The quality of opposition for Bangladesh in the West Indies at the moment has meant that much of the gloss has been taken off their Test and one-day series triumphs, but none can question the class of the player who led them in most of those wins. For years Bangladesh have yearned for a batsman who can score as many runs as his talent suggests he should, and can mix it with the best. Shakib Al Hasan has shown he can do that, and keep his head when things get tight. Add that to his excellent control as a left-arm spinner and a temperament that craves responsibility instead of shunning it, and Bangladesh have an absolute asset on their hands.
When Mashrafe Mortaza, the original captain on their tour to the West Indies, injured himself early in the first Test, Bangladesh's campaign could have gone wrong, even against a weakened opposition. However, Shakib stepped up to the challenge superbly, scoring an undefeated 96 in a difficult run-chase
after the team had lost early wickets. Shakib finished the Test series
with a batting average of 53 and a bowling average of 18 for his 13 wickets, and was easily the most influential player from either team. The good thing for Bangladesh is, it doesn't appear as if this effort was a flash in the pan.
A Test hundred is still missing from his resumé, but in his last seven innings Shakib has two scores of 96, one of which was an unbeaten knock. His bowling stats are very respectable too, with a mean of almost three-and-a-half wickets per Test, and an average that is less than his batting one.
His ODI numbers
are equally impressive, with a batting average of 34 and a bowling average of 30. And it isn't as if he has feasted on the weaker teams either - he averages more than 35 with the bat against Pakistan, Sri Lanka and India.
Shakib has only played 14 Tests, but his numbers are already among Bangladesh's best with both bat and ball. Among Bangladesh batsmen with at least 500 Test runs, only Habibul Bashar has a higher average, and even there the difference is marginal. For all his undoubted batting talent, Mohammad Ashraful doesn't even figure in the top five, with an average of 23.10.
A feature of Shakib's career has been his consistency: in 26 Test innings, 13 times he has scored 25 or more (50% of his innings). The corresponding percentage for Bashar is 41, and for Ashraful a poor 28%.
The story is similar in ODIs: Shakib's record is the best among Bangladesh batsmen who've scored 1000 or more runs - an average of 34.36 at a strike-rate of 71.76. In 62 innings, 28 times he has scored 25 or more. Neither Bashar nor Ashraful figure in the top five here - Ashraful averages 23.81 in 139 games, while Bashar is even worse - he averages 21.68, with only 14 half-centuries and no hundreds in 105 innings
When Shakib began his Test career, his left-arm spin wasn't much of a threat - in his first six Tests
he only took three wickets, each costing him 104.67 runs and requiring 218 deliveries. Since then, though, his numbers are almost unrecognisable: in his last eight games
, he has taken an incredible 45 wickets at 23.17 apiece. During this period he has taken five wickets in an innings on five occasions. That's pulled his overall average down to an excellent 28.27, easily the best among Bangladesh bowlers who've taken at least 20 Test wickets.
His ODI bowling stats are pretty good too, though three other Bangladesh bowlers have slightly better averages (among those who've taken 50 ODI wickets). Shakib, however, has a better economy-rate than those three.
Let's check how Shakib's numbers compare with the rest of the team's stats. His batting record is obviously much better than that of the rest of the side, with the difference in average being more than 10 in both Tests and in ODIs.
The difference in ODI bowling numbers isn't much at all, but in Tests Shakib has been far more incisive than the rest of the attack. Without him, Bangladesh have leaked almost 48 runs per wicket, while Shakib has got his wickets at almost 20 runs cheaper.
Admittedly these are still early days in Shakib's career, but the promise is unmistakeable, especially since he has so far handled the extra responsibility of captaincy with aplomb, raising his game with both bat and ball. (Click here
to see the performances of Bangladesh's captains in Tests, and here
for their performances in ODIs.) At 22, he has plenty of time to go on and become Bangladesh's first world-class allrounder. The signs so far are extremely encouraging.