Bangladesh cricket is going through somewhat of a growth phase at present. This may seem a bizarre statement, given 2008 yielded 8 losses and a rain-affected draw in 9 tests and 5 wins from 26 one dayers for the Tigers, with 3 of those wins coming against Ireland. Despite this, the more important sign over the past year has been the improved ability of the Tigers to remain competitive for sustained periods in games, despite losing the majority of their encounters. The player who has led the charge on most occasions is 21 year old bowling all rounder, Shakib Al-Hasan.
Al-Hasan’s stocks are rising and rising at a rate where cricketing experts are even regarding him the best left-arm spinner in the world. Based on current form, he is one of the top 5 all-rounders in the game and would be a strong case for an Asia XI selection.
In 2008, in 8 tests (15 innings), he scored 414 runs at a solid 29.57 average with 2 fifties. His 96 on New Year’s Eve against Sri Lanka was almost enough to carry Bangladesh to the world’s biggest successful run chase, with the Bangas ultimately falling 108 runs shy of their gigantic 521 run target. His bowling in 2008 was the major highlight with 30 wickets in 12 innings @ 25.76, the highlight of the year being his amazing 7/36 in the first innings of the first test at Chittagong which skittled New Zealand for 171. Shakib nearly propelled Bangladesh to victory with the Tigers falling an agonizing 3 wickets short in their quest after setting the Kiwi’s a 317 run target (incidentally resulting in their highest successful test run chase).
In ODIs, Shakib impressed with 408 runs @ 24 in 18 innings with the bat. Given the Bangas propensity to be 4/20 off 10 overs on a regular basis, Al-Hasan has regularly contributed in rear guard knocks. His 108 off 120 balls against Pakistan in Multan was an absolutely brilliant display, guiding his side to 210 after being 4/16 at one stage. The fact Mashrafe Mortaza’s 38 runs at number 10 was the second highest score of the day just shows the load Al-Hasan had to carry for his nation on this occasion. Shakib also took 22 wickets @ 33.45 in 19 innings with the ball last year.
He has taken his form into the New Year and in the tri-nations series involving Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Zimbabwe, which completed earlier this month in Bangladesh, the 21 year old was named player of the series. The masterful 92 not out, off 69 balls in the final preliminary round game against Sri Lanka, which propelled his team to victory with 5 wickets in hand and more than 7 overs to spare, was the innings of the tournament. His 2/22 from 10 overs that nearly saw the host nation to victory in the final was also an exceptional effort.
Shakib Al-Hasan is only 21 years old, a point which can be overlooked in assessing cricketers on the world scene amongst their peers. Given his side has a fair share of underachievers, their will be a load of expectation whenever he graces the turf to do battle. Through his match turning innings and bowling spells, Al-Hasan has shown the ability to handle pressure on the biggest stage which sets him in great stead for the future.
With many years of cricket ahead for Shakib Al-Hasan, we hope that his teammates can also step up their game to create a generation of success in Bangladesh cricket. Mohammed Ashraful and co, you have a match winner in your team, please support him.
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