Since Bangladesh's torment on the tour of South Africa began, in other words since the first day of the first Test on September 28, skipper Mushfiqur Rahim has faced up to the media four times, with the first day of the second Test being an unexpected and unusual appearance as captains normally take questions before and after each Test. It was also that appearance that very publicly exposed tension between the head coach Chandika Hathurusingha and Mushfiqur, who said that the management had instructed him to field in the deep.
Hathurusingha, meanwhile, has not answered for his charges' performances since he last fronted up to the media on the eve of the first Test, when the going was still good. There are things to be asked, such as why were the batsmen so clueless against short-pitched bowling even on fairly docile pitches? Was there not adequate preparation or net practice with South African conditions in mind? These are questions that only a head coach can answer, and Bangladesh's team management and the Bangladesh Cricket Board (BCB) are presiding over a situation where communication from the team to their adoring public is, to say the least, seen as unimportant and not worth the time or effort to organise.
Yesterday, for the second time on this tour the Bangladesh team management took the quite absurd step of shutting out the press from their practice session. They did it two days before the second Test when rain forced them indoors, barring Bangladeshi media from seeing the practice or taking pictures from the viewing area. Interestingly, a South African journalist was allowed in minutes after the Bangladeshi press was ushered out. It is absurd because, unlike in football where formations are closely guarded secrets, there is nothing much to be secretive about to the point of shutting the windows on the outside world. Also, it was a source of mirth for the South African scribes that there was such a thing as a closed-door practice session in cricket.
It was informed by chief selector turned team manager for this tour Minhajul Abedin yesterday, that no one will talk to the media and it was the decision of the management that no one from the team or the coaching staff will speak other than during official press conferences.
The very appointment of Minhajul, one of the country's best batsmen but who does not seem most at ease with the stop-gap role of tour manager which often involves striking a balance between the team's seniors and the coaching staff, as manager betrays the BCB's disinterest in such matters. In this tour so far, he has struggled to manage either party. Minhajul said on October 9 that the coach will speak on October 11, the day before the practice game. In fact, he has fielded demands for Hathurusingha to face the questions and Minhajul has consistently deferred that action, culminating in yesterday's declaration.
If this media freeze came about because of Mushfiqur's outburst after the first day of the second Test -- which according to BCB president Nazmul Hassan the captain should not have done publicly -- then it must be asked why he was allowed to go to the press conference in the first place. It was learnt that Rubel Hossain was supposed to take questions that day, but Mushfiqur overrode any directive to the contrary.
Yesterday, when one journalist approached Hathurusingha to ask whether he had wanted the media frozen out, the Sri Lankan very brusquely answered that he is only the coach and that the manager should be asked. When it was informed that the manager was the one who gave the directive, Hathurusingha said: “you are wasting your time and you are wasting my time,” and made his way to the team bus.
It seems that for the BCB, how the team and management is represented and perceived is a waste of time, as is the need for the answers to come from within the cricketing setup. Perhaps all questions should be directed at them.