That Outstanding Bangladesh Test Victory

  • ONE+ Mohammad Isam in Mirpur,  courtesy of ESPNcricinfo, August 2017, where the title is “Shakib’s quest for excellence inspires Bangladesh”

    Some people might never agree to put Shakib Al Hasan in the same league as the legendary quartet of allrounders from the 1980s. For starters, he doesn’t bowl pace. He has played too many matches against Zimbabwe, and a series against a depleted West Indies. Even his position as the No. 1 allrounder in the ICC rankings is a result of the side he plays for, as he constantly gets more rating points by playing against higher-ranked teams.

  •  Bangladesh’s cricketers celebrate a famous victory over England Getty Images

    Not that Shakib has tried to force the issue on anyone, but the numbers and list of achievements are growing. He played a central role in Bangladesh’s thrilling 20-run win in the first Test against Australia. In Bangladesh’s first innings, he struck a fifty and strung together a counter-attacking partnership with Tamim Iqbal to lift them from 10 for 3. He was then a constant threat in both of Australia’s innings, and finished with a second 10-wicket haul.

Before Shakib, only Richard Hadlee had achieved a ten-for and fifty in a Test more than once. Shakib also became the fourth bowler to take a five-for against nine teams. Three years ago, he became the fourth cricketer to score a hundred and take 10 wickets in a Test. Shakib took the fewest Tests to achieve the double of 3000 runs and 150 wickets, and is one of a rare group to have a bowling average lower than the batting average.

Maybe comparisons to Jacques Kallis and that 1980s quartet are excessive. But what an allrounder brings to his team is more important. And in the last 10 years, there haven’t been many cricketers who have served their team as well as Shakib has.

His quest for excellence has taken him from being Bangladesh’s sole match-winner to being the best performer in a team with a growing number of match-winners. There was a time when he had to take the entire bowling load and also ensure the middle-order didn’t collapse. With the emergence of a number of dependable batsmen and new bowling sensations, the idea that he no longer needs to contribute as much can be broached. Shakib isn’t having any of it.

“I want to contribute equally with both bat and ball,” he said after the win. “It is my job and responsibility to contribute as a senior player in the side. The best feeling is to contribute to the team’s win. It was an important Test for us since we hardly play against Australia. It worked as an inspiration for us.”

This year he stands as Bangladesh’s leading scorer and wicket-taker. It is a year that includes a double-hundred against New Zealand in blustery Wellington, and a match-winning hundred in Sri Lanka. In the same Test, in Colombo, his four-wicket haul was pivotal to Bangladesh bowling out the home side cheaply, and setting up an achievable fourth-innings chase.

There have been lows. He has routinely thrown his wicket away at crucial moments and his bowling was overshadowed in Mehidy Hasan’s honeymoon period. In Hyderabad against India, he went 24 overs without a wicket. So a ten-wicket haul against Australia will provide more meat to his status as the attack’s leader.

As a batsman, he hasn’t always found the time for big scores in limited-overs cricket, but still produces match-winning knocks when the chips are down, as in Cardiff against New Zealand during the Champions Trophy. In Tests, he is a freewheeling No. 5, happy to thrash anything wide and always keen on bumping spinners down the ground.

It is the attitude that gets him into trouble at times; even in this Test, he got out to a poor shot in the second innings. But he feels that his team-mates should follow his courageous lead. “Aggression is important, but I know you must have questioned my shot yesterday. Some of these situations are tricky. I want everyone to have this courage. If you are positive about the team, it helps the cause. It works most of the time.”

As much as Shakib has grown into a world-class cricketer, his team-mates haven’t stayed behind for too long. They have taken inspiration from him and slowly tried to match his level of performance. At the same time, Shakib has raised himself too, using his experience to become a more focused bowler and an impactful middle-order batsman.

Raising Bangladesh’s game and helping them maintain their progress over ten years is reason enough – as much as the numbers and records – to consider him one of the great allrounders. With or without pace.

TWO: Mohammad Isam, courtesy of ESPNcricinfo, August 2017, where the title is Australia will show more respect now – Shakib”

Bangladesh’s first Test against Australia in 11 years had its fair share of flashpoints between the sides. After a historic maiden win, Shakib Al Hasan, and Mushfiqur Rahim, the Bangladesh captain, echoed how Australia were seeing a different side to Bangladesh with bat, ball, body language and sledging. Shakib gave Nathan Lyon a send-off on the first day, while David Warner, Steven Smith and Matthew Wade all reacted to the sledging at different points on the third and fourth day. Warner had to be stopped by Tamim Iqbal while Wade exchanged words with some of the Bangladesh players, including Tamim, after his second innings dismissal. “Australians are very good at it, we are learning from them,” Shakib said when asked about the verbal volleys. “After this Test match they will show a lot more respect.”

Shakib also felt it didn’t matter if Australia didn’t respect them enough coming into the series. “At home, we believe we can beat any side,” he said. “We had that confidence and the belief came from the last two-three years. Not many have been watching us but we were quietly doing our job.”

Mushfiqur, meanwhile, pointed to Australia’s tactic of slowing down proceedings and even resorting to sledging of their tailenders as a sign of being on the back foot. “They had aggression but we also showed that Bangladesh can be an aggressive side,” he said. “They saw it in our body language, apart from how we did with the bat and ball.

“If you noticed towards the end of the first session, (Glenn) Maxwell tried to ensure that there was no more overs by taking up five of the six minutes. The Australian team were on the back foot, trying not to play an over.

“I thought it is a huge message. Even they talked to our taileneders, to our junior players. They know that an extra run here is crucial. But we also returned them the favour. They found out that we are no longer the Bangladesh of old, that we now have the players who can now change the course of a match from any position.”

Mushfiqur also underlined the importance of not allowing the win to make then complacent. “We should be careful of not becoming too complacent. It is hard to get the Australian team under pressure so we must take the opportunity to win the series.”


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