Shakib Stokes and Jadeja

Is Shakib Al Hasan the best all-rounder of his generation?

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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Despite the many records and accomplishments throughout his illustrious career of 13 years, Shakib Al Hasan has often remained an underrated cricketer. And, although he has spent a better part of his career on top of the International Cricket Council’s all-rounders’ rankings in all three formats of the game, the consensus that Shakib is the best all-rounder of modern cricket has not been unequivocal. In part two of our series of articles on Shakib’s career, we take a look at how Shakib Al Hasan rates as an all-rounder compared to some of the best all-rounders of his time.

Whether or not he is the best of his generation could be very subjective and it may depend on the specific aspects of the game (batting, bowling, and fielding), formats of the game (test, ODI, or T-20) or playing conditions (fast bouncy wickets of Australia/New Zealand vs. slow turning wickets of subcontinent) that one takes into account. For example, many people would place Ben Stokes ahead of Shakib Al Hasan in English or Australian conditions with fast, seaming, and bouncy wickets, pick Ashwin or Jadeja over Shakib in test matches, or prefer Glenn Maxwell in the T-20 format.

However, if you solely go by statistical numbers, Shakib’s presence in each format of the game is quite distinctive. An analysis on performances of all-rounders carried out by Kimber (2019) revealed some very interesting results. Shakib is the 2nd highest wicket taker, and the 13th highest run scorer in ODI in the world since his debut, and those 12 batsmen with more runs than Shakib has taken a combined of 96 wickets compared to Shakib’s 259. Shakib also has better batting average (37.53) compared to all other international top/middle order batsman (batting at no.3 to 5) and better bowling average compared to that of all other international spin bowlers. From his analysis, Kimber (2019)  argued that Shakib may not be the best player in the world, but he is certainly the most important because of his unmatchable efficiency with the bat and the ball.

Shakib during the ICC World Cup 2019 (Photo Gettyimages)

We conducted our own analysis using a point based system while taking various statistical categories into consideration including total career runs, batting average, wickets, bowling average, difference between batting and blowing averages, batting strike rate, bowling strike rate, bowling economy, total 50-runs innings, total 100-runs innings, total 4-wicket hauls, total 5 wicket hauls, highest score in an innings, and best bowling figure in an innings. Each player was awarded points on each of these categories using a discrete interval scaling system. The inclusion criteria for this analysis were any player who remained active for at least one year after Shakib’s debut, and played at least forty (40) games in T-20 Internationals, one hundred (100) in One Day Internationals, or twenty (20) in the Test format of the game in his career.

Following is the representation of our analysis that compares the performance of all-rounders since Shakib’s debut.

T20I All-Rounders' statistics
T20I All-Rounders’ statistics 2007-19 (Source: ESPN Cricinfo)
Test Cricket's All-Rounders' statistics 2007-19
Test Cricket’s All-Rounders’ statistics 2007-19 (Source: ESPN Cricinfo)
ODI All-Rounders' statistics 2007-19
ODI All-Rounders’ statistics 2007-19 (Source: ESPN Cricinfo)

The results showed that Jacques Kallis, Shaun Pollock and Shakib are the only three cricketers who were in the top 5 in ODI and Test, and Shakib is the only player to be in the top 5 in all three formats of the game. If you don’t count the likes of Shaun Pollock, Shaid Afridi, Sanath Jaysuriya, Sachin Tendulkar, Anil Kumble, or Daniel Vettori as players of this generation, it becomes even more difficult to find an all-rounder worthy of challenging Shakib on the stat sheet. As depicted in the results above, Shakib rates much higher than some of today’s most famous all-rounders on several different scales including the likes of as Ashwin, Jadeja, Stokes, and Nabi. The head-to-head comparisons between Shakib and each of his contemporary rivals further substantiates this argument in favour of Shakib.

Shakib vs. the Best of his Generation

When compared head-to-head with some of the other prominent all-rounders of the contemporary era, Shakib’s dominance becomes more visible. Shakib has the batting record of a top or middle order batsman and the bowling record of full-time wicket taking bowler. His batting and bowling averages elicit that he comes from a rare breed of genuine all-rounders who can make an equally significant impact on the stats sheet both with the bat and the ball as opposed to the more common class of batting or bowling all-rounders found today who tend to be dominant in only one aspect of the game, especially in ODI’s or Test matches.

(Source: ESPN Cricinfo)

For example, in ODI, Glenn Maxwell has accumulated a total of 2877 runs on a respectable average of 32.3, but his bowling average is too high (50.5) for him to be considered a fulltime bowler. Ben Stokes has scored 2682 runs in 95 ODI matches with an outstanding batting average of 40.7 (which is better than Shakib’s average of 37.8), but he has only taken 70 wickets with a considerably high bowling average of 41.7 which falls significantly short of Shakib’s average. On the other hand, Mohammad Nabi, Dwyane Bravo, Jason Holder, and Ravichandan Ashwin have decent bowling records but do not have the average of a top or middle order batsman. Rabindra Jadeja is perhaps the one player who has the numbers closer to those of a genuine ODI all-rounder with the bat (average 30.6) and the ball (average 35.9),  but still falls short of Shakib’s records in each of the categories.

In the Test format, Maxwell and Nabi have only played 7 and 3 matches respectably, so they are yet to become relevant in the best all-rounder’s debate in the longer version of the game. Bravo, until he retired from five-day matches, did not have averages good enough to be considered a genuine top order batsman or a wicket taking bowler. Both Jadeja, and Aswhin have better bowling records than Shakib with more wickets and better averages, but they still need to improve their batting averages in order to be considered genuine test all-rounders. However, if either of them do bring their averages closer to forty they may very well pass Shakib and be rated higher as test all-rounders. Jason Holder, is also closing in on Shakib both with the bat and the ball, but he will also need to improve his batting average and continue to play well in order to catch Shakib. As of 2019, Ben Stokes is Shakib’s biggest rival in Test cricket with numbers closest to that of a genuine all-rounder, however, he still trails behind Shakib on both ends of the pitch.

Shakib’s most fierce rivals (from left): Nabi, Ashwin, Jadeja, Maxwell, Stokes, and Bravo

In T-20 format, it’s a bit harder to separate the all-rounders by their numbers  possibly because of the nature of the game. Ashwin is actually in a very good position to surpass Shakib if he plays long enough because he has a far better batting average and a nearly identical bowling average compared to Shakib. Nabi, Maxwell, and Bravo all have decent batting and bowling averages and it is difficult to conclude who is better or even who is statistically more efficient. Jadeja is yet to establish himself as a prominent T-20 all-rounder with a disappointing batting average of 11.8 from 44 games, and for some reason, Ben Stokes, despite his popularity and demand in T-20 leagues all over the world, has only played 23 games for England with batting and bowling averages of 15.5 and 49.6 respectively.

Other than dominating with his average numbers, the interesting fact about Shakib is his impact in all three formats of the game. Several all-rounders of today are challenging Shakib in the stats sheet in one format, but they would struggle to replicate the same performance in another format. For example, Ravindra Jadeja and Ravichandan Ashwin, as discussed above, both have very impressive test resumes, but they trail behind Shakib’s records in in ODI’s or T-20I’s significantly. On the other hand, Glen Maxwell, who is the reigning no.1 all-rounder in the T20I ranking as of October 2019, has struggled to leave his mark in the other two formats of the game. Ben Stokes, Jason Holder and Mohammad Nabi are three players who have been making their presence felt in the recent all-rounders rankings. But all three of them have played significantly fewer games than Shakib and they will need to extend their careers and maintain the high level of performance over a continued period.

Shakib during the ICC World Cup 2019 (Photo Gettyimages)

Conclusion

Statistics can often be quite misleading because many situational factors such as playing conditions or strengths of oppositions are not easy to isolate when analyzing numeric data. For example, many people would argue, and perhaps rightfully so, that Ashwin and Jadeja has played more games against stronger oppositions or Stokes have played more games in different playing conditions compared to Shakib. In addition, the comparisons above also illuminated that even though Shakib leads some of the other all-rounders in most categories, the gap between Shakib and the rest are still quite narrow in many of those categories and he has not completely elevated his numbers to the height where no one can catch him. Hence, the evidences provided in this article are not sufficient to conclude that Shakib is the best all-rounder of this generation. But up to this point in his career, he is clearly the most decorated and statistically accomplished all-rounder of his time after Jacques Kallis. Apart from the categories discussed above, Shakib also leads everyone in individual trophies and records. Shakib has more player of the match and player of the series awards than anyone on this list, and he is the only all-rounder in this list to have taken five or more wickets in an innings in every format of the game. But perhaps Shakib’s most notable achievement as an all-rounder is and taking ten wickets and scoring a century in the same match – a record that is shared by two other legends of cricket – Imran Khan and Ian Botham. If he takes the final few years of his career as seriously as he took his responsibilities in the 2019 world cup, he will have the opportunity to elevate his records to a very distinctive level where his name may very well be echoed with some of the all-time greats.

References

ESPNCricinfo. (2019). Cricket Records – Find ICC Cricket Stats Online | ESPNcricinfo.com. Retrieved from http://stats.espncricinfo.com/ci/engine/records/index.html

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

Images

Title image of Ben Stokes by NAPARAZZI, CC BY 2.0,  https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:BEN_STOKES_(11704837023).jpg

Title image of Shakib Al Hasan by Mohammed Tawsif Salam, CC BY 2.0,  https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Shakib_fielding,_23_January,_2009,_Dhaka_SBNS.jpg

Title image of R. Ashwin by Vijay Chennupati , CC BY 2.0,  https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Ashwin_(6801258319)_(cropped).jpg

Image – 1 of Shakib Al Hasan by Clive Mason/Getty Images, https://www.gettyimages.ca/detail/news-photo/shakib-al-hasan-of-bangladesh-in-action-batting-during-the-news-photo/1159628814

Image of M. Nabi by K Popal, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Mohammad_Nabi-Australia.jpg

Image of R. Ashwin by Dee03, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Ravi_Ashwin.jpg

Image of R. Jadeja by Dee03, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Ravindra_Jadeja.jpg

Image of G. Maxwell by paddynapper, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Glenn_Maxwell.jpg

Image of B. Stokes by NAPARAZZI, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:BEN_STOKES_(11704837023).jpg

Image of D. Bravo by http://www.bollywoodhungama.com, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Dwayne,_Jacqueline,_kJo_setsof-JDJ_3.jpg

Image – 2 of Shakib Al Hasan by Action Foto Sport/NurPhoto via Getty Images, https://www.gettyimages.ca/detail/news-photo/shakib-al-hasan-of-bangladesh-during-icc-cricket-world-cup-news-photo/1154083985

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.
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