Shakib Al Hasan is currently Bangladesh's highest wicket-taker across formats © Getty Images
Shakib Al Hasan is currently Bangladesh’s highest wicket-taker across formats © Getty Images

Bangladesh is a nation that lives by their passion for cricket. Here, every boundary by a localite is celebrated with claps and loud cheer, every six brings immense joy and a loss of wicket to their side results in pin drop silence in the ground. Cricket is like an unofficial religion for the country and one of those players who brought more limelight to the game they play is Shakib-al-Hasan. In the brief history of cricket, Shakib is easily one of the legendary cricketers that Bangladesh has ever produced and definitely, he is one player that represents the team at world stage.

The road was never easy for Shakib to get to the stature he currently has in the world. Talent was always there, but there were bigger hurdles — like lesser exposure, no proper team to support his talent, the burden of taking care of the flaws of his team and so on. But then, a legend is never born without difficulties. It is the situations one has overcome which make them stronger. Shakib today is the top-ranked all-rounder in One-Day Internationals (ODIs) and after serving the Bangladesh side for a decade now, there seems to be a lot more cricket still in him.

Most of Shakib’s contemporaries in the side are long gone, either by choice or by the lack of form that left the selectors with no other option than dropping them for an uncertain period of time. On the other hand, Shakib is not tired of making and breaking records one after another. Now 29, there has seldom been a period when the country has not had his services for a considerable amount of time.

Shakib’s certificate to the unfailing credibility status bestowed upon him is his success. His numbers, style of play, techniques has made him standout of the rest of his team.

With his wicket of Shabir Noori during the first ODI against Afghanistan, Shakib became Bangladesh’s leading wicket-taker in ODIs as well as in all formats. He has 147 wickets in Tests and is way ahead of the No. 2 in the list. In Twenty20 Internationals (T20Is), he has 65 wickets which is also the highest and in ODIs, he has 207 wickets beating Abdur Razzak, who played as a specialist bowler while Shakib is an all-rounder who has to carry out the duties as one of the backbones of the team’s batting.

Talking about his batting, he has 2,823 runs in Tests, which is the third highest for his team following Tamim Iqbal and Habibul Basar, who are again specialised batsmen. In ODIs, he has 4,443 runs, the second highest by any Bangladesh batsman while in T20Is, he has 1,103 runs, again the second highest among all Bangladesh batsmen. But playing international cricket for Bangladesh is not the only thing that makes Shakib what he is today. He is also the first Bangladesh cricketer to be a part of many of the Twenty20 (T20) leagues that take place around the globe – including Indian Premier League (IPL), Caribbean Premier League (CPL) and of course, Bangladesh’s very own Bangladesh Premier League (BPL).

Shakib, like any other cricketer, has had bad phases in his career. It is his grit and determination that ensured that he did not quit. He worked hard each time he under-performed, came back to the side stronger than ever to become a much tougher competitor. Over years, he understood his own strong zones and weak zones better, which helped him work on where he lacks something and better his performance.

Bangladesh started playing international cricket quite late than their neighbours from subcontinent. However, they got success relatively faster. Not being a country that has a vast geographical area, it is never easy to have a big pool of players to choose from for the national side. Shakib’s exceptional talent, among the few, was easy to spot. But Bangladesh has had a trend of producing one series wonders more in number than the ones who stay on and Shakib, with his consistent performance in different circumstances, owned a permanent spot in the middle-order and among the bowlers with his slow left arm spin.

While spin bowling is naturally favoured in subcontinent conditions, lack of international level venues in Bangladesh was one problem that Shakib had to combat on his way to becoming a pro. Unlike India, where there is Mohali which is typically a pacers’ hunting ground to Rajkot, which is a spinners’ paradise, Bangladesh have fewer grounds, and Shakib must have found it hard to test his capabilities in challenging conditions until he toured overseas. However, all this could never come between him and success, as he learnt to adapt quickly to wherever he plays — a trait which proves him to be among the ones with the superlative quality. Again, there were (and still are) lesser opportunities for Bangladesh to play major cricket playing nations frequently.

Most of the other Test playing nations have a relatively bigger history of cricket of the country than Bangladesh for obvious reasons. As a consequence, Bangladesh have lacked the heroes, who they can idolise. Someone who can inspire them to take up cricket as the profession. Shakib became that hero, the one that his countrymen could follow.

With a distinct talent, it was practically Shakib who helped Bangladesh earn their own identity in world cricket. Along with all time greats, every debater is (and will be) bound to mention Shakib’s name for all that he has done for the nation. He has become the one who carries his country’s emblem to wherever he goes, and has helped Bangladesh grow as an independent name on and off the field, directly or indirectly. When Shakib fails, Bangladesh supporters know they are not in a good position. While Shakib stands there amidst all odds, they know there still is hope. That is Shakib-Al-Hasan for you — Role model of Bangladesh cricket lovers and the country’s global ambassador who has a long and fruitful road of cricket in front of him to walk with his head held high.

(Paulami Chakraborty, a singer, dancer, artist, and photographer, loves the madness of cricket and writes about the game. She can be followed on Twitter at @Polotwitts)