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Ashwin's control sets him apart - Shakib

Shakib Al Hasan has hailed R Ashwin's bowling, and stressed that Bangladesh's batsmen and bowlers will need to perform collectively to make an impact on their short tour of India

Shakib Al Hasan plays the pivotal role for his team both with bat and ball  •  AFP

Shakib Al Hasan plays the pivotal role for his team both with bat and ball  •  AFP

Shakib Al Hasan isn't thinking about the impending spin battle with R Ashwin. What he is focused on instead is how best he can contribute to Bangladesh's cause. The visitors have reiterated that their prime focus on this short tour is to do well as a team, with the batsmen and bowlers pitching in together.
Shakib has a role to play in both aspects: a spell from him can change the course of a game while a typically rapid innings can help set up big scores for Bangladesh. Both happened in New Zealand but neither performance translated to a better result for the team, as they lost both Tests.
"It is a challenge for everyone," Shakib said. "Say, you score 250 runs and your bowlers do well, then 250 runs is lot of runs. But then you score 500 runs, but your bowlers give away that many runs. So the team can perform well only when everyone contributes. The team cannot win depending on one particular department. In New Zealand it so happened that one day we batted well and the other day we bowled well - but there was no joint contribution."
He stressed on the collective responsibility of individuals to ensure the team performed as a single unit. "Everyone has a contribution in it, even those who were new. The responsibility is everyone's," he said, emphasising on the last word.
Shakib is the focal point of Bangladesh's bowling attack, like R Ashwin is for India. While Shakib's approach is different from the India offspinner, leading an attack is one of the few similarities they share.
Shakib's role as an allrounder has earned him much success but he was quick to brush aside any comparisons with Ashwin, given his predominant focus on batting and Bangladesh's generally low volume of Test cricket in the last six years. Shakib was all praise for Ashwin's rise as a spinner in the last three years, highlighting his control.
"There is no competition," Shakib said in Hyderabad, where the Test will be played from February 9. "I do not think of it that way nor does he. In fact I think no one thinks of it that way. He is doing well from his place and I am trying to do well at my end. The better I do the more help the team gets. The importance of a player differs from team to team. I will be happy if I get to contribute for my team in the role I am in.
"He [Ashwin] has been bowling really well for India for the last 2-3 years. The control makes him different. He does whatever he wants to do with the ball. If you can do that, you don't need to do anything else as a bowler. His control and the confidence makes him the No 1 bowler at the moment."
Despite his different role in the Bangladesh side, there is little doubt over Shakib's importance as a bowler in all seasons and formats. Against England at home last October, he was instrumental in setting up the opposition and relentlessly hammering on a single line and length. Even in Christchurch last month, where New Zealand's left-arm spinner Mitchell Santner didn't bowl an over, Shakib's three-wicket burst gave Bangladesh a lifeline on the second day.
He has, over the years, shown he can bowl long spells and his high-impact bursts have given Bangladesh's bowling a much-needed edge. Mehedi Hasan Miraz and Taijul Islam are good additions to the bowling attack, and both may need to bowl spells that allow Bangladesh to control proceedings and not let India's in-form batsmen take the game away from them.
Shakib conceded that the biggest challenge was to contain the India batsmen. "You also need to think that they play spin well," he said. "I think they are the best in playing against spin, so it will be a big challenge for us. If we can do well here it will boost our confidence for the Sri Lanka series."
Bangladesh's bowling unit will revolve around Shakib at one end with Mehedi, Taijul and the pace attack trying to bring consistency into their game. As Shakib said, the buck shouldn't necessarily always stop with him, and the responsibilities must be shared by the team.

Mohammad Isam is ESPNcricinfo's Bangladesh correspondent. @isam84