Why has Shakib Al Hasan always remained an underrated cricketer?

2019 has been a rollercoaster ride for Shakib Al Hasan and his fans. After a record all-round performance in the 2019 World Cup Shakib has recently been suspended from cricket for at least one year for breaking the International Cricket Council’s anti-corruption protocols. As Shakib and his well-wishers begin the process of recovery, we take a look at Shakib’s illustrious career of 13 years in a series of articles to reflect on some of his greatest accomplishments, understand some of the pivotal moments of the past and project where he may finish his career.

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His teammates and coaches often refer to him as someone equivalent of two players because of his equal potency with the bat and the ball – Shakib Al Hasan has established himself as one of the best all-rounders in modern cricket (ESPN UK, 2018). He has recently renewed the respect of the international cricket community with his dominant performance at the 2019 cricket world cup with a record all-round performance of 606 runs and 11 wickets. This prompted many cricket analysts to probe Shakib’s worth using a wide range of statistical numbers and records and several experts questioned if Shakib is an underrated cricketer and whether he receives the recognition he deserves. In part of I of this series of articles, I attempt to analyze Shakib’s career statistics and records to understand his true value as an all-rounder compared to some of the best all-rounders of the contemporary era, and investigate the possible factors obstructing his path to further success and recognition.

Shakib’s dominance in the Ranking

Whether or not he is the best all-rounder in the world has often been a subject of debate, but if you simply go by ranking, Shakib’s consistent dominance at the top in the past decade is almost unmatchable in any format of the game.

Following is a brief synopsis of Shakib’s achievements in the world rankings:

One Day Internationals:

→ Debuted in June 2006 ranked 209→ Became number one in January 2009, less than 3 years from his debut.
→ Remained no. 1 for 26 consecutive months (From January 2009 to March 2011)→ Remained no. 1 for 24 consecutive months (From June 2015 to June 2017)
→ Never slipped below no.3 in the all-rounder ranking since January 2009

T-20 Internationals:

→ Debuted in November 2006 ranked 28→ Became number one in March 2015
→ Remained no. 1 for 11 consecutive months (From March 2015 to February 2016),→ Never slipped below no.3 in the all-rounder ranking since March 2014

Test Cricket:

→ Debuted in May 2007 ranked 116→ Became number one in December 2011
→ Remained no. 1 for 10 consecutive months (From November 2014 to August 2015), which is only the second longest reign after Ravichandran Ashwin’s record of 14 consecutive months as the no.1 all-rounder in the world→ Never slipped below no.3 in the all-rounder ranking since December 2011
Shakib’s international career at a glance

Other than rankings, statistics, and records, Shakib’s demand at the international stage has been quite evident in the last decade. He played in nearly every major domestic T-20 cricket tournament is the world including the Australian Big Bash, Caribbean Cricket League, Pakistan Super League, and the high profile Indian Premier League. In the 2019 world cup Shakib has renewed the respect he had earned from the cricket world with an astonishing performance of 606 runs (average 86.57) and 11 wickets (average 36.27) from 8 matches.

While his performance has brought much joy and pleasure to cricket fans everywhere, many fans and pundits were surprised by Shakib’s level of consistency and renewed commitment to the game. Many experts asked if Shakib is an underrated player and whether he gets the recognition he deserves. Hence, in this article, I try to analyze Shakib’s performance compared to the other contemporaries, and understand his true value as an all-rounder.

Is Shakib al Hasan underrated?

Whether or not Shakib is underrated can be a subject to your personal preference, cricket philosophy, and your geographic location. As Kimber (2019) writes, to the Bangladeshi fans he is the alpha and the omega, a 50-foot giant, a saviour, and a superhero, but to the casual cricket fans he is almost invisible. And this is probably a very accurate depiction of Shakib’s career and fame as a cricketer. In Bangladesh, you won’t meet a person who hasn’t heard of Shakib Al Hasan, and his teammates and coaches will always tell you that ‘One Shakib’ is equivalent to two players because Shakib serves as a top order batsman and a very dependable full-time bowler and his inclusion allows them to add an extra batsman or a bowler.

But further he goes away from home, so does diminish his value among coaching staff that are reluctant to keep him in the roster, and so fades his recognition among cricket fans. He has played in nearly every domestic T-20 cricket league and performed well on a consistent basis but somehow people are still often taken off-guard when they see Shakib’s name at the top of the all-rounders’ ranking. When Shakib scored 600+ runs and took 10+ wickets many people were shocked despite he has been tallying up runs and wickets for nearly a decade.

There is more evidence that Shakib is often undervalued by teams, and coaches. For example, Shakib has been invited to play in the high profile Indian Premier League (IPL) for the last eight years and one would think that a player who has never slipped below no. 3 in the T-20I ranking since 2014 would be highly sought after by every team in the draft. But that has not been the case – teams rarely fought over Shakib in the recent IPL auctions, to them Shakib is, at best, a useful role player. In the 2019 edition of the IPL, Shakib was sold at US$ 289,302, which is much lower than some of the other internationals with less impressive records at the international stage, such as, Dwayne Bravo (US$925,766), Shane Watson (US$ 578,604), Andre Russel (US$1 million), and Kieron Pollard (US$781,115). Ben Stokes who is currently ranked below Shakib in Test, ODI, and T-20I was sold at a value (US$1.8 million) six times higher than Shakib. And as the tournament unfolded, Shakib’s circumstances did not improve as he was chosen to play only in one game in the entire tournament by his team (Sunrisers Hydrabad).

Following is an illustration that compares Shakib’s records in T-20 Internationals to that of some of the most reputed all-rounders of our time including the ones mentioned above:

Although statistically he appears far more superior, rankings or statistics are not always the most reliable representation of the true quality of a player because both overlook many situational aspects of the game that are not recorded in the scorecard. Hence, just because he has more runs, wickets, and better averages, it doesn’t make Shakib a better player than Ben Stokes or any other all-rounders mentioned here. So, one can’t be blamed for picking Ben Stokes over Shakib especially after the summer of 2019 when Stokes lead the English to their first World Cup Trophy. But Shakib is not one sixth the player Ben Stokes is and the difference between Stokes and Shakib shouldn’t be 500%, whichever way you look at it. Hence, Shakib is indeed an underrated player who is often valued much lower than what he is worth as an all-rounder.

Why is Shakib still so invisible to fans?

Despite his enduring presence at the top, Shakib is often a forgotten name among cricket fans, and at times, Shakib only has himself to blame. While he has been the most enduring name in the all-rounders’ ranking, kept cricket fans entertained for over a decade with 14 centuries and 21 five-wicket hauls, he has often disappeared from the limelight because of performing at a level far lower than what we all know he is capable of. Here are some factors that explain why fans are not entirely at fault for forgetting Shakib from time to time.

Missing games due to recurrent injuries

For a career that has spanned over a decade it’s not completely unusual to miss a few games or suffer from a few injuries. While Shakib deserves much credit for managing his career for 13 years, and maintaining his fitness to extend his mileage, he has also missed a significant number of games, including a few very important games that include several tournament finals.

Recurrent Disciplinary issues

If injuries weren’t the worst form of woes in Shakib’s illustrious career, he has been frequently plagued by many other controversies. Shakib has a long history of trouble with the authorities and he has been suspended on multiple occasions in his career that were caused by disciplinary issues. Here is a brief list of allegations made against Shakib with regards to disciplinary issues:

  • Confronting a fan during a game
  • Making lewd gesture on live television
  • Misbehaviour with the head coach
  • Aggressive verbal altercation with a fan caught on camera
  • Leaving the dressing room and physically assaulting a fan in the stand during a game
  • Verbally abusing an umpire during a game
  • Signing an individual endorsement contract with an organization that violated his current contract with his national team
  • Failed to report several incidents of correspondences with a bookie that violated International Cricket Council’s anti-corruption protocol

Repeated Voluntary leaves

If voluntary absence caused by injuries and suspensions weren’t bad enough Shakib has also taken a significant amount of leave of absence from the game throughout his career. Since his debut in 2006, Shakib has missed a total of 38 One Day Internationals, 13 Test Matches, and 13 T-20 Internationals. These missed games were primarily a result of injury and suspension because a fit Shakib has rarely ever been ignored by Bangladesh Cricket Board. His most controversial decision to take a leave was during Bangladesh’s important tour of South Africa in 2017, for which he received much criticism including from legendary All-Rounder Shaun Pollock. While rest is a critical element of effective career management, Shakib’s repeated voluntary leave has clearly deprived him of significant amount of runs and wickets that made it easier for fans to often forget his name.

Inconsistency

Whether you attribute this to his injury history, repeated suspension, or voluntary leave of absences, Shakib’s performance has suffered from frequent inconsistency throughout his career. He may have never hit the very rock bottom, but his performance often suffered from severe mediocrity which did not do justice to the talent he possess. This has allowed the fans to forget his past accomplishments and his true value as an all-rounder. These factors kept him from becoming a star of even a greater stature.

For example, Shakib has finished several calendar years with a batting or bowling average significantly worse than his career averages on those categories as illustrated below:

Shakib’s lack of consistency and dominance becomes more evident if you look at his IPL campaigns. He is only one of four Bangladeshi players to be drafted in the IPL (other three being Tamim Iqbal, Mashrafe, and Mustafizur Rahman), and the only player from his country to register an IPL appearance for 8 straight years. Given the level of competitiveness in the IPL these are incredible achievements for a Bangladeshi athlete. However, Shakib never managed to perform on a regular basis or establish himself as a star of the IPL. The following illustration provides further substance for Shakib’s inconsistency in the IPL.

Conclusion

Despite many downfalls and stretches of underwhelming performances, Shakib has remained one of the best All-Rounders of his generation. The problem with Shakib is, every time he ascended to the top of the mountain, it seems as he simply didn’t know what to do with that position or fortify his legacy as the best in the world. The most classic example of this scenario is Cristiano Ronaldo or Lionel Messi who started their careers as very good, but not great players. But once they reached the top they did not become complacent with their position, or stop being hungry for more success. That is what separates good players of every generation from Great players who are remembered long after they are gone. But Shakib has clearly failed to achieve that. Every time he rose to the top, instead of raising his game to the next level he started to fall off, allowing others behind him to catch up and doubters to doubt all over again. Instead of cementing his legacy as the best of his generation, Shakib has always found himself back to a position where he has to reclaim his lost throne. Hence, much to the disappointment of his loyal fans, he has always remained the poor man’s Sobers or Kallis, as opposed to one who would be a worthy successor of those legends.

References

ESPN UK. (2018). Shakib Al Hasan is worth 2 players for Bangladesh – Michael Hussey | Cricket World Cup. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xPVoB0mCGNQ

Kimber, J. (2019). Why aren’t there more true allrounders like Shakib in ODIs? | ESPNcricinfo.com. Retrieved July 23, 2019, from ESPNCRICINFO website: https://www.espncricinfo.com/story/_/id/27070967/why-there-more-true-allrounders-shakib-al-hasan-odis

About the Author

Adlul Kamal is a professional practitioner & researcher in sport and exercise psychology. He has a double master’s degree in sport and exercise psychology from Lund University (Sweden) and Leipzig University (Germany). Adlul has been working in the industry since 2012 and he is a professional member of the Canadian Sport Psychology Association (CSPA). He has worked with athletes in many different sports including Fencing, Soccer, Basketball, Triathlon, Badminton, and Special Olympics Athletes.
Contact Adlul for questions and comments via Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, or email

To visit Adlul’s website please click on: adlulkamal.com

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