By Sudipto Ganguly
MUMBAI (Reuters) – Any lesser mortal in Bangladesh might have been censured for being absent for the team’s World Cup photo shoot but such is the stature Shakib Al Hasan enjoys that the board merely regretted his no-show and moved on.
The 32-year-old was also given permission to miss the preparatory camp for the World Cup to play in the Indian Premier League (IPL).
Bangladesh Cricket Board chief Nazmul Hassan dismissed as merely “disappointing” his departure from the ground before his team mates gathered for the official picture and there was no punishment for the cricketer.
Shakib has always had a hot-and-cold relationship with the media, who have criticised him for a lack of control over his temper and accused him of letting his achievements go to his head.
He was banned in 2014 for three matches for making an indecent gesture during a match and the same year handed a six-month suspension, later reduced, for a ‘severe attitude problem’.
Those achievements on the pitch, however, have made him all but untouchable.
Shakib has played close to 200 one-day internationals and tops the world rankings for all-rounders. He was also the sole representative from his country in the 2019 edition of the IPL.
An attacking middle-order batsman and miserly left-arm spinner, Shakib is second on the lists of runs made and wickets taken for his country and there is not one iota of doubt that he is the best cricketer Bangladesh has ever produced.
He is only the third man alongside cricketing greats Imran Khan and Ian Botham to take 10 wickets and score a century in the same test match.
Made captain a decade ago at the age of 22, he enjoys the kind of celebrity in Bangladesh that can perhaps only be matched by top cricketers in neighbouring India.
A leisurely stroll on the densely-populated streets of Dhaka — capital of the world’s eighth most populous country — is unthinkable and his wedding was broadcast live on national TV in 2013.
Shakib is well aware that the 50-over showpiece in England and Wales will present him with the perfect opportunity to endear himself further to everyone back home and he wants the maximum exposure possible to do so.
“There was a time when I had to come on to the crease before the first 10 overs, even if I batted at number five,” he said.
“But now things have changed, I don’t get a chance to bat before 35-40 overs if I bat at the number five position.
“For me, I think, the earlier the better. So, personally speaking, I want to play at number three.”
(Reporting by Sudipto Ganguly; editing by Nick Mulvenney)