Shakib Al Hasan: The Bangladesh Crown Prince Gunning for England

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Shakib Al Hasan will go down in the annals of Bangladesh cricket as one of the finest, and most influential, cricketers in their history.

It is in fact only a little stretch to suggest that the 29-year-old’s record will be remembered in much the same way as a certain William Gilbert Grace

A bold statement for sure but one which is borne out by his inspiring of a sea-change in the nation’s approach to the sport alongside a penchant for obliterating Bangladesh records along the way.

W.G. Grace left an indelible mark on the game and it is telling of his impact that he remains such a recognisable point of reference 100 years after his death.

Much of this is due to his distinctive image – the great doctor, he of the portly form and bristling thick beard.

However what really lodged him in the public’s affections during his incredible 44-year career was how far ahead of his peers he was. He blazed a trail which shaped the game and inspired those who would follow him.

He is, for instance, the first batsman to be credited with being equally adept at playing forward and back. The great Ranjitsinhji said in his Jubilee Book of Cricket that: “the theory of modern batting is in all essentials the result of W. G.’s thinking and working on the game.”

His insistence on developing cricket skills through coaching and practice – cricketers are “not born” he believed – is now commonplace and will be familiar to anyone who has had the experience of being taught by an overzealous coach.

As a mere snippet of his prowess, in 1876 he scored the first first-class triple-century (344)  – the score began an eight day stretch during which he scored 839 runs in a season when only one other batsman topped 1000 runs.

He topped the first-class averages 10 times between 1868 and 1880. He was the first batsman to make 100 centuries and between 1868 and 1876, he scored 54 first-class hundreds; the next highest didn’t even manage 10.

And then you have his bowling – 2809 first-class wickets including 240 five wicket hauls makes for quite the tally!

Nor was his prowess limited to the cricket field. At the age of 18 he made 224 not out against Surrey, in a match he left halfway through in order to win a hurdles championship at Crystal Palace. His entrepreneurial ability to extract financial rewards from the game despite being an amateur also set him apart as a pioneer of his day.

As a trailblazer for the sport’s newest Test member, Al Hasan‘s record makes for similarly staggering reading. A canny and accurate left-arm spinner he is Bangladesh’s record wicket taker in all forms of the game. His international total of 427 puts him nearly 100 ahead of current captain Mashrafe Mortaza, four years his senior, while his record of 14 five-wicket hauls is double that of the next highest, the wily old Mohammed Rafique.

He is also only one of two Bangaldeshis, alongside Enamul Haque jnr, to take ten wickets in a Test (a match in which he also made a first innings century).

His batting is very much a product of the T20 age – aggressive with a wide range of strokes and a penchant for clearing the ropes. Here again he was far and away ahead of the curb for his country. He was the first Bangladesh batsman to make 5 ODI hundreds and the first to reach the double of 2000 runs and 100 wickets. In 2015, he took his 200th ODI wicket to become only the seventh player in history to score 4000 runs and take 200 wickets. His international tally of 8492 runs are second only to Tamim Iqbal’s 9279.

But his influence is felt through more than just his on-field exploits.

His professionalism set a benchmark for the nation while his self-belief and temperament have rubbed off on his team-mates and juniors. Extravagantly talented, yet consistently inconsistent, players such as Mohammed Ashraful have given way to a new generation for whom anything less than a win is unacceptable.

As with the great W.G. it has not always been plain sailing. Al Hasan‘s tenure as captain promised much but was terminated, perhaps prematurely, following a poor tour of Zimbabwe. He was also fined in 2014 for lewd gestures into a camera during an ODI against Sri Lanka and in the same year he received a 6 month ban for what the Bangladesh Cricket Board described as a “severe attitude problem” – a common accusation also thrown at W.G. Grace.

Al Hasan is a regular for T20 franchises around the world and sits comfortably as one of the elder statesmen within a Bangladesh side brimming with talent and energy. At the age of 29 he has achieved a great deal personally and for Bangladesh cricket.

However there is much more to come and following a feisty ODI series, Al Hasan will be gunning for England when the Test series kicks off on Thursday.

What better way to further embellish his legend than be leading his nation to their first ever Test win against the founders of the game.

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