Shakib pleased with 'healthy competition' among Bangladesh's big three

Tamim Iqbal, Mushfiqur Rahim and Shakib Al Hasan scored fifties in the same ODI for the third time in their careers, contributing to a thumping win against Sri Lanka

Associated Press

Associated Press

Healthy competition between himself, Tamim Iqbal and Mushfiqur Rahim to outdo each other is contributing to Bangladesh's batting upturn, according to Shakib Al Hasan. All three scored fifties as the home side made 320 for 7 and crushed Sri Lanka by 163 runs in the Tri-Nation Series in Dhaka.
This was the third time all three had made 50-plus scores in the same ODI - Bangladesh have won each time this has happened. The previous occasions were against India in the 2007 World Cup and against Scotland in the 2015 World Cup
For more than 10 years now, Tamim, Shakib and Mushfiqur have formed the fulcrum of Bangladesh's batting, and they occupy the top three positions among Bangladesh's top run-getters in Tests and ODIs. Tamim is the team's leading run-scorer in both formats, closing in on 4000 Test runs and 6000 ODI runs. Shakib leads the T20I run charts with Tamim within touching distance.
Shakib said he is always looking over his shoulder to see what the other two are up to, and feels that the competition only adds to their hunger and makes them better batsmen.
"It is too early to say if [Shakib batting at No 3] has balanced the team but I think our batting will be more solid," Shakib said. "There's always a healthy competition within the team. We keep looking at each other to see who is scoring how many runs. This healthy competition is quite important.
"Everyone has their own expectation but it is good for the team that three of us are competing against each other. Of course we don't wish each other bad. But [each of us trying to score more runs than the other two] is a good practice. The more we can do this it will give us more chance to score runs."
On Wednesday, it was also Mashrafe Mortaza and Rubel Hossain who contributed with the ball, taking two wickets each at the start and end, respectively, of Sri Lanka's innings. Mashrafe bowled eight overs at the top, removing Upul Tharanga and Kusal Mendis cheaply. Rubel cleaned up the tail with two full balls.
Shakib bowled well too, taking three wickets for a second successive time in the tournament. He said that batting well has given him more confidence with the ball, and vice versa.
"One performance always complements the other," he said. "If I do well in the first innings, the confidence works in the second innings. If I contribute in both departments, it is always great for me."
But the two wins could be overshadowed by the quality of the Zimbabwe and Sri Lanka sides, which have both been underwhelming against Bangladesh so far. Shakib, however, believes that winning itself is very important for his side, especially after it suffered so badly in South Africa in September and October.
"We lost most of our matches in 2005 and 2006 against Zimbabwe. We got our winning habit from that time," he said. "So since we didn't do well in South Africa, it was important for us to do well in this tournament.
"To be honest, every team is strong at home. I certainly want us to build on it, while at the same time improve abroad."
Shakib, however, avoided talking about Chandika Hathurusingha when he was asked about Bangladesh's ex-coach, who is now in the Sri Lankan camp. But while answering a question on a different topic, he gave a clue as to what has changed in Bangladesh's dressing room in the last two months.
"Those who do our planning, they have had a change in their mindset," he said. "We have had a change of coach, so the new person in charge has his own thinking. I won't say we played without freedom in the past but now we are also playing freely. At the same time, we are also taking our own decisions.
"This is a big advantage for everyone to be involved. [Khaled Mahmud] Sujon bhai and Richard [Halsall] know what we need; they have been providing and we have been utilizing it."

Mohammad Isam is ESPNcricinfo's Bangladesh correspondent. @isam84