In defense of Shakib Al Hasan

You don’t get to bask in the reflected glory of his achievements all these years and then get to turn around and call him a cry-baby

  • Though not infallible, Shakib is Bangladesh’s first truly world class athlete

Here we go again.

Once again, Bangladesh has disappointed on the cricket field, and once again the national team’s legions of fair-weather fans are trying to salve their battered pride by lashing out and pouring scorn and derision on the players who they feel let them down by performing so tamely.

This ugly chorus of recrimination that invariable greets any kind of a loss is the flip-side of the misplaced pride in someone else’s achievement that is the most distasteful aspect of spectator sports, and one that has regrettably become a durable mainstay of the Bangladeshi cricket world.

Don’t get me wrong. It is fine to feel proud and happy when your team wins. But too many people strut about with their chests puffed out when their team wins, as though they personally scored the winning run or took the crucial wicket.

Newsflash: You didn’t win. Your team did. You achieved nothing. The achievement and the accomplishment was that of the players. It’s a crucial distinction that is lost on far too many.

By the same token, when the team loses, they have not personally let you down, they have not betrayed you, they have not hurt you in any way. In fact, they have done nothing to you. You don’t own them and they owe you nothing.

Fair-weather sports fans not only pat themselves on the back when their team wins, but they are the ones who screech the loudest in their criticism of the players when the team loses. They act as though a loss is a personal affront and the losing team has committed some kind of offense against them.

Win or lose, therefore, the one constant is the smug superiority they clearly feel to the poor saps sweating out there in the field, who exist apparently as nothing more than instruments if not accessories to the ambitions and self-worth of their so-called fans.

This sense of superiority has come through loud and clear in the hysterical response to Shakib Al Hasan’s perfectly reasonable and defensible statements in the wake of Bangladesh’s poor performance at the T20 World Cup.

What did he say that was so wrong? He had the temerity to suggest that the nation has outsize and unrealistic expectations of the national cricket team, and that the enormous pressure under which they operate contributes to their chronic under-performance.

How is this in any way controversial? It is a truism that holds not just for cricket and not just for Bangladesh, but all over the world.

If you think that the kind of pressure that the team faces is nothing special, then you should try holding the hopes of the nation on your shoulders, facing down 90 miles per hour deliveries in front of tens of thousands of screaming fans. I would imagine that it is pretty nerve-wracking.

Yes, the team played poorly at the T20 World Cup. It happens. Get over it.

And please note that while the team played poorly overall, Shakib himself performed creditably, averaging over 37 with the bat, and taking 8 wickets with an economy rate of 5.68, not outstanding, perhaps, but nothing to sneeze at, either.

The latest outburst of vitriol against Shakib is especially galling. All the haters out there gleefully bashing him and sneering about how he has lost their respect need to get one thing straight: Neither you (nor I) are fit to lace Shakib’s cricket boots.

Shakib has more talent in his little finger than you and I have in our entire bodies. He is Bangladesh’s first truly world class athlete, a national pride and a national treasure, and don’t you ever forget it.

He has done more to make the nation proud and thus done more for the nation than you or I could hope to do in ten lifetimes.

Let’s start with that understanding. All criticism needs to be tempered by this realisation.

Does it mean he is infallible? No. Does it mean that he is above criticism? Of course not.

But everything he has achieved should afford him some minimum measure of respect and some minimum goodwill and support.

You don’t get to bask in the reflected glory of his achievements all these years and then get to turn around and call him a cry-baby or whiner the minute he doesn’t live up to your expectations and his frustrations get the better of him.

That’s what being a true fan means. It means standing up for your team through thick and thin. It means cheering their victories, but not jeering their losses. It means celebrating the good times and commiserating the bad. It means taking the rough with the smooth.

It means thinking of and treating the players as the heroes they are, not just when they win, but when they lose, as well.

Source: Dhaka Tribune



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