Shakib al Hasan emphasised that the only way Bangladesh can improve in Tests is by playing the format more often © AFP
Shakib Al Hasan made his debut for Bangladesh in 2006 and in the subsequent seven years, his all-round ability with bat and ball has seen him establish himself as the greatest player the country has produced.
He has played 30 Tests, scoring almost 2,000 runs at an average of 36 and has also taken 106 wickets, including a 96 not out and eight wickets in Bangladesh’s first overseas Test victory against the West Indies.
He has also been impressive in the shorter formats, having played 129 ODI matches and reached the world No 1 ranking for all-rounders. Shakib also went on to become the No 1 ranked Test all-rounder in December 2011.
An integral member of the Bangladesh side that reached the final of the 2012 Asia Cup, Shakib was rewarded with the Man of the Tournament award.
Currently playing for Leicestershire in the Friends Life T20 competition, Saj Sadiq of PakPassion.net caught up with the 26-year-old all-rounder to speak about his career to date, Bangladesh’s lack of progress in Test cricket, their Test status, captaincy and also about youngsters recently breaking into the Bangladesh national side.
Excerpts from an interview:
PakPassion.net (PP): It’s been nearly seven years since you made your international debut. Are you satisfied with your performances and achievements in international cricket?
Shakib al Hasan (SH): I think I’ve done well; I’m happy with the way things have gone. Upon reflection I feel could have done better, but that’s the way cricket is — you should never be in a comfort zone and always look to better yourself.
I’m always looking to improve, to learn and to perform at a better level for whichever team I am playing, whether it be in international cricket or in domestic tournaments around the world.
PP: Is it frustrating that Bangladesh has not been able to make the progress in international cricket that was expected, particularly in Test cricket?
SH: Definitely. We’ve not made the impact in Test cricket that we had hoped for and that has indeed been frustrating. We are now a competitive team in the shorter formats against any opposition and that is something that we’ve worked hard to achieve, but the reality is that we are yet to reach our true potential in Test cricket and that is going to require a lot of effort.
We’re working hard to improve our levels of performance in the five-day format and I think our initial target should be to at least be competitive in Test cricket at home, and lay that as a foundation. Being competitive at home can then help us with our confidence and we can then hopefully start challenging teams in Test cricket in foreign conditions.
PP: What are the key areas of improvement that Bangladesh needs to achieve to become competitive in Test cricket?
SH: First and foremost we need to play more Test cricket. We are playing nowhere near enough Test cricket at the moment and that is hindering the progress of our cricketers. The more five-day cricket we can play, the more our cricketers will improve in all facets of the game. We also need to ensure that there is more three-day and four-day domestic cricket played as that will prepare our cricketers for the challenges of Test cricket.
Many of our cricketers settle nicely into the shorter formats of international cricket as they are comfortable and used to those formats, but adjusting to Test cricket can be very difficult for them as they have not played very much three-day or four-day domestic cricket. This is something that needs to be addressed as soon as possible.
PP: There have been suggestions that Bangladesh should compete in a second tier of teams in Test cricket rather than playing against the likes of England, South Africa, India and Pakistan. Is that something that you think would be a good idea?
SH: This is a decision for the International Cricket Council (ICC) and those that run the game, but my preference would be to continue to play against the top teams rather than to compete in a second tier of Test cricket.
PP: Having previously captained your country, is captaincy something that you would take on once again in future, despite the pressures that come with it?
SH: At the moment I’m just happy to be part of the Bangladesh team in all formats and I’ve not really thought too much about taking on the responsibility of captaining my country once again. If the opportunity arose in future then I would think about it and make a decision at the time.
PP: Mushfiqur Rahim currently has the responsibility of captaining Bangladesh in all three formats. As a player is it easier to play under one captain in all three formats?
SH: I think as a player it’s much easier to play under one captain, as you are familiar with the characteristics and personality of the captain, and his ideas. From the captain’s perspective it’s easier to plan your tactics and to maintain control of the team and the players as you are in charge of all three teams. It puts the captain under pressure having to lead the team in all three formats and obviously workloads can become an issue but it’s not an impossible task and I’m sure that most cricketers out there would be comfortable leading their country in all formats if required to.
PP: It must be heartening to see the likes of Nasir Hossain and several other youngsters coming through the system and making such a promising start to their international careers?
SH: Absolutely! There’s a decent crop of young and very talented cricketers coming through the ranks now which is great news for Bangladesh cricket. Nasir Hossain is one of a number of young Bangladeshi cricketers who we have high hopes for.
The more young players that can be developed into international cricketers, the more competition there is for places which is a plus for Bangladesh cricket. It’s exciting to play alongside such cricketers who have a lot of talent as well as enthusiasm.
PP: The Bangladesh Cricket Board has hired Saqlain Mushtaq as the spin-bowling coach. What’s it been like working with Saqlain?
SH: It’s been great. He’s a very nice man with a vast knowledge of cricket and of course a very experienced former cricketer. It’s been a pleasure working with him and I’m sure all the boys who have worked with Saqlain in Bangladesh and benefited from his advice are very appreciative of his efforts and hard work.
PP: What goals and targets have you set yourself in the coming months and years?
SH: The 2015 ICC World Cup is a tournament that is very important to myself and no doubt Bangladeshi cricket. It’s a competition that we are determined to do well in and a tournament that we are very focused upon. On a personal level, I want to do well at the 2015 World Cup and as a team, Bangladesh want to show the world that we are not also-rans and can compete with the best in major tournaments.
(Saj Sadiq is Senior Editor at PakPassion.net, from where the above article has been reproduced. He can be followed on Twitter at @Saj_PakPassion)