Bangladesh find themselves in an interesting situation. They've done exceedingly well to lap up their recent limited-overs surge with success in whites as well. Wins against Sri Lanka, England and Australia is a fine testimony of their constant growth.
But what about continuity? What about finding the next level of excellence - of competing hard overseas. That's perhaps where they need their best players to be available.
Shakib Al Hasan's recent decision to request for a six-month break from Tests and BCB's call to grant it could put a spanner in the works for the rising Asian side.
Without him, they're a senior batsman and a very clever bowler short. But if he is fatigued, his inclusion might not yield the desired results anyway, and could also end up tiring him out further. Shakib is easily Bangladesh's biggest superstar, but he's also 30 and managing him well should be high on the agenda for a swiftly-progressing Bangladesh.
Shakib is the best judge of himself
How much cricket is too much cricket? This is a question which is often brought up by well-wishers of the game with the primary concern being that of viewer fatigue. The international calendar is as packed as it has ever been, and whatever pockets of space are spared in a year, T20 leagues are there to fill them all. But players, well players are supposed to adhere to the grind. They're the ones who are smiling all the way to the bank after all, assuming that there is some surplus time after completing the media commitments.
The more the wood, the greater the fire, it's true. But the fire usually dies if you don't allow it some room to breathe. Modern day cricket is taxing at the best of times, and recently, more and more players have voiced concern over the grueling schedule. AB de Villiers is the most recent example. Even someone as fit as him felt that he needed time off from the game. De Villiers, in fact, last played a Test match over 20 months back, and has only recently made himself available again in the longest format.
"Over the past year or so, I've tried to manage my commitments. I've felt mentally and physically tired. Playing in all three formats ever since 2004 has taken its toll. Together with Cricket South Africa, we've tried to develop a viable schedule which allows me to prolong my career for as long as possible," de Villiers had said.
Shakib, 30, isn't getting any younger. He has served Bangladesh for around a decade now, and during this time, he has been at the forefront of their rise in the cricketing world. And only now, with his team a force to be reckoned with, and many young talents emerging, does he wish for a brief sabbatical from red-ball cricket. That he has chosen to opt out of Test matches instead of limited-overs cricket is sure to raise eyebrows. But it's worth pointing out that while the shorter formats can be more physically demanding, Test cricket drains you mentally.
There's no arguing the fact that the longer Shakib plays, the better it will be for Bangladesh. It's also important to note that he is the best judge of himself, and only he can decide what's best for him. So if a little break is going to help him rejuvenate, why not? He's deserved that.
Why not take a break from limited-overs cricket?
Bangladesh cricket is at a crucial juncture in its journey at the moment. Wins against England, Sri Lanka and now Australia in Tests, wins against sides like India and South Africa in ODI series at home have put them on track to achieve much more. After their wins at home and the historic win in Sri Lanka, it's crucial for the team to continue their forward march in overseas conditions. If they do well in South Africa, that'll send out a message that they aren't just competetive at home but can challenge sides in alien conditions as well.
At this stage, the side not only needs Shakib's all-round skills but him being present as a mentor as well. The team still has the likes of Mushfiqur Rahim and coach Chandika Hathurusingha, but Shakib's stature in the team is much bigger and more valued. Shakib played a key role in dismantling the Australians in the first Test in Dhaka. Imagine if they are struggling in South Africa and don't have the experience of Shakib to fall back upon?