A batsman can’t think much when he walks out to bat with his team reeling on a score of 10 runs for the loss of three wickets in quick succession. General notion is to hang in there in the middle and see off that tricky period. ‘Survival’ is the only word that keeps ringing in the mind of the batsman.
But, how many batsmen can think otherwise and go on a counterpunch without being bothered about the situation, that too against a team that has never lost a match against them? Shakib Al Hasan did exactly that with tremendous confidence, self-belief and vigour on the first day of the first Test match against Australia at Mirpur.
Counter punch with the bat
Australia were all over the Bangladeshi Tigers when Shakib had walked out to bat. Pat Cummins was breathing fire with his bowling as he had claimed all three of the wickets that had fallen. The large crowd that had come to see their side put on a good show on a bright Sunday morning with much excitement and enthusiasm were disappointed to see their side in such a troubled situation. They had lost all hopes because they were not much accustomed to seeing their beloved team recovering from these kind of positions very often.
However, Shakib revived the hopes of the Bangladeshi fans once again with a tremendous batting display. He took a measured approach and counter-attacked the Aussies in a controlled way. The way he mixed caution with aggression during the course of his innings was no less than an art.
The result was a 155-run stand for the fourth wicket that ended with Tamim Iqbal’s soft dismissal. Shakib also departed afterwards for a classy knock of 84 runs during which he had sent the ball 11 times to the boundary. With a few small partnerships after that Bangladesh had managed to get to a total of 260 which was supposed to be good for that kind of pitch. Tamim’s innings of 71 runs also played a vital role for Bangladesh but it was Shakib’s innings that had taken the pressure off him during the initial stage and provided Bangladesh the momentum to reach a total in excess of 250.
Shakib shines with the ball in hand
Shakib’s fight was not over there. After his vigil with the bat it was now time to wage the war with the ball in hand. After Mehdy Hasan had provided the early breakthrough sending back the dangerous David Warner back to the pavilion and Usman Khawaja’s brain fade moment that resulted in his run-out, Shakib Al Hasan struck at the closing stages of the day. He trapped Nathan Lyon lbw for a duck and rendered Australia’s night watchman totally ineffective.
Australia ended Day 1 on a score of 18/3 and that little spell from Shakib showed signs of what to expect on the next day. He bamboozled the batsmen with his sliders on a turning Day 2 track and by the end of Australia’s innings that folded for a mere 217 runs, Shakib had figures of 5/68 to his name.
From an absolutely down and out position on the morning of Day 1, Shakib fought and fought hard both with the bat and ball to push his side to a commanding position by the end of Day 2. His fighting spirit is not something that he has accumulated from experience. It was right there from an early age.
“When I used to play with the tennis ball at my home in Magura, I hated losing. Most of the time I used to win. And I always liked batting, bowling, and fielding – I wanted to be the best. The fighting mindset was there from childhood – I don’t know where that came from, but it was there, from the earliest time that I can remember,” Shakib had told The Guardian in an interview before the start of the first Test.
Earning a Place in Cricket history
His five wicket-haul also made him only the fourth bowler in Test history to have registered five-fors against 9 different Test teams. Muttiah Muralitharan, Rangana Herath and Dale Steyn being the other three bowlers to do so. Being Bangladesh’s highest wicket taker in Tests with a total of 181 scalps to his name, it was just another feather added to his cap.
Whenever there is a debate around the best all-rounders of the contemporary period, people opine on either of the four between Ravichandran Ashwin, Ben Stokes, Ravindra Jadeja and Moeen Ali. However, only a few people bring up the name of Bangladesh’s own Shakib Al Hasan.
ICC rates him as the top all-rounder in all three formats of the game at present. Yet, according to many people he is not as good an all-rounder as the other four. The only reason being he is from Bangladesh and Bangladesh don’t play that many Test matches as the other teams do.
However, it is not Bangladesh’s fault that they have been discarded of playing bulk number of Test matches over the years like other teams. But, the limited number of Test matches that Bangladesh have played against top Test playing nations, Shakib has always delivered big either with the bat or with the ball if not with both.
He is now second on the list of players with most number of instances of a fifty and a five-wicket haul in the same Test match which stands at 8. And it is only second only to the legendary English all-rounder Ian Botham who has 11 to his name.
Where does he stand among contemporary All-Rounders according to Numbers?
Shakib is more of a player who belongs to the pure all-rounder’s race. He is neither bowler who bats well nor a batsman who bowls well. He is a pure all-rounder having equally good batting and bowling capabilities.
A statistical comparison of his overall Test career to that of Ashwin, Jadeja, Stokes and Ali will reveal where he actually stands as an all-rounder. The table below shows that Shakib has far better batting numbers than that of the other four. No one is even close to emulating his batting numbers.
Only his bowling average of 32.50 is the third best to that of Jadeja’s 23.60 and Ashwin’s 25.26. But, Ashwin and Jadeja cannot be considered as pure all-rounders. It is better to tag them as bowlers who can bat well. Their main attribute is bowling and hence it is not surprising that their bowling averages are higher than that of Shakib’s.
Ben Stokes and Moeen Ali are the kind of players who are said to be pure all-rounders as well. So, if their statistics are compared to that of Shakib it would be seen that he fares far better than them in every respect.
Shakib has been a part of only 8 Test victories which is quite a low number as compared to the others. However, Bangladesh had been solely dependent on him for a long period of time. It is only during the last one year or so that other players have stepped up with match-winning performances as well. So, Shakib’s 8 Test victories are no less than the other players.
None of the other four all-rounders under consideration come even close to emulating Shakib’s all-round record in winning causes. Although Ashwin (19.77) and Jadeja (19.90) have a slightly better bowling average, Shakib’s bowling average (20.32) when coupled with a batting average of 48.82 is far more impactful than their batting averages of 33.40 and 34.37 respectively.
Shakib also defies the general wisdom that sub-continental players struggle in overseas conditions. He is the most consistent player among the five when home and away records are considered. Shakib has almost similar batting averages, 42.14 and 40.21, in home and away conditions. The numbers differ slightly in case of bowling average in home and away conditions as well which stand at 32.43 and 32.65 respectively.
However, the other players have highly contrasting performances in home and away conditions. So, in terms of consistency, Shakib is a much more reliable player than them.
A faction of people might still not consider Shakib the best all-rounder among the present lot of players. Still no one can deny that he is the greatest Bangladeshi player of all time. At 30, he doesn’t have much to achieve to establish himself as Bangladesh’s premier player. Yet, he would still want to prove himself with match-winning performances against bigger nations. And that might start sooner with a victory against Australia at Mirpur sooner rather than later.