The importance of being Shakib Al Hasan

17 May 2018, 17:22

NTV Online
Photo: Collected

Underrated. It’s a word long associated with Shakib Al Hasan - the world’s best all-rounder in two formats and third-best in the other.

Bought for INR 2 crore (USD 312,500 approx), Sunrisers Hyderabad would, perhaps, consider it as one of the biggest heists of the 2018 IPL auction.

Genuine all-rounders - players that can make the XI based on any one skill - are rare in cricket, and good genuine all-rounders are even rarer.

That can be noted in the price tags of these players: Ben Stokes - INR 12.50 crore (USD 1.93mn), Andre Russell - INR 8.50 crore (USD 1.33mn), Hardik Pandya - INR 11 crore (USD 1.72mn), Krunal Pandya - INR 8.8 crore (USD 1.38mn).

Yet Shakib drew interest from only two teams - Rajasthan Royals and Sunrisers - and was bought for a salary close to one-sixth of Stokes and Hardik and nearly one-fourth of Russell and Krunal, reports the ESPNcricinfo.

With their middle order - Manish Pandey, Yusuf Pathan and Wriddhiman Saha - failing to live up to expectation, and Rashid Khan being uncharacteristically expensive for his own standards (economy 7.20), Shakib needed to shine for his new franchise. And he has.

The 2 for 23 against Royals showed early glimpses of his value. And Shakib followed that up with a cameo of 27 and a haul of 2 for 21 against his former team Kolkata Knight Riders.

Then, Shakib’s 1 for 16 strangled Mumbai Indians, bowling them out for 87 in a chase of 119. He helped defend another small total (132) with 2 for 18 against Kings XI Punjab. Against Royal Challengers Bangalore, Shakib displayed resolve to churn out a 32-ball 35 on a sticky batting surface and returned to pick up 2 for 36.

The numbers themselves may not be breathtaking, but remember that under captain Kane Williamson, Shakib has been trusted with bowling in the Powerplay, which is basically a graveyard for spinners. And not only has he managed to keep up the pressure built by the pacers, but by keeping the runs down, he has allowed Sunrisers’ maverick spinner Rashid to go for the kill.

What makes Shakib such a great fit at Sunrisers is that his bowling isn’t meant to take wickets for them. There’s Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Rashid for that. Shakib’s improved economy of 7.72 this season has helped the rest of their bowlers thrive in the middle overs. His experience as Bangladesh captain, too, has helped Williamson and Sunrisers’ young Indian bowlers wade through some rough waters.

Of course, keeping runs in check will naturally force an error from batsmen in T20 cricket, and Shakib’s Powerplay wickets have assisted Sunrisers in becoming the season’s best bowling team. He showed that against Delhi Daredevils, when he struck off two consecutive balls to send their openers packing. Against RCB, he trapped a rampaging Parthiv Patel lbw to apply the brakes on the pursuit of a par score. In all, four of his 12 wickets have come in the Powerplay, at an economy of 7.80 and a ridiculously high dot-ball percentage of 41.66. In the first six overs, Shakib has conceded a boundary only once every five balls.

Pure numbers say Stokes, Hardik, Krunal and Russell have scored more runsthan Shakib this season. But he has been batting at a bowler-friendly venue - the Rajiv Gandhi Stadium in Hyderabad. And while other teams need their allrounders to make that match-winning impact, Sunrisers need Shakib to plug gaps in their performance wherever they may be. These skills - of adapting to the game’s situation and moulding oneself to the team’s structure - makes Shakib an invaluable part of the Sunrisers outfit and, overall, a T20 gem.