Shakib Al Hasan's simplicity keeps Bangladesh's complex World Cup challenge alive

Allrounder's stunning impact with bat and ball has kept the World Cup interesting by taking down the big boys

Mohammad Isam
Mohammad Isam
For a brief moment after the 38th over, with Bangladesh's score on 294 for 3 and in complete control of a tough chase, the Taunton County Ground's PA system played a few seconds of "We Will Rock You". A few foot-stompers were revealed in the crowd, but it wasn't played for long enough. Seeing Shakib Al Hasan and Liton Das get together in the middle at that very moment, telling each other one last time that we can do this, the mind went back to how the Mumbai crowd swooned to a patriotic song towards the end of the 2011 World Cup final.
World Cup campaigns become expressions of performers and failures, cricket teams and cricket nations, and sometimes, entire countries. In 2011, it was as much about giving Sachin Tendulkar what he richly deserved on his mantelpiece, as it was about India coming out as the best ODI team of the decade. That couple of minutes at the Wankhede Stadium brought it all together, how the team had reshaped since 2007, and what cricket and those players meant to the crowd, and the nation.
WATCH on Hotstar (India only) - Shakib's stellar 124 not-out
"We Will Rock You" was coincidentally played when Shakib was doing unbelievable things in Taunton. It didn't give rise to quite such a beautiful moment, as the song was played for only a few seconds, but it nevertheless epitomised what Shakib has been to this World Cup.
He has rocked the tournament right to its core.
Without discounting some serious performances from the likes of Rohit Sharma and Aaron Finch, Shakib's runs and wickets have provided the impact that the World Cup has crying out for. The tournament needed someone from one of the smaller teams to take down the big bowling attacks, use his cunning to outfox top batsmen, and lead his side when they were faltering.
Shakib has also stood out by being so incredibly relaxed about the whole thing. Cricket needs its fans, so you need players like Shakib to bring them to the game. He makes the complex tasks of bowling left-arm spin and scoring truckloads of runs seem simple, likeable, and very human.
Anyone can bowl like him, trundling in off a few paces and tempting the batsman to hit him. Anyone can bat like him; he is see-ball-hit-ball personified. There are very few shots that he plays that require you to be an expert. At a pinch, his cut shot exudes a higher level of skill, but if you see the ball coming at you at high speed, you just place your bat in the right position and the right time. Simple.
Twice now, Shakib's simplicity as a cricketer has helped Bangladesh emerge triumphant in two bouncer-fests. South Africa at The Oval and West Indies in Taunton were stern tests of a batting line-up that was faced with its most disliked type of delivery. Yet, Shakib led the fight after Tamim Iqbal and Soumya Sarkar had given him the start. Today it was Liton Das who took encouragement from his presence and calm aura. Against New Zealand, Shakib's dismissal spun the game the way of their opponents despite an encouraging start. Against England, he was the sole beacon of hope as cricket fans back home felt enraged by the defeat.
Afterwards, Shakib acknowledged his impact but claimed he was merely matching the levels he had reached nine years ago, when he single-handedly took down New Zealand in Bangladesh's breakout ODI performance. He said that he reminds himself of the tough moments in his life, in order to lessen the impact of each new challenge that he faces.
"Mindset is very important," he said. "At this level, in this atmosphere, mental strength is very helpful. Fitness is important too, but the more you can be courageous, everything clicks. The battle is within oneself. If you keep telling yourself 'I am winning' it will definitely help you win.
"I am seeing the ball really well. I think it is one of the key part of my batting. I am getting more time. I was never in a rush chasing these runs. I was patient enough to put the bad ball away.
"In terms of runs, it is my best. I have done well in the past but it is not necessary that you always make the most runs or take the most wickets when you have the best mindset. I am in a good place now, which I want to continue," he said.
After spending most of his career in Bangladesh's middle order, Shakib added that his recent promotion to No.3 had been a major factor in his achievement of back-to-back hundreds at this World Cup.
"I have batted at No 5 for most of this period [in the last two years]. I didn't get enough overs to bat on many occasions ," he said.
"I think batting at No 3 gives me more time in the innings. I have made a lot of fifties during this period. I gave it a thought, how I can make my innings bigger."
Shakib did, however, ride his luck in this latest innings, on at least six occasions. Top-edges landed either beyond fielders or between them. Some made their way beyond the boundary. One of them just eluded the bowler. There were drives that went for four when he just played through a slower ball.
But he didn't feel bad about it. It is actually quite hard to make Shakib feel bad about any of his runs or wickets, no matter how they come to him. He simply takes emotion out of the equation.
All of which has helped Bangladesh stay in the World Cup for one more day. It has given this World Cup another day to be thrilling, to be awe-inspiring to its audience. It is time to spread the word that Shakib is here, and say what it is he does and how easily he does it. He is, essentially, doing the simplest things in cricket. Under pressure. Trying to please 170 million people. Simple. Anyone can do it.

Mohammad Isam is ESPNcricinfo's Bangladesh correspondent. @isam84