Shakib Al Hasan packs many things into the regular phenomenon that is “Shakib Al Hasan Day”. He rescues Bangladesh’s batting from a slump. He farms the strike with a tailender as he looks for a late burst of runs. When handed the ball, he makes early breakthroughs, offers middle-overs stability and then adds the finishing touches with late wickets. These are supposed to be rare days, but Shakib has had many in his 16-year career.
Shakib now has a fifty and a four-for in an ODI for the fourth time in his career, the most by any cricketer, beating the three times by Chris Gayle and Shahid Afridi. He has also done the five-for.
But a brilliant allrounder playing for a team often in trouble usually means that these Shakib Al Hasan days are more necessary than ornamental.
In this game Shakib touched 300 ODI wickets, and is now 24 short of reaching 7,000 runs in the format. Only Afridi and Sanath Jayasuriya have reached these heights in ODIs. On most days, Jayasuriya and Afridi had seven or eight match-winners to share the load. For much of his career, Shakib had two or three others. Now perhaps there are a few more.
It is hard to decide which of Shakib’s performances on Monday was more meaningful. Both were critical to Bangladesh’s win.
He made 75 off 71 balls when the innings was in decline. He couldn’t find any of Mushfiqur Rahim, Mahmudullah, Afif Hossain and Mehidy Hasan Miraz to stick around for long enough to share slogging duties in the last ten overs.
To ride out Bangladesh’s mini middle-order collapse, Shakib waited for 35 balls before getting his first boundary. When he did, he struck Sam Curran for two in a row. The rest of his boundaries came towards the death, when he was running out of partners, but Shakib is the sort of busy player who reaches 30-odd without anyone noticing and then finds the boundaries.
Shakib then had work to do with the ball. England went off to another quick start, before he removed both openers, Phil Salt and Jason Roy, to bring the home side into parity. Salt was cross with himself for getting out to a short ball, but Roy had no answer for what he calls Shakib’s “undercutter”. It is essentially the arm ball, which Roy played back, and allowed to sneak under his bat.
Shakib kept bowling tightly but those watching had his impending 300th wicket in mind. It was also increasingly looking like his last two overs, which Tamim had kept him back for after finishing Taijul Islam’s spell from the pavilion end, were going to shape the match.
Taijul removed Jos Buttler, but Shakib also took James Vince’s wicket to seal the deal, getting Vince to follow his line on leg and middle only for it to break sharply and take the outside edge (Mushfiqur Rahim juggled a bit but took it safely). For his 300th ODI wicket, Rehan Ahmed couldn’t time Shakib’s half-tracker, only to be caught at short midwicket.
Bangladesh have always won when Shakib has taken four wickets and scored a fifty in an ODI. The first instance came in the seminal Bangladesh-New Zealand series of 2010. Shakib started the series with 58 and a four-wicket haul, apart from being thrust into the captaincy following Mashrafe Mortaza’s injury in the first over.
What takes Shakib to the strata of truly great allrounders is his consistency in Tests. He has taken five wickets and scored a fifty in Tests ten times. Only Ian Botham has done it more. Shakib has done the single fifty and five-for six times, and one instance each for two fifties and a five-for, a hundred and a five-for, a hundred and a 10-wicket haul, and a fifty and 10-for. Bangladesh won only three of these Tests.
It highlights the physical load Shakib has taken over the years, regardless of the team’s result. For a long time since Mohammad Rafique retired, Shakib had to do the attacking, consolidating and defending with the ball. He has always had to quickly put the pads on too, to get the team a fighting half-century. Only in the Tests against West Indies (2009), Zimbabwe (2014) and Australia (2017) did the rest of the team contribute enough to win the Tests.
Tamim Iqbal, who has seen these days from Shakib for many years, praised his long-time teammate for his contributions.
“I thought he was phenomenal,” he said. “The way he batted, especially with the tailenders, those 20-25 runs were very important. Honestly, the wicket didn’t have that much spin, but the way he bowled was brilliant. It gave confidence to Taijul, who didn’t start well. He was talking to Shakib. I thought it was a fantastic effort from him.”
Tamim said Shakib’s ability to handle pressure made him a special cricketer and called him a “blessing”.
“I think he is mentally very strong,” he added. “Most of the time you will see him come out of pressure situations with similar performances. He has done it in the past. He has great skill-set to back his mentality. Not many people are blessed like him to bowl 10 overs and bat the way he bats. Any team will be blessed to have a player like him.”
Blessing is perhaps the best way to describe Shakib for Bangladesh. Over 16 years, it has at times been a bit of a stretch to ask him do it over and over again. But Shakib has done it, be it in a dead rubber or on the biggest stage. In another World Cup year, a final push from Shakib is critical to Bangladesh’s ambitions.
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