Shakib Al Hasan is a left-arm spinner and a very talented left-hand batsman, who ensured his place in the Bangladesh squad for the U-19 World Cup in Sri Lanka with a blistering performance in the final of the tri-nations U-19 ODI tournament in Bangladesh. Firstly, he took 3 for 39 in the Sri Lankan innings and then scored 100 to guide Bangladesh to victory.
Although primarily selected for his bowling, he has shown great potential with the bat. This gets him on par with Daniel Vettori, the New Zealand captain. And Shakib is the current Bangladesh captain. The comparisons don’t end just here.
Vettori made his debut at the age of 18 and Shakib did at the age of 19. Vettori was largely under-estimated by many pundits at the start of his career. So was Shakib, who took two years to establish himself as a top player for the Bangladesh team, in all three formats of the game. Vettori belongs to the elite club of those who have scored 3000 Test runs and picked 300 wickets.
This has made him book his place in the top of the ICC rankings for all-rounders. Shakib has already picked 70 wickets and scored 1168 runs in 20 Tests to be precise. And if Shakib continues at this rate, in 100 Tests, he could get atleast 300 wickets and actually get close to Vettori who has picked 325 wickets.
In fact, Shakib is at par with Vettori already by being in the top all-rounder rankings as well. However, my hunch is that Shakib al Hasan will be more of a batting all-rounder. It is because the current focus of the Bangladesh team is to improve their batting, by making their top-order efficient.
Shakib would soon or later bat at No.4 in all three formats, as his match-winning ability can’t be questioned. And being captain, adds more responsibility on him. Vettori never faced such a problem after two years of international cricket, which made him focus on improving his bowling. And thus today, as Vettori by being skipper, has improved his batting. So, he can be called a bowling all-rounder.
Both the players are very similar in their styles of batting and bowling. Batting-wise, both of them look to attack when possible, in the shorter formats and defend in Tests, so that their teams can get to respectable totals. Bowling-wise, Vettori and Shakib are extremely successful in bowling the arm-ball which is in my opinion, really difficult for a left-arm spinner to execute.
It is because if a left-hand batsman is on strike, he could easily convert it down the leg-side for a single or keep it down the ground without scoring. And a right hander can look to play it straight back to the bowler. Both the men have picked Kevin Pietersen, for example with the same delivery many a times.
Both are decent fielders as well, which sets a good example for the rest of the team to follow. Plus, both their personalities have made them skippers of their respective teams. Vettori and Shakib are fine characters on and off the field. Humble, modest, truthful, disciplined are words that are common which can be applied to both of them.
This maybe due to both having a poor economic background altogether, which has made them work hard to become what they are today.
However, Shakib has a long way to go in order to emulate Vettori. He still needs some more experience to become a better player. He needs to look to constantly improve, unlike his team-mate Mohammad Ashraful. Perhaps, if Bangladesh can keep him as a long-term captain, it could help his personal form get better.
Shakib is still young, being just 23 years old. It is easy for a young cricketer to get carried away after a good start to his international career, or joining tournaments like the Indian Premier League (IPL) where the lure of money is huge. Plus, the major worry for Shakib would be to keep himself fit enough.
The team also needs to have quality players, which could reduce the burden on him. Vettori is mature enough to understand his body and doing the right, to make his country benefit. This is where the Bangladeshi Cricket Board’s role is important. It needs to counsel Shakib so that he doesn’t fade.
Plus, his personal and family life also needs to be in control so that he doesn’t lose his focus. All this is not easy in the light of Shakib being another Vettori in the making. Could that be so? Not for now, but maybe in two years, it could be possible.
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