Shakib Al Hasan could make international comeback on Sri Lanka tour

Shakib Al Hasan's international ban ends on October 29 this year Getty Images

Shakib Al Hasan is likely to make an immediate return to the Bangladesh team after his suspension deadline ends on October 29, with Sri Lanka the assumed venue of his comeback. Bangladesh's tour of Sri Lanka is all but confirmed and given how the tour schedule is shaping up, it is more than likely that Shakib will at least feature in the proposed three-match T20I series.

According to SLC chief executive Mohan de Silva, the two boards have reached an agreement on Bangladesh's departure date, but they are still in discussions over whether it will be a two or three-match Test series after the BCB requested a three-match T20I series in addition to the original tour schedule.

Shakib will be training at the BKSP - Bangladesh's largest sporting institute - from next month, so it is likely that the Bangladesh team management will have one eye on his progress towards full fitness.

Head coach Russell Domingo has said Shakib's return will depend on his fitness levels and possibly some match-time under his belt. However, he compared Shakib's year-long break from cricket with the current Bangladesh players also having had to sit out for six months without any on-field action, thanks to the Covid-19 pandemic.

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"I think Shakib being out for a year is not that much different to the rest of our squad who have been out for six or seven months as well," Domingo told ESPNcricinfo. "We are hoping all the players are fit. Obviously, there are standards that they need to attain in terms of fitness level. We have to organize a bit of game time for Shakib, as well as for all the players. It is very difficult to get into international cricket without any sort of cricket. I think we need to try to find some opportunities for him to play some games. He is a world-class player so I am sure he will get back into it pretty soon, but fitness is an important thing."

Domingo, however, said Shakib would have to play unofficial cricket matches as a suspended cricketer, so a lot would depend on his fitness regime and net practice during the next couple of months. "It is something that we have to discuss with the selectors. I don't think he can play any official game before October 29, so all games that he plays have to be unofficial games. It might be inter-squad games but we need to have clarity if he is allowed to play that.

"He has to make sure he is fit and that he starts hitting balls and bowling some balls. Once we assemble before heading off to Sri Lanka - when that tour is confirmed - we will get closer to making a decision. There's still a while to go; it is only August now. His ban finishes in two-and-a-half months. When he is fit and available, we will cross that bridge."

On Tuesday, SLC chief de Silva said Bangladesh's departure date, September 24, is nearly confirmed but the boards are still a couple of days away from finalising the tour schedule. "It is more or less [finalized]," de Silva told the Dhaka-based TV channel Maasranga. "We are actually negotiating. They [BCB] want to play three T20Is and three Tests. So we are actually negotiating with them to reduce one Test and then play the T20Is. We will be able to confirm it within a day or two."