Shakib Al Hasan’s historic feat indicative of the rise of Bangladesh in world cricket
In the first of a two test series against the West Indies, a low scoring affair which Bangladesh won inside three days, star all-rounder Shakib Al Hasan achieved an historic feat. With the claiming of his 200th test wicket, he became the fastest player in the history of the game to achieve 200 test wickets and 3000 test runs.
Shakib, who has played 54 tests for Bangladesh, has long been one of the premier all-rounders in the world, but often the team for which he plays has meant he has remained more anonymous than he would have playing for one of the higher profile test nations. The runs and wickets haven’t come simply from being the only option on a poor team, or beating up on minnow nations - he is a proven performer against the best teams in the world, and his side is no longer devoid of other players to carry the load as it might once have been.
As a batsman, Shakib had a slow start - taking until his 13th innings to pass the 50 mark - but has gradually built an impressive portfolio. In 102 innings he has accumulated 3,727 runs at a rate of 39.23 per innings. Five times he has passed 100, and on all but one of these occasions it was against established test playing nations.
The highlight, no doubt, came in January 2017 when, during a tour of New Zealand, he amassed a huge 217 - though it was ultimately in vain. In that innings, after Shakib entered the fray with Bangladesh perilously poised at 3/145, he carried them through to 6/536, putting together an enormous 359 run partnership with captain Mushfiqur Raham.
Another memorable innings came way back in 2011, long before he was as established a player as he is now, in the second test of Pakistan’s tour of Bangladesh. After a whole lot of pre-match rain, Pakistan sent Bangladesh in to bat in tricky conditions. The decision appeared to be a good one as the home side was quickly reduced to 4/43. Enter Shakib. He put together a 180 run partnership with opener Shariar Nafees before sticking around for another 82 runs after that, eventually being run out after amassing 144 runs over the course of almost six hours, and leading Bangladesh to a competitive first innings total.
As a bowler he has been equally impressive. His 201 wickets have come at an average of 31.45, meaning he can comfortably lay claim to the feat which all-rounders surely aspire to but often don’t achieve - having a bowling average lower than your batting average. 18 times he has taken five wickets in an innings, and twice ten in a match, and unlike his batting numbers, many of his best bowling innings’ came early in his career.
Take just his seventh test, for example - once again against New Zealand, a team he seems to have made a habit out of putting in huge performances against. At this stage of his career he was a bowler who could bat a little, coming in at eight in Bangladesh’s first innings, and scoring just five of their 245 runs. In the second innings, he quickly showed his wares as a bowler, knocking over the Kiwis like dominos as all other bowlers around him struggled to make an impact. He finished having bowled 25.5 overs - including 7 maidens - and with the figures of 7/36.
Just two matches later, the ninth of his career, and his Bangladesh side were in South Africa, well and truly out of their depth at this stage of their development against a batting lineup that boasted the likes of Graham Smith, Hashim Amla, Jacques Kallis and AB de Villiers. The visitors were smashed, losing by an innings and 129 runs and an innings and 48 runs in the two matches - meaning the South Africans batted just twice across the two matches, accumulating over 400 both times. The Bangladeshi bowlers were all at sea against the incredibly talented South Africans - all except for Shakib, who took five wickets in the first and six in the second to end the tour with 11 of South Africa’s 20 wickets. He bowled a lot of overs and went for a few runs, sure, but relative to his teammates he was far and away the most dangerous member of the attack.
Today, Bangladesh is a far more competitive test playing nation than they were at the beginning of Shakib’s career, and he is a large reason for that. Of course, it would be naive to give him too much of the credit, and there are a whole lot of factors at play that have contributed to their improvement. His consistently high performance, however, has no doubt contributing to increasing the standards of performance in the team. Bangladesh still find themselves ninth in the world, last of all the established test playing nations, but there are few who would argue that cricket in the nation is not in a far better place than it was just a few short years ago - take the fact that they have risen to seventh in the ODI rankings as an example.
Further proof of just how impressive this feat is by Shakib is the names he overtook in reaching the title of fastest player to 200 wickets and 3,000 runs. The man he beat, Ian Botham, took just one game longer, and is regarded as one of the best all-rounders in the history of the game. Next on the list is New Zealand star Chris Cairns, followed by Freddie Flintoff of England, and finally, India’s Kapil Dev. All of these players are absolute royalty in the context of all-rounders, and are some of the best players the game have seen. Shakib might not be recognised in the same league as a couple of them yet, but at just 31 years of age he likely still has a number of years of good cricket left in him, and by the time he is finished he will no doubt leave behind a resume that places him in some pretty solid company.