Bangladesh cricket is eager to welcome Shakib Al Hasan back into the dressing room with open arms. That is the belief of Mahmudullah, who took over as the team's T20I captain soon after Shakib was handed a 12-month ban.
Shakib, whose ban ends on October 29, is currently in the USA with his family, but could return to the Bangladesh fold as early as next month.
"Our boy is coming back home, which makes me very happy," Mahmudullah told ESPNcricinfo. "We know that Shakib has been the best player for so many years, for the Bangladesh cricket team. We are all eagerly waiting for his return to the dressing room. It feels good to know that we can see him, talk to him and spend time with him."
Shakib had completed a four-week training camp with his mentors Mohammad Salahuddin and Nazmul Abedeen Fahim at the BKSP in September. The training, which was mostly conducted behind closed doors, was geared towards his return to the Bangladesh team during their (then scheduled) tour of Sri Lanka. He was slated to play the second Test, but the tour got postponed for a second time last month.
Since the ban, Shakib has mostly stayed away from the public eye, besides the odd interview or social media post. He is likely to make his comeback at the five-team T20 tournament which the BCB has orgnaised from mid-November.
Mahmudullah, who has spent all of his 13-year international career playing alongside Shakib, feels the allrounder will fit right back in without any rust.
"Shakib is a champion player. I think it won't take him long to get back to rhythm. I believe that he will get it back as soon as he enters the cricket field.
"The biggest thing is that we can fill up the gap that his absence had created. He always makes important contributions with the bat and ball."
Replacing Shakib has been a major headache for Bangladesh during this period, with the team already in transition after the 2019 World Cup. Shakib was leading the side in Tests and T20Is. After his suspension, Bangladesh struggled to make any mark during tours to India and Pakistan, and only salvaged some pride by beating Zimbabwe comprehensively at home across all three formats earlier this year.
Minhajul Abedin, the BCB chief selector, echoed the views of Mahmudulla, predicting Shakib to ease back into competitive cricket through upcoming domestic tournaments.
"Our best player is coming back to the field," he said. "He now has to prepare himself for domestic tournaments since we don't have any international series for the time being. We have to monitor his physical condition. Let him start in domestic cricket. We should give him time but he is a very experienced player. He won't take long to get back into rhythm.
"He may have been injured before a series. He has missed a few Tests recently too, so we have to choose whoever is available in the present condition. We definitely missed him. He is one of the best allrounders in the world, and there are so few of them these days. We were lucky to have a batting allrounder like him, which gave us a lot of advantage."
Bangladesh's next international assignment is likely to be a home series against West Indies in January 2021. Bangladesh have so far had eight Tests as well as a handful of ODIs and T20Is postponed, due to the Covid-19 pandemic.