Dhaka 21 Mar, Abnews: Colombo’s partisan support for India on Sunday evening bordered on the surreal. More than 20,000 people turned up to renew solidarity with India but, really, it felt more like a vociferous protest against Bangladesh.
It would’ve made sense if the support for India was because Bangladesh knocked Sri Lanka out. However, it was a little more than that. Bangladesh’s behaviour in the dying stages of their final league game and the reactions that followed immediately after may have ended any bonhomie there may have been with the crowd.
No amount of sweet-talking from Shakib Al Hasan after those incidents helped. He spoke of friendship between Bangladeshi and Sri Lankan cricketers, between the two nations and their cricket boards, but it didn’t seem to work. Every four, six or a wicket they claimed in the final was met with silence. Shakib was also booed at the post-match presentation.
Shrinking attention spans mean that the Bangladesh players will have other things on their mind in the coming weeks and months. They will not be talking about this until their next tour of Sri Lanka, but some of their actions from that game cannot be left unquestioned or go without further analysis.
In that entire episode, Shakib’s attempt at conceding a walkover was the most talked about. Captains have taken the same route in moments of extreme anger with the umpiring. Sunil Gavaskar and Arjuna Ranatunga tried it in Australia two decades apart, but were talked out of it. Inzamam-ul-Haq did it infamously at The Oval in 2006 although, strictly speaking, he walked off for tea and just never came back out.
Bangladesh have also had moments in the last 15 years when they have been aggrieved enough with the umpiring; in the 2003 Multan Test, it was widely felt that umpiring errors cost them a historic first win. Players from that era have often said certain umpires treated them with disdain just because they were newbies. In the 2010 Dhaka Test against England, the then coach Jamie Siddons protested the umpiring from the boundary rope.
A disputed no-ball in the 2015 World Cup quarter-final against India led to protests in Bangladesh, from the then ICC president Mustafa Kamal right down to university students burning effigies of the umpires.
Eventually Bangladesh moved on.
But Shakib felt so aggrieved in Colombo, again by events sparked off by a disputed no-ball, that he considered a walkout – as opposed to talking about it later in the media, or letting the BCB send a protest letter to the ICC. As someone leading his country, a cricket-mad nation, Shakib should have shown restraint. He set a bad example, even if he did apologise.
More was to follow, no doubt enabled by Shakib’s behaviour. As soon as Mahmudullah hit the six to seal the game, Shakib ran out swinging his t-shirt in his hand, while the rest of the team broke out in the “nagin dance”. Ordinarily, this would’ve been harmless; after all, it was also at the R Premadasa Stadium that Chris Gayle and Co did the “Gangnam Style” dance after their 2012 World T20 win over Sri Lanka.
But there was a bit of history to this, a retort in an unsavoury tit-for-tat dance battle. Danushka Gunathilaka impersonated Nazmul Islam’s trademark celebration during a T20I in Sylhet. Then Mushfiqur Rahim joined in, aiming it squarely at Gunathilaka after he hit the winning runs in their first league game at the Nidahas Trophy.
Social media stepped in to stir the pot. Some Sri Lankan players dished out their own versions when the sides met for the second time, but with a win under their belt, the Bangladesh players gave their own back.
It wasn’t over there. A couple of the Sri Lankans appeared to push a Bangladesh player. Tamim Iqbal was seen restraining Kusal Mendis who became involved with some of the Bangladesh players. Mahmudullah scolded Nurul.
And then, of course, pictures emerged of the shattered dressing room door.
Over the last three years, Bangladesh have ensured the opposition has heard them. Their send-off to Jos Buttler in 2016 and their sledging of Australia last year is seen as a reflection of their growing confidence as international cricketers. They were chatty against India in the 2015 ODI series win, too.
But what would Shakib have achieved with a walkout? It is unlikely that it would lead to better or worse umpiring in the future. As so many examples remind us, that isn’t how it works.
Despite complaining about the apparent unfair treatment they have received from umpires over the years, Bangladesh haven’t ensured better quality umpiring in their own home. A number of unsavoury incidents have taken place. The BPL has also seen disturbances near the boundary line, and misbehaviour with umpiring has, on many occasions, gone unreported.
Old-timers will say that Dhaka’s league cricket used to be a true test of character for every cricketer, but those from this generation are certainly more widely abused than ever before because of how easily they can be reached on social media.
Ultimately, Bangladesh’s cricketers have to be extra careful about their behaviour. They are, after all, the biggest celebrities in the country; every eye is on them. Just like many on-field cricketing lessons, that night in Colombo should remain forever a lesson – in the virtues of restraint. It is to be hoped that these players never again venture down that wild path. – ESPNCricinfo