Can Shakib shake Bangladesh out of their funk?

The day before Sunrisers Hyderabad’s penultimate league game in IPL 2018, Shakib Al Hasan was his usual self. It was a good time for him, with his team having qualified for the playoffs and his position in it stronger than ever. The Dehradun nightmare that would snowball into a mini-crisis in Bangladesh cricket, one that would need his steady hands to manoeuvre, was still three weeks away.
In conversations with Shakib, his disinterest seems easily visible, and because of that, there is an underlying need to rush through things. This particular phone conversation, though, began with calm and measured answers. Shakib is famously impatient with interviewers, but those close to him frequently speak of how engaging he can be.
In press conferences, he often starts with clipped, one-word responses. So when I broached the topic of his return to Test captaincy after seven years, the answer was typically Shakib. “I am not that excited to be honest with you. I think it should be an easier challenge than before because of how the team is doing these days.”
In fact, Shakib never gets that excited about anything on the field. This demeanour – he often uses deadpan expressions defence mechanisms – has become a trademark in his public life.
“Everyone struggles after starting very well. Then they keep improving and also keep struggling. When a player goes through five years of this, things start to become easy for him”
Barring a couple of incidents in 2014 when his conduct was woeful, Shakib has maintained the type of dignity that is required from the country’s biggest superstar. That is why the BCB president and directors have offered him a second stint as Test captain. They will expect him to spread his inner calm out to the rest of the side, particularly among the younger players who, for the last two years, have struggled to take their game forward.
Shakib’s path to greatness as an allrounder too presents a lesson for his team-mates, particularly in this age of constant analysis and technology. Not only has he been able to stay relevant in both international and franchise T20 cricket, but he has evolved as a cricketer, keeping himself fit, willing, and hungry for over a decade.
His most recent challenge – before the Afghanistan T20Is – was to ensure a regular spot in the Sunrisers’ playing XI in IPL 2018. He had been a regular at Kolkata Knight Riders since 2011, so to be jettisoned ahead of this year’s auction must have been difficult. But when Sunrisers picked him and then gave him a regular place in the XI, it was up to Shakib to show he deserved that faith.