“If two of the boys at home are in some sort of trouble, you can’t focus on your work. You will be dispirited. It’s like that with us now. If you look at us, you can tell,” Mashrafe Mortaza says rather sombrely. The Bangladesh cricket camp is in a state of extreme distress in the morning after their fastest bowler Taskin Ahmed and their left-arm spinner Arafat Sunny were suspended by the ICC from bowling in international cricket. They aren’t contesting the decision over Arafat but Ahmed’s case has seriously upset the camp.
Here is the issue in a nutshell: Taskin was reported after a qualifying match against Netherlands and was subsequently tested in Chennai last week. According to Bangladesh camp, the report from the Netherlands match didn’t specify whether Taskin’s action in general was wrong, or was there any issue with specific deliveries. And the Chennai test noted that there were issues with his bouncer. Bangladesh say that Taskin didn’t even bowl a single bouncer in that Netherlands match.
Mortaza, one of the more colourful characters in world cricket, a kind of a man who as a teenager would jump 20 ft off a bridge on to moving trucks — to see that infectiously-bubbly personality wear a long face on Sunday in Bangalore, a day ahead of the match against Australia, jarred. Sad, hurt, emotional, confused, helpless but somehow Mortaza managed to not let any anger seep through. The press interaction ran over half-an-hour, and half of it was in Bengali as there were a lot of Bangladeshi journalists in the audience. You didn’t need to understand the language to sense and feel the inherent sadness.
Mortaza is probably the most emotionally sorted-out senior in the team and you felt he could do with an avuncular arm around the shoulder. The younger players must be in quite an emotional soup.
Concerns over ICC ruling
The online versions of the Bangladesh newspapers have fired shots at ICC. ‘Taskin, a victim of ‘miscarriage of justice’, reads Prothom Alo. The Daily Star phrased its story ‘Did Taskin get justice from ICC? In a lengthy Facebook post, Mustafizur Rahman Khan, a Bangladesh Cricket Board (BCB) lawyer, termed the ICC’s decision a “farce”.
Citing from Taskin’s Independent Assessment Report that was forwarded to him by Bangladesh Cricket Board, the lawyer wrote, “The Assessment did not find anything illegal with Taskin’s stock and yorker deliveries. With respect to the 9 bouncers he was asked to bowl, they found that 3 were bowled using an illegal bowling action.”
Mortaza took the case forward at the press meet. His version can be summarised thus: The tests show Taskin’s bouncers was a problem but he didn’t bowl a single bouncer in that game against Netherlands.
“Taskin was reported after a match. The tests were done accordingly,” Mortaza said. “We have gone through the footage — not a single delivery in that match was illegal. How can he be suspended then? There were some issues during the testing. Not with his full-length deliveries but with his bouncers. But we have seen that he didn’t bowl any bouncers in that game. Do you still suspend him or not?”
At the best of times, Bangladesh cricket can be an emotional potboiler and this certainly is a state of mini-crisis. The lawyer Rahman Khan raised issues with the match report from the Netherlands game in his Facebook post. It didn’t specify whether the action was wrong generally or was there specific deliveries that caused them doubt. “For Taskin, the report simply stated that the match officials were concerned about the legality of the bowling action. If one goes through the form for the report, it also requires the match officials to state the reasons why they are so concerned; in Taskin’s case, no such reason was given,” he wrote. “Hence, to begin with, there is also an issue of whether the match officials’ report was a competent/compliant one, on the basis of which there could have been an assessment in the first place.”
Mortaza threw the ball in BCB’s court. “We have clarified our position with the board. This now depends on the BCB and the ICC. All we want is for justice to be done to our boys. We want to say that there is nothing wrong with Taskin’s action. The board has to take that up. We can’t do anything without the board. It has to come from the board,” Mortaza said.
Their campaign looks at the risk of ending tamely but Mortaza was worried about bigger things. “Taskin and Sunny are obviously disappointed. At the moment it’s very difficult to (make them) understand and tell them that everything will be alright. As a group, the coaching staff and players, are helping them cope. The whole team is behind them. All that we can wish and pray is they come out stronger and fight it out and come back and play for Bangladesh.”