'Best to play when I'm at my best' | The Daily Star
01:01 AM, September 13, 2017 / LAST MODIFIED: 01:06 AM, September 13, 2017

'Best to play when I'm at my best'

There were constant discussions with his wife, his other family members and his friends over the past few days before Shakib Al Hasan decided to take a break from the upcoming two-match Test series in South Africa and eventually handed the Bangladesh Cricket Board a letter last week asking for a six-month break from Tests.

When it was revealed that the premier all-rounder asked for the break and was subsequently granted leave from the South Africa Tests, the news spread like wildfire and was the centre of all discussion in cricketing circles.

Yesterday, Shakib invited media personnel to his residence to explain the reasons behind his decision, an invitation that was accepted by a large number of reporters.

The 30-year-old finished his lunch and had one last talk with his friends and family before coming down to face the media in the garage area of his apartment building.

He generally likes to cut to the chase whenever he faces the media but it was a different Shakib who elaborated on his views and plans as to why he decided to take a break from the longest version of the game.

"I have been thinking about taking the break for quite some time now. I have spoken to my family and friends ahead of this series about it. I think this will help me. Since I play a lot, I can't focus on my fitness or even try to be mentally fresh. I have been playing for 10-11 years, so I think I deserve a break. I don't know what I will do during this break... I think I will spend more time with my family and maybe I will go for a holiday, hang out with friends and try to stay away from cricket as much as I can and I will also have time to prepare for the ODI and T20I series.

"In Test cricket, my role is such that I have to contribute in all four innings. If I am contributing half the time, I won't be able to meet the team's expectations. I think it is best to play when I know I can give my best in all four innings. It is not important to me to just play for the sake of match fees and salary. This is my job, for sure, but I started playing out of interest, passion and love for the game. If that's not there, I don't see the point in playing.

“The main reason is I think I still have a lot of cricket to play for a longer period and if I want to play for a long time, this break is very important. I do want to play but do you want me to play for just 1-2 years or for the next 5-6 years? I feel that if I continue like this I will only be able to play for the next one or two years, not more. I want to take the break to get refreshed, more mentally than physically, so that I can continue playing for the next five years without any tension. I think it's more important for me to stay away from cricket for a month or for two Tests.

“It was not hard for me to convince the board to grant me the break because I don't think there is anything wrong or unethical about me wanting some respite,” he added.

Many have criticised his decision to take a break from Tests and not the limited-overs format.

“I don't react to those [criticisms]. I know how much my body goes through. I am surprised when people question why I am not resting from limited-overs matches or other T20s. There is really no pressure when playing those T20 matches. It seems like a holiday to me, with a bit of experience and of course, it is financially important too,” Shakib said.

When asked whether he wants to quit the longest format of the game to focus more on limited-overs cricket Shakib insisted that Test cricket is the format he will retire from last, after calling time on his T20 and ODI careers.

However, Shakib is happy to have been granted the break and said that if the board wants him and if Shakib feels ready mentally he will think of returning for the Sri Lanka series at the end of this year.

He also opined that there will not be much of a difference in the upcoming South Africa tour and said that the Tigers have the ability to perform well without him.

The top-ranked all-rounder also urged his teammates to speak up whenever they need a break to recover from the workload.

“Obviously if someone thinks that they are playing a lot and they need a break I think they should speak up from the bottom of their hearts. I think it will benefit their careers, let's say I am not feeling at a hundred per cent, but I still play and perform badly in these two Tests; then you will say that I should be dropped. That's normal, so as long I am playing I will try to give my best,” he added.

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