Amidst the euphoria of Bangladesh’s comprehensive triumphs over Afghanistan and Nepal in the T20 World Cup, two small incidents run the risk of being completely overlooked. The more galling of them took place during the second ball of the 16th over on Tuesday.
With one run needed for victory, Shakib Al Hasan plonked the Nepalese Sagar Pun down to long-on for what should have been an easy single. But even as non-striker Sabbir Rahman shuffled down the track to complete a routine win over Nepal, Shakib turned him back. Sabbir was surprised, so was the whole Nepal contingent and also the commentators. Shakib, they concluded, wanted to end this with a big one. Rameez Raza called it “extreme self-confidence” and Shakib duly showcased such by hoisting the next delivery over the long-on boundary.
In the immediate aftermath, people reveled in his “cheek” and “flair” but Shakib’s overt taunt at the considerably weaker opponents made me uncomfortable and seemed unprofessional, arrogant, and obnoxious.
For metaphor’s sake, Shakib refusing the single to win the match when the opportunity presented itself is the footballing equivalent of a team intentionally spurning a goal-scoring opportunity because the opponent is already well-beaten. It showcases neither flair, nor cheek, but a lack of professional ethics when playing the game. As professionals you are required to take every single opportunity that comes your way and do so to the best of your ability; imagine if Cristiano Ronaldo passed up the chance to score tap-ins against Granada because he wanted to score belters instead. An act as brazen as this shows a distinct lack of respect towards your opponents.
Taken in isolation, Shakib’s incident could even be overlooked as a one-off (in a lengthy series of one-offs), but coming on the heels of Anamul Haque’s three ball defensive act before finishing with a flurry against Afghanistan, it seems that the Tigers are out to put their lowly opponents in their place. And please no half-hearted net run rate excuses.
In truth, there is nothing to celebrate in this. Imagine if an Australian or an Indian had done the same to us during one of their many comprehensive victories over us – how would our avid fan following have reacted then? Imagine if Sri Lanka had decided to forget about winning the Test match with the series already secured and piled on to score a thousand runs against us, in one of the many Tests that we have struggled in. Or answer this, would someone like Shakib or Anamul have the gall to do this same against a Pakistan or a South Africa?
In a sporting world where toeing the line is increasingly seen as a down-market trend, someone should tell the increasingly conceited Bangladeshi players that there is nothing particularly wrong with understanding or practicing humility. In fact, sometimes, it might even be professional to do so.