A highly potent Afghanistan will be taking on Bangladesh, a comparatively more experienced side on tracks that have always had something for the home side. This offers an intriguing contest given that both sides will be heavily reliant on spin. Both captains, Shakib Al Hasan, arguably the best all-rounder in the world for several years now, and the young spinning sensation Rashid Khan who has taken the world cricket by storm will lock horns at Chittagong to reestablish their supremacy not only as captains of their respective sides but as players of the highest stature.
After the phenomenal success of Shakib Al Hasan during the recent world cup, the quintessential all-rounder has set standards that have never been achieved before. An all-rounder par excellence, the fact that the Bangladeshi was the third leading run-getter in a tournament of such magnitude having amassed more than 600 runs and carving two superlative centuries and scoring more than 50 runs against all the other sides sans Australia, took him to yet another pedestal in world cricket.
Shakib, who now has taken the mantle of leadership, will have to cope with the pressure of living up to the lofty standards he has set not only for himself but for the team as a whole. Once he is able to deliver and maintain the same consistency against a very potent spin attack, it will no doubt be a stepping stone towards greatness. The unassuming yet highly determined individual that Shakib is, the man himself is aware of his value to the team at a moment when confronting a team like Afghanistan that excelled in the shorter format of the game and can pose a real threat to the Bangladeshi batsmen with the type of varied spin attack at their disposal.
The skipper has been quite candid in his recent statements that, given the choice, he would rather have played only as a player and not take on the responsibility of captaincy. He had suggested that a younger player be groomed instead. Ominous as it may sound, given that he had implied it as a favor to the team’s cause rather than a moral duty, he didn’t mince words while referring to Mashrafe Mortaza’s failure as a player and a captain, a reason he attributes for Bangladesh’s lackluster performance despite a good beginning in the World cup. Besides this, there have been other instances where he had voiced disagreement on certain issues because it conflicted with the team’s greater interest, and which supposedly may not have gone down well with certain senior players.
While Shakib Al Hasan has arguably been not only the most valuable player for Bangladesh, his stature in international cricket has taken on the proportions of a great player and the finest all-rounder in all forms of the game. He has been consistently holding on to it for almost a decade or so. No mean achievement by any standards. The yardstick of greatness is when a player excels in all conditions and against all opposition. Therefore, the transformation that one can observe in Shakib Al Hasan of late obviously emanates from the dizzy heights that he has achieved at the highest platform of the game in which he just seemed to be a man possessed. It would augur well for Bangladesh cricket if the player can repeat his performance and play crucial roles hereafter so that the team’s performance and its standings escalate in the process.
The Sunil Gavaskars, the Imran Khans and the Ian Chappells have been responsible for bringing about changes not only in the mindset of players, but in that of administrators as well. The reason being that the players had delivered on the field, and as result, their voices were heard. Shakib Al Hasan could well be the Messiah that Bangladesh cricket needs at the moment, and an icon in every sense of the term. It is very important that this player with his virtuoso performances continues to deliver and not shirk responsibility for the team, as can be made out from his statements. He has proven time and again that indeed he has the makings of an all time great.
- The writer is a former cricketer and current cricket analyst