Tuesday, June 18, 2024

ICC: Shakib – The pressure is gone, we can play freely

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Photo Credit: Bangladesh Cricket Board

Like so many before him, Hiri Hiri trudged back to the pavilion with a pained expression as he reflected on how he had been outfoxed by Bangladesh’s left-arm spinner. 

But for most watching, both at the Al Amerat Cricket Ground and around the world, it was just another piece of Shakib Al Hasan mastery.  

The 34-year-old all-rounder is used to making history and the wicket of Hiri was his latest milestone, as it moved him level with Pakistan legend Shahid Afridi on 39 ICC Men’s T20 World Cup wickets – the most ever.

Shakib already sits in a select group of three players to have scored 10,000 international runs and taken 500 wickets, alongside Jacques Kallis and Afridi.   

He is also the only player to have scored 1,000 runs and taken 100 wickets in T20Is and is the all-time leading T20I wicket taker, surpassing Lasith Malinga in this very tournament.   

He is a modern legend, yet somehow he continues to surprise and delight with each ICC tournament. At the ICC Men’s World Cup 2019, he scored a remarkable 606 runs in eight matches with the bat, only once failing to get past 50 – settling for a run-a-ball 41 against Australia.   

In three matches here, he has nine wickets and two more player of the match trophies for his cabinet.  

With a place in the Super 12s on the line against PNG, Shakib delivered yet another blistering spell of bowling. His four for nine proved defining for the Tigers, as they eased to an 84-run success that cements their place in the next round.  

Hiri was his fourth victim of the day, a tossed up ball drew a top edge and landed safely in the hands of keeper Nurul Hasan. And in a warning to the rest of the competition, he said: “I think every game we play, the confidence grows. Obviously, losing our first game was a setback but in a T20 format, whoever plays well on the day will win.  

“We need to play very well throughout this tournament to give ourselves a chance and now the pressure is gone, we can express ourselves and play with more freedom.”  

A loose Shakib is a dangerous Shakib, and with the bat he again showed he’s in form.  

Bangladesh struggled in their opener against Scotland, where they stumbled to 134 for seven and lost by six runs, and were all out for 153 against Oman second time around  

Here, they lost a wicket with just the second ball of the innings but Shakib steadied the ship with a brisk 37-ball 46, helping to set the platform for a team total of 181 for seven.  

“It is not easy to get back into form when you are not scoring runs but luckily for me, I am getting more opportunities to bat up the order here, so I need to make sure I stay on the wicket and give myself a chance to score runs for the team,” he added.  

After a sluggish start, Bangladesh have steadily improved and can now attack the Super 12s, where they could be drawn with neighbours Pakistan, India and Afghanistan if they finish top of Group B.  

It’s a potentially daunting group but with Shakib terrorising both batters and bowlers, anything is possible.  

“I am a little tired,” he said. “I am playing non-stop cricket for the last five or six months but hopefully we can pull this off.”

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