Shakib Al Hasan's ban is a big setback to Bangladesh, not just due to the skills and expertise he brings to the cricket field but because of the bonds of friendship he shared with the members of the team.
The team misses him and will welcome him warmly when he comes back after a year, Mahmudullah, the Bangladesh captain, declared when addressing mediapersons at the Arun Jaitley Stadium here.
“We have the same love for Shakib as we had before, and we will continue to love him, because Shakib [shares] a bond with all of us. When he makes a comeback, we will embrace him and welcome him back,” he said ahead of the first T20I.
Shakib was punished by the ICC for not reporting corrupt approaches. It was a mistake and not a crime, felt Mahmudullah. “He probably made a mistake, but didn't commit [any] crime. We still have the support for him, we still have the same love that we used to have. But that's an issue that has gone by, we're focussing more on playing tomorrow and win the game,” he said.
Shakib, a giant in Bangladesh cricket, is one of the world's best all-rounders in all formats of the game. He sits in the top three in the ICC rankings in all formats. From the point of view of his cricketing prowess alone, his absence does adversely impact the team, admitted Mahmudullah.
“We are motivated to perform well, because Shakib's absence is a big blow – all of us, including myself, have to step in to fill his void in the team. Shakib wasn't made in a day – he has been performing in international cricket for many years. According to our capabilities, we will try to fill his space in the team. From the combination point of view, whenever Shakib is injured, it affects us,” Mahmudullah said.
A replacement had to be found for Shakib in the No. 3 spot. There were a few batsmen capable of taking that position, pointed out Mahmudullah. “There are a few guys who bat in the top order, and there are others who can bat in the middle order, but they can bat in the top order as well. It's a good asset for our team. Having said that, Naim, Soumya Sarkar and Liton Das can bat at No. 3. So, we have a few options here.”
Batting would be an area to focus on over the next year leading up to the T20 World Cup, revealed Mahmudullah. “We have to be much more consistent with our batting, putting out big scores every now and then. We can provide a foundation for the bowlers to prove themselves.
"Having said that, there are a few young guys – Aminul Islam Biplab – who's a good find I think. We've been wanting to have a good leg-spinner in our side. If you see our fast bowling department, Al-Amin, Mustafizur Rahman and Shafiul Islam are much more experienced. We have very good experience [in our bowling department]. Having said that, it's a proper opportunity for us to show our performance in this tour,” he said.
Focus on cricket
In addition to Shakib's absence, Bangladesh had the smog to contend with, too. Despite a health emergency having been declared by the State government, Mahmudullah brushed the concern aside by saying his team didn't have any control over it. Spin-bowling coach Daniel Vettori and batting coach Neil McKenzie were seen for the second day in a row wearing a mask during the team's practice.
“When we first came here there was a bit of smog. That we all know. But the players have been playing for the last three days and trying to adapt to the conditions. It's not within our control. We just need to focus much more on our cricket. Everybody's healthy, fine,” Mahmudullah stated.
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