It was always going to take a very special cricketer to replace a man of Jacques Kallis’s stature. The South African is already regarded as a legend of the game with his unparalleled record with the bat and ball in all formats. By sheer number, Kallis has defeated competition for his throne and has kept himself head and shoulders above the rest. For Shakib Al Hasan to replace him at the top of the ICC all-rounders’ rankings, after more than a decade, can end up as a one-off but it makes most sense that the figure at the top is indeed the Magura lad.
How a talented all-rounder has spruced up the fortunes of a fledgling Test side is not new in cricket history but the importance of such a cricketer can only be gathered when one looks at the change he has brought on. Shakib has made a world of difference to Bangladesh, be it with his batting, bowling or fielding. He has often been inspirational, galvanising the team together with his timely wickets and has always had the role of either saving his team from the brink of a total collapse or playing an innings that makes the others look good.
Kallis has continued the long line of great pace bowling all-rounders but Shakib has excelled in bowling spin and batting in the middle-order. It may sound easier but not many have fulfilled this criteria quite like Shakib in the past.
There is one criteria where Shakib is ahead of Kallis and that is in the count for most 50 and five-wicket hauls in a Test. While the legend’s two times in a 16-year long career is mainly due to a lack of opportunities with the ball, Shakib has completed the feat five times mainly due to him bowling and batting more than the others in his team.
What took him past Kallis was the 144 and 6-82 against Pakistan in the second Test, a performance that described Shakib’s impact to Bangladesh to the tee.
The top-order collapsed within the first hour of play, leaving Shakib with two regular batsmen to work with. He cut out many positive shots, left more balls and slowly built his fort. Once the man at the other end settled down, Shakib felt secured enough to play shots. His acceleration is often early but this time, he wanted to play for the long haul and make a statement of intent. As the dominant bowling attack flagged, Shakib reached his second Test hundred and continued to extend himself the next day. A run-out ended his effort but it was as good an innings as anyone has ever played for Bangladesh.
If one were to compare, it could be kept in the same height as Mohammad Ashraful’s unbeaten 158 which was made at the peak of calls to remove Bangladesh from Test cricket. Shakib’s innings, despite the subsequent loss in the Test match, has kept the critics at bay for the time being.
With the ball in hand, Shakib remaixned the only force. Though six catches were dropped and one stumping missed, he led the way with excellent control. Three out of his six wickets were tail-enders but those around him often struggle to close the deal.
He didn’t score many in Bangladesh’s second innings, guiding a ball to the gully fieldsman but by then he had to be totally spent. Apart from batting for almost six hours, he bowled 40-plus overs and was immediately asked to save the team from another collapse. If he did bring them out, it would have put him in a league of his own but for now, Shakib must keep some energy for future battles. More importantly, Shakib’s exploits have spoiled others into comfort.
While Kallis adds balance to an already excellent team, Shakib is a one-man team.
-With The Daily Star input