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Feature

Apparent Shakib-Tamim issue a big storm in a tea cup

It may be that BCB president overplayed the seriousness about the alleged "Issues" between the two senior players

Mohammad Isam
Mohammad Isam
03-Mar-2023
File photo: Shakib and Tamim are Bangladesh's two highest run-scorers in ODIs  •  Getty Images

File photo: Shakib and Tamim are Bangladesh's two highest run-scorers in ODIs  •  Getty Images

When Tamim Iqbal tapped Shakib Al Hasan's gloves upon his entry, the full-house crowd roared in delight. Bangladesh were 9 for 3 in the second over. Their defense of a proud home record was going up in smoke. This was the 72nd time that Shakib and Tamim were batting together in an international, but the first time since BCB president Nazmul Hassan broke the news last week that the two senior Bangladesh cricketers don't talk to each other.
So obviously the tap of the gloves, or the time Tamim took a catch off Shakib's bowling in the first ODI, or the times they spoke in the field generally as two team-mates do - they all drew a lot of attention. Some of those moments have become memes already. But they were tepid, not really viral material.
Because really this is a bit of a non-issue. It grabbed headlines last week because the BCB president spoke in detail about Shakib and Tamim not talking to each other for a few years. Hassan called the row an open secret, but one that bothered the other players. He said Bangladesh's dressing room was uncomfortable.
In a very leaky inner circle, these incidents, rumours, half-truths come out quite often. Never, though, has the public heard about a Shakib-Tamim fight, or anything remotely close to it. Their fallout was indeed an open secret to those close to the game, but ESPNcricinfo understands that this has been going on for so long that not many are aware when it even began.
Some believe that Tamim and Shakib never really had a flash point; they simply drifted apart. They don't hang out in the same circles now but there was a time when they were friends. Shakib had written an entire Prothom Alo column on Tamim in 2010.
Tamim's measured press conference on the subject drew him a lot of praise. He said that he could have avoided it by saying "no comment" but needed to make things clear to the public and fans. It was a good move, but it led to some very confusing follow-up quotes from the BCB chief Hassan.
On February 27, Hassan addressed the issue again, this time saying he only heard about the row in the media, even though until February 25, when he brought up the topic, it was never reported on, not even on social media.
"Quite simply, I didn't see any problem in the dressing room even three years ago... previously, I was always with the team. I have heard about the bad environment in the dressing room from outside. It is mostly heard from the media. The media people say it the most," Hassan said. "It was all well during the World Cup last year in Australia. What I heard is what Tamim also said. I asked them if there's a problem, they assured me that it won't affect the cricket. That's what I said in the interview. Tamim also said the same thing."
Hassan added that the reason he came out with the news was to reduce the players' discomfort. He wanted to "end this topic" and "bring the attention back to cricket". Except he also appears to be the one who made it public.
"Everyone in the media knew about it," Hassan said. "So many people asked me about it. I didn't like this rumour running around. It was making everyone uncomfortable, even for the players.
"I started to hear that the dressing room environment isn't good. I didn't see a problem during the T20 World Cup. But something must have happened. I used to hear that Shakib and Tamim are close friends.
"Something happened between them that the dressing room environment has become uncomfortable. The other players are afraid of talking to each other. They hesitate. They feel that if I talk to Shakib bhai, the other will think I am in his camp. Similarly, they think that if I talk to Tamim, someone will feel bad."
For what it's worth, both Shakib and Tamim have made it clear their relationship won't affect the side's performance. Even Hassan said as much. "I don't know what the problem is," Hassan said. "I didn't ask them what the problem is. They told me that it won't affect the cricket so half my work is done. They are playing together after a long time. Tamim missed the India series, and wasn't around for the T20Is as well. I don't think there will be a problem. They are all professionals and matured. They won't harm the team."
But on March 2, between the first and second ODI, Shakib had reportedly stood up Hassan when the board chief wanted to meet him. Hassan played down the snub.
"There was only one reason why I came here [to the team hotel]," Hassan said. "I could not meet Shakib during my first visit to the team hotel before the first ODI. That's why I came today at Shakib's request. Actually, I came here to see everyone and give them courage. I talked with him [Shakib] on the phone. After he learned that I was about to visit [the team hotel], he called me and said that he was elsewhere.
"He told me, 'Come after 9pm.' And I replied, 'Look, it's okay as you are busy. I don't have much to say [to Shakib and others]. I just dropped by and I will just have a few words with them. I will talk to you over the phone later at night.'"
Tamim and Shakib couldn't quite save Bangladesh in the second game. They added 79 runs for the fourth wicket, but the 327 chase needed them to stay for longer. By losing the second game against England, Bangladesh lost their first ODI series at home in seven years. England are a great white-ball team with plenty of firepower, even in subcontinent conditions. But one wonders whether Bangladesh were better off without the Shakib-Tamim topic being brought up just two days before this big series.

Mohammad Isam is ESPNcricinfo's Bangladesh correspondent. @isam84