, assuming Shakib doesn’t engage in anything he isn’t meant to over the next year, he will be able to return to international cricket on October 29 of next year – directly in the middle of the World T20 in Australia. 

The ban is a massive blow for Bangladesh, who, after establishing themselves as a competitive team over the past decade or two have failed to continue to advance on the world stage. Shakib, however, has been a constant source of optimism, with his career figures rivalling the best players in the world and his recent performance at the ODI World Cup establishing himself in that conversation.

He has excelled in all formats of the game, and can lay claim to a feat which very few players, if any, would be capable of; a bowling average lower than his batting average in all three formats of the game. Consistently, he can also claim to be his team’s best batsman and bowler. 

In 56 Test matches he has accumulated 3,862 runs at a notch under 40, while his 210 wickets have come at an average of 31.12. In the 50-over format, he has played 206 games for 6,323 runs and 260 wickets at an average of 37.86 and 30.21 respectively, and with the impressive strike rate of 82.75 and bowling economy of 4.48. And lastly, in the shortest form of the game he has averaged 23.74 with the bat at a strike rate of 123.77, and picks up a wicket for every 20.58 runs while conceding 6.81 runs an over. 

The 2019 World Cup was perhaps the height of his career to date in terms of performance, and had his team been able to advance out of the Group Stage he would have been a frontrunner to receive the Player of the Series award. He was, quite simply, unstoppable with bat in hand – in eight innings he failed to pass the half-century mark on just one occasion, and even in that match he scored 41. He scored two centuries, five half-centuries and accumulated 606 runs at an extraordinary average of 86.57 and a strike rate of 96.03. His average was the highest in the tournament, and his strike rate better than all other batsmen in the top five total runs scored with the exception of Rohit Sharma, who went at 98.33.

His performance with the ball wasn’t quite as mesmorising, but he still managed to pick up 11 wickets at 36.27, including a brilliant 5/29 against Afghanistan. Despite these feats, however, Bangladesh won just three of their eight games, which may cause some concerns for the team for the year ahead in which he will be absent.

Shakib is a fantastic player and deserves to be held in the highest regard as a player, and at 32-years-old he will still likely return at the end of 2020 and play a major role for his country for a number of years to come. His actions have no doubt upset and disappointed many and will invariably have a negative impact on Bangladesh’s performance over the next year, but he will return and, hopefully, continue to add to what has been a superb career.

 

 

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