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The Shakib saga: All you wanted to know, or didn't

Is Shakib at fault or is it the BCB? What's all the toing-and-froing really about? Who gains? Who loses?

Mohammad Isam
Mohammad Isam
It's Shakib Al Hasan's world... or at least it's his World Cup, Bangladesh v Pakistan, World Cup 2019, Lord's, July 5, 2019

Shakib is Bangladesh's greatest cricketer ever, there's no contesting that  •  Getty Images

Shakib Al Hasan. BCB. Headlines. This time, for the allrounder going on-off-on-off-on about Bangladesh's tour of South Africa. Right now, it's on. Tomorrow - who knows. Here's an attempt at explaining the sequence of events.
Uff, what now?
Where do I begin? TL;DR: it's Shakib vs BCB and, somehow, Shakib vs Shakib.
All right, no TL;DR, the whole dirt please.
We go back to February 28 then. BCB president Nazmul Hassan, we call him Papon bhai here in Bangladesh, instructed Shakib to tour South Africa in March. This was after Shakib had, apparently, told the BCB that he wanted some time off from Test cricket.
Three days later, the selectors announced the Test and ODI squads for South Africa. Shakib was in both.
So Shakib said that wasn't going to happen, he wasn't going.
You want rest, we'll give you rest, the BCB said, kind of. And Shakib is out. A couple of people, Papon bhai among them, criticise Shakib and question his commitment, etc for good measure.
That might have hurt. Anyway, Shakib is now going to South Africa. He will take rest, he says, when the board gives him rest.
Wait! First, why exactly does he keep pulling out of tours?
You're right, it has happened before. Shakib has missed a number of tours in the last five years. He skipped Tests in South Africa and Sri Lanka while also missing out on four tours because of suspensions and injuries. After he skipped Bangladesh's New Zealand tour in January, many people did expect him to skip South Africa too. Then, when he wasn't picked in the IPL auction…
Aha! The IPL. That must be the real reason, right? Somehow?
If you let me finish… When he wasn't picked in the IPL auction, it was then assumed he would be available for the tour. But Shakib said that he wasn't physically and mentally fit to play.
So, say it, it was the IPL.
It's not that straightforward. Before the auction took place, Shakib made himself available for the IPL during the Test phase of the South Africa tour. Since the BCB had approved of that plan, Shakib can't be faulted for assuming he could go ahead with his plans. And, really, his performances have earned him the ticket to ask for a break: he is one of the finest allrounders in the world, after all. He has numbers that debunk the theory that he's not committed to Bangladesh cricket. It's also worth noting though that Shakib's family lives in the US, which means that every time he gets a break, a week goes into travelling and all of that.
So, tell me, does Shakib have a problem with authority? Or does the BCB have an issue with him?
How long do you have? But, seriously, it can't be denied that Shakib has had run-ins with the BCB for a long time. Let me go back… In 2009, he challenged the then board president AHM Mustafa Kamal for criticising the Bangladesh team in a public function. He's been banned twice on disciplinary grounds. And remember how he kicked the stumps during a domestic T20 game last year? I might be missing a couple of instances, but you get the picture.
So it's Shakib then, it's his fault?
Not really. The BCB has actually handled Shakib poorly in the last 12 years. See, he is Bangladesh's greatest cricketer ever, there's no contest there. So the BCB avoids punishing him too harshly, as was in 2010 when he abused someone in the crowd for not moving away from the sightscreen, or when he flipped a fan during the 2011 World Cup. They reduced his ban when he threatened to quit the Bangladesh team as he wasn't allowed to play in the CPL. When the ICC banned him in 2019, the board didn't even announce an internal investigation.
So what now? He goes to South Africa, plays the games he wants, and then…
If he can change his mind about touring South Africa twice, you think anyone can stop Shakib from picking and choosing the games he plays?
Tell me, do his team-mates like Shakib at all?
He generally gets along with his team-mates, but he will face a confused team management that had probably activated Plan B when they heard he was on leave.
I get the sense that he's too big for the Bangladesh team. Why doesn't he just retire and become a T20 freelancer?
But Shakib still needs Bangladesh, especially now when it looks like the IPL is unlikely to feature in his schedule at all. Given his age, he has a few good years left in him, but he would want to go out on a high. And, for that, he will need to perform for Bangladesh.
Until the next time then?
Until the next time, Bangladesh have a Test tour, perhaps.

Mohammad Isam is ESPNcricinfo's Bangladesh correspondent. @isam84