Shakib's sacking raises questions
The Bangladesh Cricket Board's decision on Monday to sack captain Shakib Al Hasan and vice-captain Tamim Iqbal wasn't the most unexpected, but the unprecedented haste of the dismissals has prompted some observers to question the reasons for the decision.
Among some board directors, there is a feeling that BCB president AHM Mustafa Kamal's hand had been forced into making the decision on the urging of a faction that did not want Shakib and Tamim to continue leading the team. There is also some concern that the sacking sets a dangerous precedent as not all the directors were consulted before the decision was taken and future captains could be undermined if they think they don't have the support of the full board.
What is clear is that with Shakib and Tamim having run out of the several "get out of jail" cards provided by the board, a new captain will lead Bangladesh against West Indies next month and it is also obvious who that would most likely be, given Mohammad Ashraful's uncertain presence in the side and Mashrafe Bin Mortaza's injuries: Mushfiqur Rahim.
More than his leadership experience and his maturity, it is Mushfiqur's assured place in the side that is his biggest advantage. Apart from Tamim and Shakib, Mushfiqur is the only other player who is guaranteed to be in the playing XI, although the names of Mahmudullah Riyad and Shahriar Nafees are also in the mix.
If the 23-year-old Mushfiqur is made captain, he won't be the first wicketkeeper to lead the side. Khaled Mashud was Bangladesh's second Test captain and though he was the least successful, his leadership is still regarded highly, especially in the National Cricket League, where he shaped Rajshahi into the country's top first-class side.
It was in the Rajshahi side where Mashud first saw Mushfiqur seven years ago, a fresh face from the Bangladesh Institute of Sports, and Mashud believes Mushfiqur won't have a problem earning the respect of the rest of the team.
"I think everyone already respects Mushfiqur for the work that he puts in. He is a very disciplined person and I like that in a player," Mahsud said. "Before a match, you'll see how beautifully he's set up in the dressing room. That says a lot about Mushfiqur and I'm sure he is respected within the team."
But the former national captain wants a strong setup around whomever is the new captain. "If the people around the team can handle the players properly, give them adequate mental support, it frees up the captain's duty. Then he will only lead the team on the field and make sure he represents the country in the right manner.
"I think Shakib has a huge role to play here. If he gives the necessary support, the new captain, if it is Mushfiqur, will feel more solid ground under his feet with the best player in the team with him. If he doesn't get a supportive management, he will be busy putting his house in order. In that case, who will stand up as the country's cricket captain?"
Mashud, who has experienced life as a quality wicketkeeper, dependable middle-order batsman and captain, doesn't think leading the team will be difficult for Mushfiqur. "I don't think it is a difficult job. I say this under the condition that the new captain gets people within the team management who are good at man-management. Dav Whatmore used to do it very well.
"Even if it someone else as captain, he mustn't be bothered about the trouble that has already happened. He has to lead from the front and garner respect from all around. I would like to suggest that the board doesn't name a vice-captain so soon. Frankly, Shakib, Tamim and Mushfiqur are the automatic choices and the rest, for reasons aplenty, are not.
"So maybe they may have someone like Riyad or Nafees in touch with the management when holding meetings so that one of them can take over if Mushfiqur is injured but not in any official capacity, at least not now."
The absence of solid management was at the heart of Bangladesh's woes over the past year, including the disappointing World Cup campaign. A better set-up can can only be put in place by the BCB, but they have shown less professionalism than the players and this week's decision sets another harmful example. If they don't get it right in the future, the captaincy could become a poisoned chalice that no one in the dressing-room would want to hold.
Mohammad Isam is senior sports reporter at the Daily Star in Dhaka