Banned players reel under weight of punishment

The BCB has come down extremely hard on the players for "tarnishing" the image of Bangladesh cricket The Daily Star/Firoz Ahmed

At around 3.30 pm on May 2, Tasnim Hasan heard from a friend that he had been banned from playing cricket for ten years. He broke down, and did not have the heart to tell anyone else in his house. His parents still don't know.

A few hours later Hasan, 24, spoke to an official from Fear Fighters Club, for whom he played in the Dhaka Second Division League this year, but found little solace. He read and re-read the news on several websites. He had known something was about to happen but wasn't prepared for a punishment so severe.

Hasan had been in Dhaka last week to appear before the three-member inquiry committee formed to investigate the matter. He was asked basic questions about his outrageous bowling figures of 1.1-0-69-0.

Less than a week later, the BCB approved the inquiry committee's recommendation that Hasan and Sujon Mahmud, who gave away 92 runs off four balls the following day, were to be banned for 10 years. Their clubs - Fear Fighters and Lalmatia Club - were scratched as participants from all Dhaka leagues. The clubs' captain, manager and coach were also banned for five years. The punishments, the BCB said, were for "tarnishing the image of Bangladesh cricket."

"I heard the news yesterday afternoon and started to cry," Hasan said. "I didn't know what else to do. Later I spoke to someone from the club. I don't know what my next step is going to be. My whole life is ruined. I feel so…"

Hasan had been playing in the Dhaka club system since 2012, mostly in the lower leagues, before ending up with Fear Fighters Sporting Club for the 2016-17 season.

Fear Fighters had qualified for the Super League stage of the competition, but when they arrived at the Jahangirnagar University ground to play Indira Road Krira Chakra on April 10, many of their players didn't want to be in the XI because umpires Shamsur Rahman and Azizul Bari were officiating the game, ESPNcricinfo has learned.

"They saw the umpires and felt that there was no point playing the game," a source said. "Fear Fighters captain wasn't even allowed to see who had won the toss. He was told that they would be batting first. The captain was told that the match should be over by 12pm, otherwise it will be a waste of time. There was the customary bad decisions during our innings and then their bowlers lost the plot when they kept giving wides and no-balls unnecessarily.

"When [Tasnim Hasan] Rubel came to bowl the second over, he looked very angry. He kept bowling those wides and no-balls. Most of them were out of the wicketkeeper's reach; they tried to talk him out of it but he didn't listen. They reached the target in his over."

The following day the same umpires - Shamsur and Azizul - officiated the Axiom Cricketers-Lalmatia Club game at the City Club ground. After Lalmatia were bowled out for 88, Sujon Mahmud conceded 92 runs off four deliveries. It was reportedly a protest against poor umpiring decisions when Lalmatia had batted.

A couple of hours later, during an unrelated press conference at the Shere Bangla National Stadium, the incident was mentioned to a BCB director. On April 22, the BCB formed a three-member committee to look into why the Lalmatia bowler Mahmud had done such a thing. It is understood that Hasan's over came up as a precedent, and so the committee called up the Fear Fighters' coach and officials later in the week.

At the BCB's 16th board meeting on April 22, it was decided the board would hand out punishments based on the committee's report. On May 2, the committee's report was approved by the BCB and the punishments were announced first in a press briefing and then in a BCB press release a few hours later.

The release did not mention which law or by-law the parties had violated though. ESPNcricinfo understands that since the committee was appointed by the BCB, it had authority to go beyond the league's by-laws, so the press release did not mention a law or by-law in reference to the punishments.

Sheikh Sohel, the BCB director who heads the disciplinary and umpiring committee, was made chairman of the inquiry committee and was the one who announced the punishment. A day later, he said that as the committee's chairman, he was given the authority by the BCB to decide the quantum of punishment. But Sohel did not specify under what law the bans were given.

"Of course this was done under proper rules and regulations," Sohel said. "BCB doesn't do anything that is beyond the law. The board meeting had said that the discipline committee chairman can give his own decision but even as a board director, I can't just take a decision. It has to be based on the law."

The umpires involved - Shamsur and Azizul - were only given 6-month suspensions, though, and only from league matches. The release said they were punished "for inefficiency in decision making on the field and failure to carry out their responsibilities as per the desired standards."

Many clubs have complained about these umpires this season and some also put in writing through the captains' report at the end of a game. None of these clubs were willing to go on record to speak about the umpiring, and Sohel said the clubs had not provided a written complaint.

"I want to ask a question to the club officials. Why didn't they give us a letter if this was happening for such a long time?" Sohel asked. "Why didn't they tell the umpires committee? Also, these two umpires did other matches too, why didn't anything similar happen in those games?"

In total, Shamsur and Azizul officiated ten matches together this season. In the Super League, they stood in four matches, all of which ended before 1pm. Coincidentally, all four involved Axiom Cricketers. Whether the pair had a role in finishing these games quickly could not be ascertained but it debunks Sohel's claim that these two umpires had not been involved in similar results. Shamsur and Azizul did not respond to requests for interviews.

The Bengali daily Prothom Alo reported on Wednesday that once Lalmatia and Fear Fighters receive official communication from the BCB, they were thinking of taking legal help. And Sohel has already said that the punished can appeal. "They have a chance to appeal, after which we might think of the next stage," he said.

There's still some hope for Hasan, Mahmud and the others.