al Hasan: A Cautionary Tale

Adrian Meredith takes a look into the suspension of Shakib al Hasan

Poor old Bangladesh.

As if it isn’t bad enough that they went from World Cup semi-final chance to finishing 3rd last, have lost just about everything since, and have to qualify via the first round of next year’s World T20. They are now going to have to do it without their biggest star, with all-rounder Shakib al Hasan banned for the next year. While he could play in the later stages of the tournament, if Smith & Warner’s bans are any guide, he probably won’t play.

Shakib’s crime was to fail to report approaches by a bookmaker. He was given a year-long ban, with a second year suspended, providing that he has good behaviour for that second year. It’s on the low side of the penalties he could have received, as the ICC rules allow bans to be anywhere from six months to five years.

Shakib was approached three times: in November 2017, January 2018 and April 2018. And, based on the publicly revealed text messages between Shakib and the illegal bookmaker Aggarwal, he was seriously considering fixing matches. Credit to Shakib that he didn’t fix anything, but he thought about it.

Perhaps it is harsh to be penalised at all for simply thinking about doing something, but in the history of cricket he is not the only one to be punished like this.

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Marlon Samuels was banned for five years for match fixing, as was Kenya’s Maurice Odumbe. Mohammad Amir was banned for five years for spot fixing, which amounted to bowling a couple of no balls on purpose. Mohammad Asif didn’t even do that, and Salman Butt just agreed to help them to do it. All 5 year bans and a year in jail.

And then there is the case of Sreesanth, banned for life for match fixing he didn’t commit, found guilty in error, not guilty on appeal, but the BCCI refused to overturn the ban. They recently did overturn it, six years after the ban came into effect, which has effectively ended his career, as he is now 36 years old and is now more likely to take up boxing than resume his cricket career.

Shakib was punished severely compared to historical cases of Mark Waugh and Shane Warne, who were approached by illegal bookmakers in the 1990s. They were eventually approached by Pakistan captain Salim Malik, along with Tim May, and were made into heroes, but what Shakib did was pretty much the same level, and they only got a $1,000 fine.

A lot of time has passed since then and a lot of attitudes have changed. Perhaps Warne and Waugh should have been banned for a year, but they weren’t, but that doesn’t mean that Shakib’s ban was harsh.

Shakib can spend the next year taking a rest from the game. He’s been hard at work carrying Bangladesh, and can take a break, rest himself up and come back bigger and better than ever.

Oh, and for everyone saying how unfairly harsh this is compared to Bancroft, Smith and Warner, consider that they were trying to win, while Shakib was thinking about deliberately losing. Both are cheaters, but at least if you are cheating to win you’re in the right direction. Bancroft got the harshest penalty ever for ball tampering – nine months compared to the previous longest penalty of two matches. While Smith and Warner are the only people in history to be banned for “association with ball tampering”, and they got a whole year for it.

This is a fairly light sentence really. It’s certainly not as harsh as the three Australians got, and the crime was arguably a whole lot worse.

Any lighter penalty and it wouldn’t serve to teach people not to match fix.

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