World Cup 2019: Why Shakib's innings against West Indies is the best of the tournament so far
Taunton is a beautiful provincial ground in England surrounded by both natural and medieval architectural beauty. A World Cup game here, with its short boundaries and green, bucolic perimeter, almost seems incongruous, but Taunton has always produced memorable moments at the mega event.
Who can forget Sourav Ganguly and Rahul Dravid's record-shattering partnership at the same venue against Sri Lanka in another World Cup 20 years ago?
This was different
However, what Shakib Al Hasan produced on Monday will stand out as a more revolutionary knock than what Ganguly and Dravid, majestic though they were, produced on that day in 1999. That's simply because of the context of the innings.
Shakib's own ascent as the top all-rounder of the world and, arguably, one of the best batsmen in the world based on current form, was synchronous with the birth of a new Bangladesh. A Bangladesh that is capable of intrepidity, of chasing down 322 within 42 overs while losing just three wickets.
This was a truly remarkable victory for a team that has often been considered a pushover in the global game. It was final proof that they have slowly but surely improved their game to an extent where they can beat any team on their day.
Shakib himself was in a league of his own in a thrilling chase as he attacked from the word go. His delectable on-drives and text book square-cuts were a thing of artistic precision, and he combined them lofted sixes and pulls that demonstrated his all-round game.
His unbeaten 124 came off just 99 balls and followed another crisp century in a losing cause against top guns England.
Why it was special
For years Shakib was considered a crafty left-arm spinner who could also bat, but the way he has transformed his craft with the willow has to be seen to be believed. While it's true that he rode his luck on a few occasions, and that the one-dimensional West Indies bowling were guilty of being predictably short all the time, we can't take anything away from his shot-making under pressure of a big chase.
His dazzling partnership with Liton Das lit up the stadium and followed another productive partnership with Tamim Iqbal. Shakib also brought up 6000 runs in the process and joined an elite club of players to have taken 250 wickets and 6000 runs in the ODI game.
The best so far
We have had batsmen who have scored more runs in an innings this tournament. Jason Roy and Aaron Finch have both crossed the 150 mark in typically aggressive fashion, and Rohit Sharma's 140 against Pakistan was a thing of pure beauty. But in terms of the context and the dominance of Shakib's innings, it has to be rated as the best in the Cup so far.
Moreover, the tournament required a big chase like this after so many teams faltering in their quest to run down 300-plus totals. Shakib and Bangladesh showed that it could be done, and that too in stupendous fashion.
We should also remember that there were nine overs still to go. If Bangladesh were batting first, who knows where Shakib would have ended?
In the end, it simply remains the best because it signifies how far Shakib, the individual, has come along with his team - a new and steely Bangladesh that everyone will respect.
Also read - World cup winners