Someday, in the distant future, Bangladesh Cricket will be a force to reckon with - not that they aren't one just yet - a force that other teams will speak of in hushed tones. They’ll speak of the confidence in their stride, their ability to boss games and win from any situation. But most of all, they’ll talk about a team that never gives up, a team that can do it all. And when they do so, they must speak of their ultimate all-rounder: Shakib Al Hasan.
When Shakib takes the field against Australia in Chittagong, he will enter an elite club of Bangladeshi cricketers. It’ll be his 50th test. For a nation that plays relatively fewer games and travels abroad for test cricket even less, that’s a feat to be immensely proud of. What should give all of Shakib’s supporters even more joy is that he enters this series as world’s best Test all-rounder. Yes, numero uno on the ICC’s Test All-rounder’s rankings!
Now take a moment off, transport yourselves back to late in the previous decade. If you told Bangladesh Cricket that they’ll have a World No.1 all-rounder in less than 10 years, back then, chances were, they’d have laughed you out of the room. Come 2017, Shakib, world’s No.1 Test all-rounder is ready to make his 50th appearance for Bangladesh in whites.
So, what makes Shakib the ultimate all-rounder? Sure there are many of his ilk going around. There’s Ravindra Jadeja, then there’s Moeen Ali and Ben Stokes and Ravi Ashwin and a number of others. What’s so special in this one from Bangladesh?
His ability to never say never is special. His ability to dig deep when things around him are falling apart is special. His willingness to play more and more and more is special. Shakib is special!
At 33-4 against New Zealand in Cardiff in the Champions Trophy, Shakib comes out to bat alongside Mahmudullah, for the Bangladeshi team from the early 2000s, this was a perfect platform to implode further and bundle out for less than 100. But this Bangladeshi side was unrecognisable from that one.
Under the pump, Shakib and Mahmudullah dig their heels and pile 224 runs between them. The most for any wicket for Bangladesh against any opposition. They end up winning it for Bangladesh by 5 wickets. Every time there’s a question on what belief and ability can do, cite this example. Shakib scored 114 off 115 and was adjudged the player of the match.
In his debut test as captain, against the West Indies, Shakib scored an unbeaten 96 in a tight chase of 215 and also took eight wickets. In Hamilton against New Zealand, where he was captaining in his fourth test, he scored 87 and 100 and almost won Bangladesh the game with his maiden test century.
All of these examples put together, compile a mosaic of a strong character that is Shakib’s USP. For you can take away a player’s form, his technique may have glitches, the head may fall over and the delivery stride may not be the most fluent. But how do you dent a character of steel? How do you, as an opposition, penetrate someone as strong as Shakib? Just how?
Bangladesh is ready to host Australia. They really are ‘ready’ and you know it when you know that they’re playing Australia’s game too. Shakib in the build-up to the first-test said, ‘our spinners are better than Australia’s at home’. Maybe that statement is true, maybe it isn’t. Maybe it’s the new-found confidence talking, maybe that confidence has now metamorphosed into arrogance. Whatever it is, it shows how far has Bangladesh Cricket come.
The last time Australia toured Bangladesh, Bangladesh were minnows personified. 11 years on, they’re staring the once invincible Aussies in the eye.
Bangladesh, in its very short history as an independent State, has had to go through myriad struggles. Nothing came easy. Recognition, investment, respect, they had to toil very hard to earn all of that. Bangladeshi Cricket had to mirror the State. Nothing came easy for a bunch of cricketers from erstwhile East Pakistan. They were considered inferiors to and by their counterparts from Pakistan. They had to stand up and play out of their skins to show that they weren’t inferiors and that they belonged.
Players like Shakib and others from his generation have toiled through all of that. The toil to get everything that must otherwise come directly to an international athlete. Maybe that is why this current batch of Bangladeshi cricketers is a bunch of hustlers. The leader of their pack being the ever so cunning, Shakib. Just when oppositions think they’ve got Bangladesh by the throat, Shakib finds a way out. Shakib always has a way out. There’s your answer to why is he ‘The Ultimate all-rounder’!Published 27 Aug 2017, 13:36 IST