I didn’t expect that a Bangladeshi would become my favorite cricketer, but that is what Shakib Al Hasan has done. There are others of course, who I could have picked: Dale Steyn – but may be he doesn’t love cricket that much; my Facebook friend Ambati Rayudu – but the effect has worn off after the IPL; Andrew Strauss – but, wait a minute, I’ve never loved him in the first place.
I first came across Shakib when I was searching for the commercials of Pepsi. That ad wasn’t on TV in India, but I followed it on youtube (I didn’t know the joys of cricinfo then). One morning, I saw that this bowler had taken 5 wickets in a warm-up game. On the small match summary, I vividly remember Shakib being classed as a part-time bowler. So, naturally, I didn’t think much about it – probably just Pakistan being so shit even against part-time spin, I thought. In the Tests, I quickly found out the answer: Shakib can bowl, he can bowl well. I was immediately hooked to his bowling. Bangladesh got thumped in that series, but the bowling of Shakib was the feature that kept me glued to my screen. He got a six wicket haul in one of the two Tests. Six wickets on pitches in a country which historically doesn’t suit spinners was no mean effort. There is one delivery that I always remember when I think of Shakib’s left-arm spin: it was a stumping of Ab de Villiers’ first ball – Ab’s first duck in Test cricket. Now, if had I been a good writer about cricket, I would have described that how good-watching that ball was. All I will say is that the words “beautiful”, “tantalizing” and “spinning” can probably be used.
It’s not only his bowling what I like about him; it is his demeanor, actions and appearance. His wiry arms, his cut sleeves, his cheeky smile to the umpire, his ice-cream face (also known as sun cream), his little swivel at the crease after the batsman has defended, his excitement at taking a wicket and his general enthusiasm are all traits which I adore.
It is said that your hero must have a vulnerable side or a bad side. Well, unless Shakib is a secret marijuana lover, he’s clean in that aspect. Vulnerabilities? Yes. He plays for Bangladesh; they always lose. But I mainly feel sorry for Shakib as he doesn’t get the credit that he richly deserves. The people who wake up to watch Bangladesh in the middle of the night know that Shakib is a class bowler. However, the people who only follow their country’s results and don’t look at Bangladesh don’t even know who Shakib is. It has irritated me recently when people in England have said that only Tamim Iqbal is a test class player in the Bangladesh team. Whenever possible, I have responded back telling them that they had forgotten Shakib. Predictably, someone would have said his fellow countryman. But it was the way he answered; it was as if it was an easy answer. Shakib, though, has a better average in Test cricket than Monty Panesar. Ok, he has played 18 less matches, but it is still an impressive fact. And please don’t say that he plays in the spinning paradise of Bangladesh. The extremely slow nature of the pitches in Dhaka and Chittagong almost negates the effect of any spin.
In recent times, his captaincy – rightly so, perhaps has come under fire for its negativity. Men on the boundary for the new batsman are often a source for the criticism. In defence of Shakib, he hasn’t got bowlers whom he can trust to bowl to a plan. I’m not sure any of the current international team captains would do a much better job, though.
To add to his bowling, Shakib is also a very capable batsman. In recent times, his batting average and form has decreased. Nevertheless at his best, he can change the game with his aggressive style. Despite his lack of cricket awareness (introduced to cricket late), his batting record is respectable for a number six batter, who will come in when the side is in deep strife. Another feature of his batting is his trouble once he gets to 96 – much like Kevin Pietersen’s fetish for 158. As the trustworthy cliche goes, getting stuck on 96 is not a bad problem to have.
Maybe I’m just going through a phase; maybe my love for Shakib will fade soon. For now, however, Shakib is one of my favorite cricketer, who I will continue to be researched and I shall watch him religiously.
And please, just remember, Dhoni is my star at the moment, but don’t forget my hero, Shakib Al Hasan. And a sweet message for him, “ami tomae bhalobasi!!”
9th Class, Mumbai