The decision of Raqibul Hasan, Bangladesh's 22-year-old middle-order batsman, to retire from international cricket on the eve of the Test series against England has left both his team-mates and the national selectors bewildered, as the squad sets about refocusing for the first Test in Chittagong in 24 hours' time.
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 neither his coaches, team-mates, nor his parents have appeared able to talk him out of the shock move.
Mushfiqur Rahim, Raqibul's closest friend in the squad, and a former Under-19 team-mate, told reporters at the Bangladesh training session that he had had no inkling of the decision that Raqibul was about to make. While the squad was shocked, they were doing their best to make light of the situation, with the Rajshahi batsman Jahurul Islam, drafted into the squad ahead of Mohammad Ashraful.
"This came as a big surprise for us," Akram Khan, a member of the Bangladesh selection committee, told Cricinfo. "I talked to him two days ago, and he had just been batting well against the England team. I never thought he'd do a thing like this, but this is not good. He is a young chap and this is a big decision. He should have thought more about it, both for himself and for our country. This is bad for Bangladesh cricket."
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 is understood to be angered at his omission from Bangladesh's one-day plans. He was left out of the home ODI series against England that concluded last week, and perhaps more significantly the 30-man preliminary squad for the 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 was omitted from the team during the recent tour of New Zealand, and Cricinfo understands that there was a disagreement between the board and the selectors over his recall for the England Test series. The recommendation from above had been that Raqibul should be dropped along with Mohammad Ashraful, whose form has deserted him in recent months. Regardless of the apparent political manoeuvrings, however, his decision is being widely regarded as rash.
"This sort of thing happens to everybody, it's not only for him," said Akram. "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."