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Bangladesh Cricket And General Election 2024: Shakib Al Hasan Plays A New Game - Will Legend Find Success In His Political Innings?

Splitting time with his cricketing duties, Bangladesh national team star Shakib Al Hasan will contest the Bangladeshi General Elections 2024. But what made the cricket icon turn toward politics?

Shakib Al Hasan playing for the Bangladesh men's cricket test team
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If his career can be split into two uneven halves, then Shakib Al Hasan's sporting legacy will amount to what, in cricketing terms, we call the first innings. A part of the Bangladesh cricket team since 2006, Shakib is a national icon whose influence had long ago escaped the confines of the sport and now hangs all over the country. That, perhaps, is why Bangladesh's ruling party, Sheikh Hasina's Awami League-led Grand Alliance, was delighted to have him in their corner for the upcoming Bangladeshi General Elections 2024. (Cricket News)

"He is a celebrity and has great popularity among the country's youth," Awami League joint secretary Bahauddin Nasim explained in an interview once Shakib's nomination had been filed. 

Shakib joined the Awami League in November, days after the conclusion of the ICC Cricket World Cup 2023. In doing so, the Bangladesh cricketing great aligned with the party that has presided over the country since 2009, winning three general elections in succession. Sheikh Hasina is the leader of the Awami League and has, in turn, functioned as Bangladesh's Prime Minister for a decade and a half. 

Though seemingly popular with the locals, many within and outside Bangladesh have often described Hasina and AL's rule as authoritarian. The legitimacy of their reign has been scrutinised before, but never were the critics as loud as they were after their landslide win in 2018. Awami League won the elections by a whopping 72.14 per cent seats back then, retaining control of the nation's parliament after a process marred by violence. 

Protesting against the Awami League's rule, the election process, and its 'undemocratic nature', Bangladesh's main opposition party, the Bangladesh Nationalist Party, has boycotted the poling cycle since 2014. As such, the Awami League-led Grand Alliance are the overwhelming favourite to retain the parliament for the fourth time running, which, in turn, could have minor implications for the Bangladesh national cricket team. 

Should Shakib Al Hasan win from his seat in Magura-1, he will split responsibilities between cricket and politics, provided he continues to partake in the former. This, however, is not a situation new to Bangladesh. Six years earlier, another gem of Bangladeshi cricket had charted the same course: Mashrafe Mortaza, widely regarded as one of the finest sportspersons the nation has produced, contested and won the Narail-2 seat under the Awami League banner. The all-rounder, however, would take his leave from the international arena soon after, but he remains active in domestic cricket at the time of writing. 

Shakib, though, is determined to juggle the two, that is, should he win from his seat. 

"I think they (cricket and politics) can be managed. Managing time will not be a problem because I have done it in the past and can do it in future as well, and have full confidence on me to make that happen," he said in an interview. "I don't think that will be the case with me (having any misunderstanding with the board) because I am straightforward."

If he is successful, early January 2024 will mark the commencement of Shakib Al Hasan's second innings. If they are even fractionally as impactful as his first, Bangladesh, the nation as a whole, will revel in delight - something Shakib is well accustomed to delivering. 

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