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News

Litton to lead Bangladesh in last two ODIs against Afghanistan

A few hours later though, news came through of Tamim reversing his decision to retire from international cricket

Mohammad Isam
Mohammad Isam
07-Jul-2023
Litton Das has led Bangladesh in all formats before, but always as a stand-in captain  •  BCB

Litton Das has led Bangladesh in all formats before, but always as a stand-in captain  •  BCB

"Is this press conference being held about tomorrow's match? If not, then Litton Das doesn't need to be here. Call the board president or the coach. They can tell you. I came here to speak about tomorrow's game."
This was Litton himself speaking in third person. It was around the halfway mark of a long press conference where he had been unveiled as Bangladesh's interim ODI captain but all anyone wanted to talk about was Tamim Iqbal's sudden retirement from international cricket. Litton had been fending them all off for the most part, but eventually his patience ran out.
Bangladesh players have long held the belief that "retirement" is a touchy subject. The BCB president Nazmul Hassan made it abundantly clear he expects the players to do what they do only after taking his consent. For example, when Mahmudullah retired from Tests in Harare two years ago, Hassan was furious with him and did not accept his decision. It was only much later that Hasan and the board acknowledged the retirement.
Tamim's absence during Friday's training was a bit jarring. There wasn't any outward show of solidarity or tribute to him from the rest of the squad. After all, they're in the middle of an important series, and they're 0-1 down. But Tamim had a deep and meaningful impact on this Bangladesh team. If his now former team-mates, coaches and support staff find it emotional, they can't be faulted.
"I learned about it at 1:00pm yesterday," Litton said. We didn't expect such a decision. We have been playing together for a long time. It is totally elder bother's decision. He has given a lot to Bangladesh cricket in his long career. The whole team respects his decision.
"I don't think I should answer these questions, especially with a match coming up tomorrow. We are 1-0 down. We are all focused on winning tomorrow. Even elder brother said that the team comes first. There's no point talking about it (whether it was professional to criticise Tamim). BCB has given me the responsibility which I want to perform to the best of my ability.
"It is hard to say (if we miss Tamim). I am here today. If I am not here tomorrow, maybe due to an injury, Bangladesh team won't miss me. This is normal. New cricketers will come, and there will be a time when we will also be gone. It will keep happening. If he was around, it may have been good or bad. I don't think we need to talk about it now that he is not around."
Retirement is a touchy subject in Bangladesh cricket, so much so that the new captain is reluctant to talk about his feelings towards a senior player with whom he had spent eight years of his professional career. This is life under the BCB.
The board announced Litton as the ODI captain only a few minutes before he walked into the press conference room on Friday morning. He must have known beforehand, since the decision was made the night before. Some of the BCB directors had a meeting with Hassan in Dhaka, after which it was decided that Litton would lead in the interim.
Litton, who has led Bangladesh in the past but only in a stand-in capacity, was the vice-captain for the ongoing ODI series against Afghanistan. It is understood that he is once again a temporary measure, for just the rest of this series, and Shakib Al Hasan is the frontrunner to become captain of the ODI side to go with his leadership roles in Tests and T20Is.
The Tamim question put to the Afghanistan captain produced a more straightforward response. "He was definitely a top player for Bangladesh," Hashmatullah Shahidi. "He was an experienced captain. He was around for a long time. It will be a good advantage for us. His absence. We are looking forward for tomorrow's game.
"I don't know what's happening with them. I focus on us. You can say it is surprising for everyone that he left in between. He is a nice and kind guy. I respect him too much."
At around 6pm Dhaka time on Friday, the final turn of this incredible drama was revealed as Tamim withdrew his retirement after a meeting with the Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina.

Mohammad Isam is ESPNcricinfo's Bangladesh correspondent. @isam84