Shakib: Bangladesh's answer to the rest of the world

Shakib Al Hasan during a match in the ICC World Cup 2019. Photo credit: AFP

"From the first match, I had a feeling that something good will happen (this time). I scored well in all opening matches in the previous World Cups but I could not continue doing that.”
- Shakib Al Hasan on his sublime form in the ICC World Cup 2019. 

Bangladesh does not have a plethora of legends when it comes to cricket. If one counts the number of Bangladeshi cricketers who have carved a place for themselves in the eternal hall of fame, one will either end up with a baffled expression or a curious question: Why this dearth of greats?

Though they entered the scene in 1979, Bangladesh's tryst with cricket began on a true note in 1997, when they won the ICC trophy in Malaysia. That opened an elusive door for them. It was a passage to the decorated paradise of the game: The World Cup. In the 1999 edition of the premier tournament, they defeated Scotland and pulled off an improbable victory against the mighty Pakistan.

Years later, Bangladesh would go on to become a force to reckon with in this game. They would find a hero. The yearning for someone to lead them to salvation, the wait for the chosen one came to an end one day, as a tall, slim young man took the field.

Aug. 6, 2006: A southpaw made his debut for Bangladesh against Zimbabwe.  

Shakib Al Hasan first arrived as a bustling, talented young player. He could bat, he could bowl, and it was evident in his early years that he was different. From all who had previously donned the team jersey, from all who gave a glimmer of hope only to fade away, he was marked as the beloved child of fate. He was destined for greatness, to take his place among the jewels of the crown.

Thirteen years after his debut, in the grandest stage of cricket, he would proclaim his victory.

Bangladesh entered the tournament as a team brimming with promise, a side with extra spring in their steps. A team that garnered the admiration of all, which bore the symbol of change. And leading their charge was the young man of yesteryear. Now a seasoned warrior, hardened by the scars of numerous battles. The talisman of Bangladesh was determined to leave his footprints in the sand of eternity, unscathed by time. The stage was set and the prodigal son rose to the occasion.

An innings of 75 runs and a wicket against South Africa in Bangladesh's opening match; Shakib was adjudged Man of the Match. Bangladesh won by 21 runs.

Then, it was 64 runs and a couple of wickets against New Zealand in the next match as Bangladesh lost narrowly by two wickets. And the juggernaut became impossible to stop.

A score of 121 versus England in a lost cause, 124 not out against West Indies in a successful, audacious chase. The rain that had ravaged the tournament finally gave way to the glaring sun. Shakib was soaked in the warmth of love, awe and respect.

In the next four matches, he failed to cross the 50-run mark only once, against Australia. He continued to plunder runs at will. His innings of 66 against India and the 64 that kept his team in the hunt against Pakistan had the hallmark of his mastery over batting and underlined the effort that he had put in to finetune the craft, like a musician composing the perfect symphony.

He had a mediocre season in the 2019 IPL for Sunrisers Hyderabad as he was benched more often than not. And that proved to be a blessing. He used the spare time to work on fitness, remodelling his ageing body into an agile athlete, filled with the vibrancy of youth.

The biggest moment (that carries with it a tinge of irony) came when Shakib requested the team management to let him bat at number three. His performance at the World Cup would result in a collective sigh of forlorn hope, for Shakib has batted at number five or number six throughout his career. It gave birth to a question of what could have been, which will haunt Bangladesh cricket in the years to come.

Shakib made the 2019 ICC World Cup his own, carrying the team singlehandedly throughout the tournament. He displayed an all-round brilliance that was arguably unmatched in the history of the tournament.

As he fought against the odds in the World Cup, Bangladesh crumbled. He has reached a league of his own, a place not traversed by any other cricketer from that nation. The tale of heroics will live on, in the desolation of a legend. Shakib Al Hasan, Bangladesh's answer to the rest of the world.

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