October 8, 2013

Shakib's star burns bright

He dominated the cricket headlines during Bangladesh's 4-0 win over New Zealand in 2010. Today, he dominates the country's landscape
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Bangladesh cricket without Shakib Al Hasan today would be like Pakistan cricket without Imran Khan or West Indies without Garry Sobers. Shakib is the biggest star in Bangladesh in any sphere of public life. And like for any celebrity in the subcontinent, the trappings are ever present. There are commercials to shoot, functions to attend and ribbons to cut. And in between are T20 leagues all over the world to play in.

But this month Shakib is going back to the contest that put him on the world stage. In 2010, Bangladesh beat New Zealand 4-0 at home. It could be dismissed as just an ODI series, but it was a moment in Bangladesh cricket when the world sat up and took notice of their ability. There had been victories in the past, most notably against Australia in 2005, but this win said that Bangladesh could not only beat a higher-ranked side, they could do it four times.

In the series Shakib's batting average was 97.70, which included a century and a fifty. His 11 wickets came at 15.90, he took a four-for and his strike rate was 20.10.

Shakib was a big name in Bangladesh cricket even before the New Zealand series. He had an excellent bowling record in Tests, with seven five-wicket hauls, and had crossed the 1000-run mark in 21 Tests, with one hundred. In ODIs he had a similar batting average but he bowled even better. In T20s, he was emerging as a utility player - he still had a way to go with his batting, but bowling-wise he was up there with the best spinners in the world.

Two and a half years since, he remains Bangladesh's go-to guy. In nine Tests in that period, he has averaged 47.35 and picked up 31 wickets, with two five-wicket hauls. In 31 ODIs he has taken 41 wickets and scored 1010 runs at 37.40. He also played an important role in Kolkata Knight Riders' IPL victory in 2012.

As Shakib has risen as a cricketer, so has his status as the country's biggest icon. His wedding last year was telecast live on many TV channels, though none were allowed inside the hotel where it was held. He speaks to the media sparingly, picking and choosing when and whom to speak to, but even those who aren't cricket lovers recognise him from billboards and television ads. His fans wake up at 5am to watch him play in the Caribbean Premier League. Last month, during an event in the presence of the prime minister's son, Shakib sat on the podium, expressionless for most of two hours, only getting up to make a short speech, but all eyes were constantly on him. A few days ago, when he was asked to talk to a few local kids who had done well in the age-group tournaments and pace-bowling camps, Shakib answered questions patiently but could only stay a while, and had to be rushed out when he left, kids chasing him, police chasing the kids.

He is much more than Bangladesh's best batsman and bowler now. His influence on the country's cricket cannot be quantified. Habibul Bashar, Mohammad Rafique, Mashrafe Mortaza, Mohammad Ashraful, and more recently Tamim Iqbal and Mushfiqur Rahim, are all talented and have enjoyed success and public adulation. The pioneers, like Bashar and Rafique, had to tackle much more than just fast bowlers and flashing blades, because Bangladesh were nowhere in international cricket back then. Mashrafe's plethora of injuries meant he never could express himself properly, while Ashraful remained an unfulfilled talent. Tamim and Mushfiqur have time on their sides, but Shakib's stardom has eclipsed theirs, though he started a year after Mushfiqur and only a few months before Tamim.

He hasn't played a lot of cricket ahead of the current New Zealand series. He turned out in the Caribbean Premier League in August, and in one Dhaka Premier League game in September. An injured thumb kept him out, and in 2013 he only featured for Bangladesh on their tour to Zimbabwe, where he looked rusty.

Brendon McCullum recently admitted that New Zealand were ill-prepared ahead of 2010 ODI series in Bangladesh. This time the talk from the New Zealand camp is all about confidence, preparation and revenge, but if New Zealand are to win, they have get past Shakib.

Mohammad Isam is ESPNcricinfo's Bangladesh correspondent. He tweets here

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • POSTED BY asiacricket1234 on | October 8, 2013, 19:17 GMT

    Shakib has not been in form for a long time. Well he didnt play much for Bangladesh since the Asia cup. he is either injured or not scoring enough. That is not what you expect from one of your main player. I think Shakib needs to step up. He is a good player, talented no doubt about that but he has to perform. reputation doesn't win matches

  • POSTED BY on | October 12, 2013, 14:24 GMT

    sakib is the first person in bangladesh team who was always consistent in his performance.whenever needed he puts some contribution.he is great in a sense that new comers are now getting a person to follow.a few years ago BD team was fully dependent on sakib.now when Sakib is out there is still boys like nasir, mushfique,sohag who can continue.sakib is like a bright light which indicates path of pogress to new comers.that is why we are calling him great.

  • POSTED BY on | October 10, 2013, 22:42 GMT

    Shakib i would say is more of a bowling all-rounder and i am sure any team would have him in their team because if you have him, you can afford to have a batsman less or bowler less. He is a world class player no doubt, he may not be a world class batsman but averages more than average in batting but its undeniable he is a world class spinner/bowler. Also people misread or misinterpreted what M. Isam was trying to point out; Shakib has the same effect on Bangladesh as Imran khan did to Pakistan and what G. Sobers (i am lucky to have met him) did to WI.

  • POSTED BY on | October 10, 2013, 13:46 GMT

    I think you are right. Without Sakib, Bangladesh team is like a prime minister less country. He is great.

  • POSTED BY jimmy787 on | October 10, 2013, 0:49 GMT

    I agree that Shakib is best that Bangladesh has produced (by a long way I might add), but comparing Shakib to Garry Sobers or Imran Khan? You've got to be joking. If that's the case you may as well throw Simon Katch into the mix.

  • POSTED BY Cyril_Knight on | October 9, 2013, 21:45 GMT

    A country of over 150million people, that is cricket crazy, has only produced one world-level player. That's a massive shame. Bangladesh has massive potential as a cricketing force, but the administration holds them back. Priorities are so distorted from the PR disaster of the BPL to their continual production of lifeless, boring Test match wickets. Bangladesh does itself no favours. There is a huge market to be exploited as the country develops economically, but those at the top are unqualified and selfish. Any suggestions how they can progress?

  • POSTED BY ARad on | October 9, 2013, 15:55 GMT

    Shakib's Test batting average is 36. Bowling average is 32. Neither is hardly high quality by itself but when you put them together, it is more than acceptable and a number of countries would like to have a player of such numbers in their team so I think it is fair to say that he at least approaches a world class. If you consider the shorter formats, his numbers are more encouraging and, given the value of an allrounder in shorter formats, he is definitely world class. Still, the fact that he is such a towering figure worthy of comparison to Sobers and Imran in Bangladesh is only a testament to a. (I am sad to say this but) the poor overall quality of BD cricketers and b. the increasing importance to shorter formats in general but especially in countries that do not have the right players to succeed in Tests. (Sri Lanka seems to going in this direction and possibly India...??)

  • POSTED BY Fogu on | October 9, 2013, 13:03 GMT

    Some people are misunderstanding MD. Isam's comment about Sobers and Imran. He meant the impact of Shakib on BD cricket is like the impact Imran and Gary had on their respective countries. Nowhere he compared Shakib to Gary and Imran on playing abilitiues. He is correct in his assertion. Shakib is a bit out of form with the bat at this time but he will bounce back. BD needs him but we also need others to step up, especially the batsmen in position of 2,3&4. Go BD.

  • POSTED BY gsingh7 on | October 9, 2013, 12:51 GMT

    shakib is big fish in small pond. when he faced big bowlers in ipl or abroad he was timid. i guess he played too much cricket on bangladesh flat tracks and got complacent. on swinging tracks like mohali or dharamshala , he cud not hit a single four. hope he improve in foreign conditions in near future.

  • POSTED BY on | October 9, 2013, 12:27 GMT

    He is the best cricketer Bangladesh has ever produced (with respect to all other players) and off course he can be compared to Garry Sobers and others. And compared to cricketers of other countries he is less praised by international media. Even by some Bangladeshis I see.

  • POSTED BY asiacricket1234 on | October 8, 2013, 19:17 GMT

    Shakib has not been in form for a long time. Well he didnt play much for Bangladesh since the Asia cup. he is either injured or not scoring enough. That is not what you expect from one of your main player. I think Shakib needs to step up. He is a good player, talented no doubt about that but he has to perform. reputation doesn't win matches

  • POSTED BY on | October 12, 2013, 14:24 GMT

    sakib is the first person in bangladesh team who was always consistent in his performance.whenever needed he puts some contribution.he is great in a sense that new comers are now getting a person to follow.a few years ago BD team was fully dependent on sakib.now when Sakib is out there is still boys like nasir, mushfique,sohag who can continue.sakib is like a bright light which indicates path of pogress to new comers.that is why we are calling him great.

  • POSTED BY on | October 10, 2013, 22:42 GMT

    Shakib i would say is more of a bowling all-rounder and i am sure any team would have him in their team because if you have him, you can afford to have a batsman less or bowler less. He is a world class player no doubt, he may not be a world class batsman but averages more than average in batting but its undeniable he is a world class spinner/bowler. Also people misread or misinterpreted what M. Isam was trying to point out; Shakib has the same effect on Bangladesh as Imran khan did to Pakistan and what G. Sobers (i am lucky to have met him) did to WI.

  • POSTED BY on | October 10, 2013, 13:46 GMT

    I think you are right. Without Sakib, Bangladesh team is like a prime minister less country. He is great.

  • POSTED BY jimmy787 on | October 10, 2013, 0:49 GMT

    I agree that Shakib is best that Bangladesh has produced (by a long way I might add), but comparing Shakib to Garry Sobers or Imran Khan? You've got to be joking. If that's the case you may as well throw Simon Katch into the mix.

  • POSTED BY Cyril_Knight on | October 9, 2013, 21:45 GMT

    A country of over 150million people, that is cricket crazy, has only produced one world-level player. That's a massive shame. Bangladesh has massive potential as a cricketing force, but the administration holds them back. Priorities are so distorted from the PR disaster of the BPL to their continual production of lifeless, boring Test match wickets. Bangladesh does itself no favours. There is a huge market to be exploited as the country develops economically, but those at the top are unqualified and selfish. Any suggestions how they can progress?

  • POSTED BY ARad on | October 9, 2013, 15:55 GMT

    Shakib's Test batting average is 36. Bowling average is 32. Neither is hardly high quality by itself but when you put them together, it is more than acceptable and a number of countries would like to have a player of such numbers in their team so I think it is fair to say that he at least approaches a world class. If you consider the shorter formats, his numbers are more encouraging and, given the value of an allrounder in shorter formats, he is definitely world class. Still, the fact that he is such a towering figure worthy of comparison to Sobers and Imran in Bangladesh is only a testament to a. (I am sad to say this but) the poor overall quality of BD cricketers and b. the increasing importance to shorter formats in general but especially in countries that do not have the right players to succeed in Tests. (Sri Lanka seems to going in this direction and possibly India...??)

  • POSTED BY Fogu on | October 9, 2013, 13:03 GMT

    Some people are misunderstanding MD. Isam's comment about Sobers and Imran. He meant the impact of Shakib on BD cricket is like the impact Imran and Gary had on their respective countries. Nowhere he compared Shakib to Gary and Imran on playing abilitiues. He is correct in his assertion. Shakib is a bit out of form with the bat at this time but he will bounce back. BD needs him but we also need others to step up, especially the batsmen in position of 2,3&4. Go BD.

  • POSTED BY gsingh7 on | October 9, 2013, 12:51 GMT

    shakib is big fish in small pond. when he faced big bowlers in ipl or abroad he was timid. i guess he played too much cricket on bangladesh flat tracks and got complacent. on swinging tracks like mohali or dharamshala , he cud not hit a single four. hope he improve in foreign conditions in near future.

  • POSTED BY on | October 9, 2013, 12:27 GMT

    He is the best cricketer Bangladesh has ever produced (with respect to all other players) and off course he can be compared to Garry Sobers and others. And compared to cricketers of other countries he is less praised by international media. Even by some Bangladeshis I see.

  • POSTED BY Whispering_Holding on | October 9, 2013, 12:18 GMT

    Nice but very exaggerated article. Shakib is a good player, not a great like player Sobers or Imran. Also, these two were not the only cricketers produced by their respective nations. Losing them would not have affected their countries' status because Pakistan could still call on legends like Javed, Akram, Younis, Inzi etc. Windies could still call on Lara, Richards, 3 W's Greenidge etc. Losing Shakib would though because Bangladesh barely play cricket. While they are exciting, they lack nous.

  • POSTED BY RedonGreen on | October 9, 2013, 5:53 GMT

    Another 'feel good' and embellished piece by Isam.on Bangladesh cricket. While it's needless to say that Shakib is arguably the best cricketer Bnagladesh has ever produced, I'm not sure that he will have the focus and commitment to be anywhere close to what both Imran Khan and Sir Sobers were to their respective team. In this era of T20 Frachise cricket, Shakib & Tamim have become nomadic cricketers playing all over the world. Lack of international cricket for Bangladesh has also contributed to the cause. If we look how the likes of Chris Gayle, Kevin Petersen have dealt with their international career, can't be very confident that Shakib, Tamim eventually not taking the same road. It is safe to say the era of Imran & Sobers are distant memories and unlikely to comeback anytime soon. But, good luck to Shakib.

  • POSTED BY on | October 9, 2013, 5:29 GMT

    Mohammad Isam, you compared Shakib with Imran Khan and Garry Sobers. Shakib is yet to do anything like that for us. I am a great fan of his and I think he got enough talents to do so. but, please don't forget to mention the negative sides of him as he has not been in good form specially with the bat in county and Caribbean league. We expect him to deliver in this series and prove his worth again...

  • POSTED BY Warm_Coffee on | October 8, 2013, 19:51 GMT

    Shakib batting has simply been disappointing this year. He's basically batting like a tailender and him being one of the few experienced batsman in the side, yet is satisfied with a 50 and quickly throws his wicket away. Where's the Shakib that scored 144 against Pakistan? that's how he should bat in tests everytime. His conversion rate in tests speak for itself 13 fifties but only 2 of them converted into test hundreds therefore averaging 36. If Bangladeshi batsman want to have career averages of over 40 which is the benchmark in test Cricket then you have to score not just 100s but massive 100s. Shakib batting at 6 is a good idea since it will allow him to recover a bit after the heavy bowling.

  • POSTED BY TheRisingTeam on | October 8, 2013, 19:38 GMT

    Obviously the best player of Bangladesh and such an important figure for the country as a whole. His all-round stats across all forms especially the last 3 years simply speaks for itself and he will just get better and better. He is clearly going to inspire many Bangladeshi kids to take up Cricket as a sport and try to emulate him.

    The Bangladesh team is young, exciting, energetic and have played some good consistent Cricket in the last few years and the trend must continue so we can continue to answer the critics.

  • POSTED BY on | October 8, 2013, 19:10 GMT

    obviously shakib is a great player for bangladesh.we also proud for him.But mr. editor please be correct to the first line of the article.Now a days shakib is not only the backbone of bangladesh cricket.Remember our last series against sri lanka, Mushfiq & co did very well without shakib......

  • POSTED BY on | October 8, 2013, 19:10 GMT

    obviously shakib is a great player for bangladesh.we also proud for him.But mr. editor please be correct to the first line of the article.Now a days shakib is not only the backbone of bangladesh cricket.Remember our last series against sri lanka, Mushfiq & co did very well without shakib......

  • POSTED BY TheRisingTeam on | October 8, 2013, 19:38 GMT

    Obviously the best player of Bangladesh and such an important figure for the country as a whole. His all-round stats across all forms especially the last 3 years simply speaks for itself and he will just get better and better. He is clearly going to inspire many Bangladeshi kids to take up Cricket as a sport and try to emulate him.

    The Bangladesh team is young, exciting, energetic and have played some good consistent Cricket in the last few years and the trend must continue so we can continue to answer the critics.

  • POSTED BY Warm_Coffee on | October 8, 2013, 19:51 GMT

    Shakib batting has simply been disappointing this year. He's basically batting like a tailender and him being one of the few experienced batsman in the side, yet is satisfied with a 50 and quickly throws his wicket away. Where's the Shakib that scored 144 against Pakistan? that's how he should bat in tests everytime. His conversion rate in tests speak for itself 13 fifties but only 2 of them converted into test hundreds therefore averaging 36. If Bangladeshi batsman want to have career averages of over 40 which is the benchmark in test Cricket then you have to score not just 100s but massive 100s. Shakib batting at 6 is a good idea since it will allow him to recover a bit after the heavy bowling.

  • POSTED BY on | October 9, 2013, 5:29 GMT

    Mohammad Isam, you compared Shakib with Imran Khan and Garry Sobers. Shakib is yet to do anything like that for us. I am a great fan of his and I think he got enough talents to do so. but, please don't forget to mention the negative sides of him as he has not been in good form specially with the bat in county and Caribbean league. We expect him to deliver in this series and prove his worth again...

  • POSTED BY RedonGreen on | October 9, 2013, 5:53 GMT

    Another 'feel good' and embellished piece by Isam.on Bangladesh cricket. While it's needless to say that Shakib is arguably the best cricketer Bnagladesh has ever produced, I'm not sure that he will have the focus and commitment to be anywhere close to what both Imran Khan and Sir Sobers were to their respective team. In this era of T20 Frachise cricket, Shakib & Tamim have become nomadic cricketers playing all over the world. Lack of international cricket for Bangladesh has also contributed to the cause. If we look how the likes of Chris Gayle, Kevin Petersen have dealt with their international career, can't be very confident that Shakib, Tamim eventually not taking the same road. It is safe to say the era of Imran & Sobers are distant memories and unlikely to comeback anytime soon. But, good luck to Shakib.

  • POSTED BY Whispering_Holding on | October 9, 2013, 12:18 GMT

    Nice but very exaggerated article. Shakib is a good player, not a great like player Sobers or Imran. Also, these two were not the only cricketers produced by their respective nations. Losing them would not have affected their countries' status because Pakistan could still call on legends like Javed, Akram, Younis, Inzi etc. Windies could still call on Lara, Richards, 3 W's Greenidge etc. Losing Shakib would though because Bangladesh barely play cricket. While they are exciting, they lack nous.

  • POSTED BY on | October 9, 2013, 12:27 GMT

    He is the best cricketer Bangladesh has ever produced (with respect to all other players) and off course he can be compared to Garry Sobers and others. And compared to cricketers of other countries he is less praised by international media. Even by some Bangladeshis I see.

  • POSTED BY gsingh7 on | October 9, 2013, 12:51 GMT

    shakib is big fish in small pond. when he faced big bowlers in ipl or abroad he was timid. i guess he played too much cricket on bangladesh flat tracks and got complacent. on swinging tracks like mohali or dharamshala , he cud not hit a single four. hope he improve in foreign conditions in near future.

  • POSTED BY Fogu on | October 9, 2013, 13:03 GMT

    Some people are misunderstanding MD. Isam's comment about Sobers and Imran. He meant the impact of Shakib on BD cricket is like the impact Imran and Gary had on their respective countries. Nowhere he compared Shakib to Gary and Imran on playing abilitiues. He is correct in his assertion. Shakib is a bit out of form with the bat at this time but he will bounce back. BD needs him but we also need others to step up, especially the batsmen in position of 2,3&4. Go BD.

  • POSTED BY ARad on | October 9, 2013, 15:55 GMT

    Shakib's Test batting average is 36. Bowling average is 32. Neither is hardly high quality by itself but when you put them together, it is more than acceptable and a number of countries would like to have a player of such numbers in their team so I think it is fair to say that he at least approaches a world class. If you consider the shorter formats, his numbers are more encouraging and, given the value of an allrounder in shorter formats, he is definitely world class. Still, the fact that he is such a towering figure worthy of comparison to Sobers and Imran in Bangladesh is only a testament to a. (I am sad to say this but) the poor overall quality of BD cricketers and b. the increasing importance to shorter formats in general but especially in countries that do not have the right players to succeed in Tests. (Sri Lanka seems to going in this direction and possibly India...??)