Bangladesh have been rocked by a fresh round of uncertainty regarding Shakib Al Hasan’s fitness levels, as the cricketer himself was reportedly quoted as saying he was 20-30 percent fit while talking to a leading English daily over the phone from America.
Head coach Steve Rhodes and captain Mashrafe Mortaza, though, feel otherwise, as they stated Shakib’s importance for the upcoming Asia Cup campaign in UAE, starting from September 15.
Since his return from West Indies, his availability for the Asia Cup has remained in doubt owing to a finger injury he sustained during a tri-nation series involving Zimbabwe and Sri Lanka at home, which needs a surgery. BCB president Nazmul Hasan, who initially didn’t want Shakib to go under the knife before the multi-team event, did a U-turn and left the decision upto the player. The matter seemed resolved when BCB included him in the 15-man squad, but his latest admission about his fitness levels have raised concerns yet again.
“I don’t believe he is 20-30 per cent fit. I think he is a lot fitter than that. That sort of statement has hit the headline. I am pretty sure Shakib is a lot fitter than that. He is in no real different state to the state he was in, in West Indies, where he played some fantastic cricket with bat, ball and in the field,” Rhodes said.
“Everybody knows that he does need the operation. He has made that decision after speaking to the president. Asia Cup is very important to Bangladesh. He is not fully fit. But if he plays anything like he played in the Caribbean, then that will be a massive asset to Bangladesh cricket. This guy is a tremendous cricketer. Even if Shakib was 60-70 per cent fit, you’d get a lot of cricket out of Shakib Al Hasan,” he added.
Mortaza echoed the same sentiment and said that though the decision of playing or not playing entirely depends on the all-rounder, his presence is enough to boost the confidence of the team.
“Overall, the way Shakib batted in West Indies, it was very effective for us to win. I think it is enough for him to maintain at least that level of fitness. It is Shakib’s decision to make. He has decided to play and when he plays, he’ll give his hundred percent,” Mortaza said. Shakib had taken pain killer injection during the Caribbean tour to take part in the series after the opening two Tests matches.
There have also been reports of Shakib’s absence from preparation camps having an impact on the rest of the team. Shakib had missed the camp ahead of the Nidahas trophy owing to his injury sustained during the tri-series at home, and returned to action only midway through Nidahas Trophy. He then featured in the IPL while the team was preparing for the series against Afghanistan, and joined the team two days later in Dehradhun for the three-match Twenty20 series.
After the Afghanistan drubbing, Shakib went to America to celebrate Eid vacation and joined the team in America for the tour of West Indies in July. He returned from West Indies and went to perform Hajj, and since returning from there, he had a brief stay in Bangladesh before leaving for America to spend some time with his in-laws.
But Rhodes was clear in stating that Shakib’s absence does not have any negative impact as he is widely respected by the players in the national dressing room.
“The short answer is, I feel no. It doesn’t make an impact on the rest of the team. My philosophy is very much about team, and trying to make sure all the guys play for each other. Shakib is really, really respected by the rest of his colleagues in the dressing room. It is one side of it,” Rhodes said.
“They respect and understand Shakib. The time-off with family, I think it is important that everybody does realise that Shakib plays a lot of cricket. He doesn’t just bat. He bowls and fields and captains as well. He plays all formats,” he said.
“In making sure Shakib is playing at his best and freshest, we can give him opportunities to be with his family. It will make him a better player. He has done all the practice when he was younger. He did it out in the middle, bowling 50 overs every innings in Tests,” he said.
“He knows the right line and length. It is not too necessary that he practices all the time. He showed in the Caribbean without much practice what a quality cricketer he can be. He is a sensible guy who knows where he needs to be. I am very confident that it doesn’t affect the team.”