It has been 148 days since Shakib Al Hasan was banned for a year by the International Cricket Council (ICC) for failing to report bookie approaches. In these days, a lot has happened. Bangladesh have clean-swept Zimbabwe but have looked prone against better oppositions. And now, the coronavirus outbreak has brought the world to a halt.
Now as it is the birthday of unquestionably Bangladesh's greatest cricketer ever, it just might be the right time to answer a question, why is Shakib so important? And a complimentary one, how much does Bangladesh miss Shakib?
To answer the first one, a look at the stats first. For this, we will go through them format-by-format.
Since Shakib's debut, Bangladesh have only won two Test matches without Shakib. In his 11 wins, Shakib has averaged better with bat and bowl than his average in the longer format. His batting average spikes to 46.80 from 39.40 in Tests Bangladesh have won whereas his bowling average comes down to 19.27 from his career average 31.12. Shakib has picked up 65 wickets in Bangladesh's winning bouts and has been influential all along.
In ODIs, his batting average, in general, is 37.86. But in matches where Bangladesh have won, that goes beyond 50 to 52.45. He has picked up 144 out of his 260 ODI wickets in matches were Bangladesh reigned victorious, at an average of 23.45, substantially lower than his usual 30.21.
In T20Is, Shakib is not just Bangladesh's best, but one of the World's elite (well, in all formats too, but this one especially). Shakib has 92 wickets in T20Is, only behind Lasith Malinga and Shahid Afridi. And add his 1576 runs to that, Shakib is unmatchable in his prowess.
Now again the question, why is Shakib so important? For starters, in 94 ODIs Shakib has won with Bangladesh, he has failed to pick up a wicket on only 20 occasions. Among those, he has scored less than 30 in 11 occasions with two matches ending with him at the crease. It is a rarity that Shakib fails to have a say in a win and even if he fails to do anything with the bat or the ball, he covers it up with his fielding. For example, the 2015 World Cup match where Bangladesh toppled England to reach the quarter-finals. Shakib did not contribute anything mentionable with the bat or the ball. But he took a fine catch to send back the English skipper Eoin Morgan and then ran Chris Jordan out, which was a crucial factor in winning the match.
But still, Shakib's greatness lies somewhere else. He is one from that rare breed of all-rounders who is reliable with both bat and ball across all formats. There is none in his generation who has scored more than ten thousand runs and picked up more than 500 wickets in international cricket. Shakib is that player who every team dream of to bring a perfect balance to their side but only Bangladesh (and recently England in Ben Stokes) have.
Another example of why Shakib is so important hides in the 2019 Cricket World Cup. Despite dismal performances from most of the players, Shakib's performance made the team look half decent. He scored 606 runs and picked up 11 wickets, the only player ever to do so. He also became the only player to be among both the best 20 batsmen and bowler in World Cup history. Also, he became the only player to notch up more than a thousand runs and pick up more than 30 scalps.
Shakib has been often tagged as arrogant, selfish and whatnot. Nobody would deny Shakib's flaws, but can you deny his genius? The simple answer is no.
The flawed genius is a gift for Bangladesh and his value can only be properly understood when he is not there, like now. Shakib will return in the latter parts of the year and Bangladesh fans will hope that he will continue from where he left.
For now, amidst all the crisis, happy birthday to the flawed genius from Magura, who has been quintessential for Bangladesh since he started his career.