Siddons sympathises with Raqibul, but Shakib fumes
Bangladesh's coach, Jamie Siddons, believes that Raqibul Hasan will soon come to regret his "rash and emotional" decision to retire from international cricket on the eve of the first Test against England in Chittagong, but hopes that the Bangladesh Cricket Board will take pity on the 22-year-old batsman whom he described as "upset" and "confused".
The coach's conciliatory stance is, however, at odds with that of the captain Shakib Al Hasan, who believes that the board's failure to take action against the fast bowler, Mashrafe Mortaza, who pulled out of the recent one-day series after another row over selection, has set a dangerous precedent for ill-discipline within his squad.
Mortaza played in the first ODI in Mirpur on February 28, his first international appearance since damaging his knee on the tour of West Indies in July. However, following a lacklustre performance in a six-wicket defeat, he was dropped to make way for Rubel Hossain, and promptly walked out on the team, although the BCB covered up the row by claiming he was visiting his sick mother. In August 2008, the opening batsman, Shahriar Nafees, also withdrew from a squad at the last minute, this time on a one-day tour of Australia, as he preferred to concentrate on his studies.
"If the board had taken an action against that one [Mashrafe], it would have been very good," said Shakib. "That was a big mistake on the part of the board because these are all disciplinary issues. It would have been good if we had sorted out this kind of problem earlier. In the past Shahriar Nafees did the same thing, he withdrew himself after the team was announced. This kind of thing really affects us. I don't know what the board will decide, it is totally up to them, but it will be good if they come down tough."
Despite cementing his place in the Test squad with a century and a fifty for Bangladesh A in the three-day warm-up against England in Chittagong earlier this week, Raqibul informed his team-mates of his decision on the team bus after practice on Wednesday, having sent a letter announcing his retirement to the Bangladesh board that morning.
According to Jalal Yunus, the board director, his resignation has not yet been accepted, although it is understood that Raqibul is angry at his omission from Bangladesh's one-day plans. He was left out of the recent tour of New Zealand and the home ODI series against England that concluded last week, and perhaps more significantly the 30-man preliminary squad for the ICC World Twenty20 in the Caribbean next month, a tournament regarded as a shop window for the riches on offer in the shortest and most lucrative form of the game.
"He's made a rash, emotional decision, and I think a really bad one for himself and his family," said Siddons. "He's obviously an upset kid at the moment, and probably a bit confused, and he may need some counselling from people around him. But he'll work on that and think about that, because he's a strong-willed kid and very internal, and hopefully the people in power will want him back.
"He was out of form before this game, so it was a bit of a shock he made the hundred and the fifty after the way he's been playing. But he's one of the guys I've been working on and supportive of for two years, so it's a setback, especially for the World Cup. I need to let him talk to his father and his family, and make sure the board welcome him back when he wants to come back, which I'm sure will happen in the next six to 12 months."
Shakib, however, might not be so keen to forgive and forget, after having such a frustrating distraction thrust upon him ahead of a high-profile Test series. "It is difficult to say how much it will affect us," he said. "We tried to make him understand, but he just told us that his mind is not with the game, and that he won't play, and that's totally up to him. But we don't want it to affect our cricket, so we are just focusing on tomorrow's game and trying to do our best to forget everything else, and get on with it, and play to the best of our ability.
"It's very disappointing because he's been too emotional and you can't play cricket with that much emotion," Shakib added. "You can get axed in any series - and it is not that he did not deserve to be axed - but it would have been better for him if he had continued. Nobody is Superman, but you need to have enough maturity to understand that you're going to pass through good and bad times in your career. This kind of period comes in every cricketer's life. It's better if you use your head than your heart in this period."
"This sort of thing happens to everybody, it's not only for him," the Bangladesh selector, Akram Khan, told Cricinfo. "The most important thing is he has to perform. He didn't get a chance in New Zealand, and he wasn't in the one-day squad for this series, but he was in the Test squad. A lot of good players don't get a chance every time. The England captain [Alastair Cook] is also not in the squad for Twenty20 cricket, but he's still a very good player. I can't understand why he's done this."
The root of Raqibul's anger may well lie in an apparent disagreement between the board and the selectors over his recall for the England Test series. Cricinfo understands that the recommendation from above had been that Raqibul should be dropped along with Mohammad Ashraful, whose form has deserted him in recent months, and Siddons hinted that politics had played its part. "I think there's probably a little bit of truth to all of that," he said. "But if Raqibul's got a grievance, it must be with the selectors because they are the ones who left him out.
"He didn't like being dropped in the way he was dropped, then he missed out on the 30 for the Twenty20 squad, which was probably a bad selection, and he's really disappointed," Siddons added. "He thought he'd proved his point that he was good enough to be in that 30, which I think he is, but then he walked away. I don't know who he was trying to hurt, or what point he was trying to prove, but I hope the BCB welcome him back because he's a kid who's a bit confused."
In Raqibul's absence, Aftab Ahmed slots into the middle order, with Mahmudullah promoted three places from No. 8 following an impressive tour of New Zealand. Either way, there has been no recall for Ashraful, despite Siddons stating that he would have been his preferred replacement in the squad.
"Ash was the name I pushed forward, but I'm only one person and I don't have a say in selection, apart from my debating ability," he said. "I thought to have him around the group would be good, but he wouldn't have come into the side. Aftab was straight in. He's a seasoned campaigner and he's learning about international cricket the way I want it to be played. Hopefully he's the one who stands up for us. One goes out, and another gets the opportunity."
Bangladesh 1 Tamim Iqbal, 2 Imrul Kayes, 3 Junaid Siddique, 4 Aftab Ahmed, 5 Mahmudullah, 6 Shakib Al Hasan (capt), 7 Mushfiqur Rahim (wk), 8 Naeem Islam, 9 Abdur Razzak, 10 Rubel Hossain, 11 Shadahat Hossain
Andrew Miller is UK editor of Cricinfo. Go to http://twitter.com/miller_cricket to follow him on Twitter through the England tour of Bangladesh.