There are mixed feelings about Shakib Al Hasan in Bangladeshi cricket circles. While it’s beyond dispute that he is the most exceptional player to have emerged from the small nation to date, there is also the feeling that at times he doesn’t care enough. There are quarters that feel he throws his wicket away too often, plays reckless shots to the detriment of his team.
On Saturday (February 11), the third day of the one-off Test against India in Hyderabad, Shakib got past some anxious moments against Umesh Yadav to score 82 in 103 balls, an innings that ended when he stepped out to hit R Ashwin over the infield, failed to get to the pitch of the ball, but went ahead with the shot and ended up miscuing it to mid-off.
Before that, Shakib had rescued Bangladesh from a precarious position in collaboration with Mushfiqur Rahim, and though Rahim and Mehedi Hasan kept Bangladesh in the game with some solid application throughout the last session, one wonders what Shakib might have done with a little more patience.
It’s the sort of question gentlemen like Virender Sehwag and many others have been asked often over the course of their careers, and Shakib’s reply was not too different from theirs.
“Well, if you look at my innings, throughout I was playing shots. So that one I didn’t connect well and that’s all I can say,” said Shakib after the day’s play ended with Bangladesh 322 for 6, still 365 behind India’s 687 for 6 declared.
“I think it was very positive the way I was batting. I didn’t want to change my innings. I was playing the way I have been playing for the last five-six years. It was a good wicket. It wasn’t helping spinners that much. I know I can be positive; I can move my feet. I was looking to score rather than just blocking balls.”
One has to agree with Shakib there. The shot he got out to, in fact, was an attempt at repeating one he had played earlier to the same bowler. On that occasion, he had hit it down the ground for four to get to his half-century. It comes off sometimes, sometimes it doesn’t.
“I like to contribute for the team. Even I was not happy enough (with the way I got out) when I scored 217 (in New Zealand recently). I wanted to score more for the team. But I know that’s not going to happen. Just for this I am not going to change my style of play. I know if I change it, I don’t think I will be Shakib,” he elaborated.
“I don’t think about so many things when I go to bat. If I hadn’t been out I would have scored a hundred. It would have been good if I could have batted for a longer period for my team. But I like to play my shots. This is my natural game. Sometimes you are successful, sometimes you are not – that’s the balance. If I got out early what would have happened? We would have lost five wickets for 140 rather than 240 for 5.”
“I don’t think about so many things when I go to bat. I like to play my shots. This is my natural game. Sometimes you are successful, sometimes you are not – that’s the balance. If I got out early what would have happened? We would have lost five wickets for 140 rather than 240 for 5.”
Once Shakib was back in the hut, Rahim (81 not out) and Mehedi (51 not out) kept the Bangladesh flag fluttering with workmanlike enterprise – scoring 21 runs in the first hour after tea to stabilise the innings before picking up pace with 55 more in the last hour.
“They batted very well. I think Mushfiq bhai especially didn’t play any bad shots throughout the innings and hit the bad balls. Miraz’s (Mehedi) first 50 is special for him,” said Shakib. “It was important for him and for the team at that time. It was crucial for him to stay at the wicket with Mushfiq bhai and contribute for the team and he did it perfectly, exactly what we thought of him. We rate him highly with the ball and the bat and today he proved that.
“Obviously India is on the front foot. We will want them to play the first session and maybe we can score 100-120 runs that can take us close to the follow-on score, which is our first target.”
As for Rahim, his old colleague, Shakib offered, “He likes those situations when it is tough, he likes to stand up and do the hard work for the team and that character has helped him play for so long for Bangladesh.”
Rahim fluffed more than one chance during the Indian innings, letting Cheteshwar Pujara off with one he let fly past and then missing a chance to stump Wriddhiman Saha. Those lapses have led to questions as to whether he should play as a specialist batsman.
Shakib wasn’t entering the debate, understandably. “At this moment he likes both (batting and keeping). He is someone who likes to take the challenge. He is not someone who will back away if you want him to bat at the top. But he still wants to keep – that’s positive thinking,” he said. “I don’t think it will be wise for him and for the team if he puts his gloves away and play as a batsman for the team. I think whatever he is doing at the moment – ‘keeping, batting and captaincy – it’s obviously very difficult for him but he is someone who likes to do that stuff. He likes to get involved with everything. I think that’s a good way for him.”