World Cup 2019: How the efforts of Shakib Al Hasan and other veterans is helping Bangladesh's cause
In the past when Bangladesh won a game of cricket against a team ranked in the top 10 of the ICC rankings, it was considered an upset. Not anymore though.
Over the last five years or so Bangladesh have beaten the likes of New Zealand, England, Pakistan, India, South Africa and the West Indies.
Yes they might not have been consistent enough, but during the World Cup this year we have seen a professional Bangladesh unit who are capable of beating any team on their day.
The key to Bangladesh's success has been the rise of their four most experienced players; Shakib Al Hasan, Musfiqur Rahim, Tamim Iqbal and Mashrafe Mortaza.
All four of these players have been playing ODI cricket for over 12 years or longer, and they are currently reaping the rewards of their hard work and determination.
Experience is one thing, but then to use that collectively to the benefit of the team is another, and these four players have turned Bangladesh into a potent force in world cricket.
Mashrafe Mortaza, the current captain, made his ODI debut in 2001 against Zimbabwe, which was 18 years ago. Despite his knees collapsing and all the injuries he has undergone, Mortaza still manages to run in and bowl a nagging line and length which troubles the best batsmen around the world.
He is also a handy lower batsmen down the order and we have seen him the big shots over the years. The most impressive aspect of Mortaza's game right now is his captaincy and how he has brought this group together to win games against the toughest of oppositions.
Experience, of course, has made him a calm captain but tactically he is astute which is visible through his intelligent bowling changes and immaculate field placements.
This will probably be his last World Cup but he will forever be remembered as the captain who changed Bangladesh from boys to men on the cricket field and turned them into a fearless cricket team.
With 5700 runs, 173 catches and 42 stumpings, Mushfiqur Rahim is the best wicket-keeper batsmen that Bangladesh has produced.
He was always a talented batsman but you could see immaturity creep in at times. One example is when he threw away his wicket against India in the 2016 T20 world cup when the game was in the bag for Bangladesh.
We have seen him mature over the last couple of years, converting starts into big scores.
Rahim has been lethal against fast bowling and is a sweet timer of the ball. Against spin, he uses his feet well and never lets the bowler settle and one of his key attributes is his ability to rotate the strike in the middle overs, which keeps the scoreboard ticking for Bangladesh.
His wicket-keeping is excellent, he is flexible and has quick reflexes and with his energy behind the stumps, Bangladesh are always on their toes in the field.
Tamim Iqbal actually changed Bangladesh's approach when it comes to batting, he was a young man when he debuted in 2007 and we could immediately see him bring in an aggressive style of cricket to the team.
He burst on to the screen with a scintillating knock in the 2007 World Cup which knocked out a strong Indian team in the group stages.
Iqbal has never looked back ever since scoring 6743 runs at an average of 36.05, which includes 11 hundred and 46 fifties.
He has consistently opened the batting for Bangladesh over the last 12 years and has gotten his side off to great starts and setting up many a victory.
We saved the best for last, now it is time to talk about the pne of the best all-rounders in the game currently and probably the best cricketer Bangladesh has ever produced, Shakib Al Hasan.
Shakib has slipped under the radar over the years despite being ranked the number one all-rounder by the ICC.
He quietly goes about his game, getting the job done for his country with both bat and ball. We always talk about the great fast bowling all-rounders such as Kallis, Flintoff, Klusenar, Abdul Razzaq, but here is a left arm batting/spinning all-rounder who has 6101 runs and 254 wickets for his country which is an incredible feat.
Shakib has won matches for Bangladesh consistently, especially over the last four years, with the game against West Indies his most recent achievement.
He scored 124 off 99 balls when his side was under pressure chasing a mammoth total of 322. Shakib made it look like a walk in the park as he pulled out his famous cut shot and decimated the West Indian attack.
Let's not forget Shakib picked up two wickets in the match which speaks volumes for his all-around contribution. He might not spin the ball a great deal but he is a wily customer and can read the batsmen's next move which always keeps him a step ahead of the game. Bangladesh will rely on Shakib in the next few games and if he can carry this rich vein of form, then Bangladesh might be on the brink of history.
When you have four players who are the best players to ever play for your country, play at the same time then you know that you have an exceptional team.
Bangladesh has gotten close recently against many big teams but now it is about taking that one step forward and crossing the line. Although a semi's birth will be a tough ask for them, it is not impossible and if they do achieve it then it will be a historic achievement for the country and for the game of cricket itself.
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