The second Test match of Bangladesh’s tour of Sri Lanka. Around three overs left in the second day’s play and replying to the Islanders’ sizeable 338, the Tigers have lost three wickets to stumble from 192 for 2 to 198 for 5. The man who walks onto the pitch is their most experienced batsman.
What is he expected to do? To play out the overs safely without taking any risks, right? But this is Shakib Al Hasan. He faces eight balls and scores 18 runs, surviving a scare in between. The next day, though, when everybody is after his head, the southpaw scores an exquisite century to give his side the advantage.
This is Shakib Al Hasan. The 2nd ranked all-rounder in Test cricket and the best in limited overs format. Over the years, there have been many talented players representing Bangladesh. The likes of Habibul Bashar, Mohammed Ashraful and Tamim Iqbal have enthralled the Bangladeshi cricket fans.
However, Shakib has overshadowed them all. Here are five reasons attesting to that.
#5 Success outside the subcontinent
Players from the sub-continent have found success inside the sub-continent, in general. But many have failed to make an impact outside – in foreign conditions. They fail to acclimatise – the batsmen fail to cope with the swing and pace of the wicket while the spinners fail to extract spin from the wicket.
Shakib, however, is a different breed.
Not only has he found success in county cricket, the Caribbean Premier League, and in the KFC Twenty20 Big Bash but for the national side as well.
In fact, his ODI first century came against Canada (granted, not the strongest of oppositions but still) in St. John's, Antigua and Barbuda. In Test cricket as well, his first hundred came against New Zealand in the windy conditions of Hamilton. Most recently, he scored his maiden double hundred in Wellington, against the Kiwis in what was a magnificent innings.
As a bowler too Shakib has made the most of the unfavourable conditions. His first three five-wicket hauls in Test cricket came abroad while his only five-wicket haul in ODIs was in Zimbabwe.
#4 Performance under pressure
Shakib’s ability to perform in high-intensity situations is what sets him apart from the rest of the flock. Whenever Bangladesh are in need of a wicket, he is the one the whole nation looks up to, whenever Bangladesh need runs on the board, he is the one who carries everyone’s hopes.
And time and again, he has proved himself worthy of all the admiration. The ongoing match against Sri Lanka has provided ample proof of that. The match against New Zealand in which Shakib scored his debut ODI century, however, is the one that first showcased this side of his game the best.
In adverse conditions, Bangladesh, who were batting first, had lost the first three wickets by the seventh over of the game. In an innings when all the other batsmen failed to show up, Shakib scored a magnificent hundred. He also picked up three wickets to bundle the Kiwis out eight runs short of the target.
Moreover, he had to cope with the extra pressure of leading and holding together a brittle Bangladeshi side when he was the skipper. Yet, his performances never took the fall.
There have been talks of Shakib’s arrogance, his ego problems. However, that he knows that he is the best player in Bangladesh is probably a good thing. All the young players in the team idolise him – they want to be like him.
And Shakib is perhaps the best role model for these youngsters. As a captain, he was commanding, outspoken. On the field, he was aggressive – a characteristic that is said to be the only thing stopping him from greatness. But how many of those who talk and dissect the game can actually say that they have led their country to their first ever overseas Test victory?
Even after he was stripped of the captaincy, the all-rounder continued to perform exceptionally well. He set an example for the youngsters by leading from the front. Captain Mashrafe Mortaza maybe the heart and soul of the team but it is Shakib Al Hasan that the players (and the whole nation) look up to.
Consistency is probably the hardest thing in any sport. It is the thing that sets apart the world-class players from the average ones. In the world of cricket, no other all-rounder has been as been as consistent as Shakib. He climbed to the top of the all-rounder rankings back in 2009 and he has not fallen out of the top three since then.
When Shakib made his debut in 2006 against Zimbabwe, there was no doubt that he was exceptionally talented. But Bangladesh has had the reputation of producing one series wonders more than the ones who stay on. The all-rounder, however, belonged to the latter section.
With consistent performances, in contrasting circumstances, Shakib has managed to cement his place in the senior team. Over the years, he has proved to be Bangladesh’s most prolific second most run-scorer and most prolific wicket taker.
In a career spanning more than 10 years, the southpaw has managed a batting average of over 40 in Test cricket and a bowling average of 32.68. In ODIs, he averages 34.70 while batting and 28.07 while bowling.
Let’s take a look at the statistics. Shakib is not only the second most successful Bangladeshi batsmen across all formats, he is also the most successful bowler. He has found success in Test cricket as well as limited overs cricket and at one time was ranked the top all-rounder across all three formats of the game – a feat no one in the world has been able to match.
He makes the average batting line-up of Bangladesh look strong. He leads the spin-bowling attack of the team. His fielding (which is perhaps the weakest aspect of his game) is still better than most of his teammates. He provides the much-needed balance to the side. And he can lead the team as well. If that’s not versatility what is?
And it is this versatility that makes him so special. Bangladesh – no strike that out – the world has never seen a more talented all-rounder in recent times. Shakib is, by far, the best all-rounder of the current generation across all formats.