Saturday, March 10, 2012

Shakib's fall from ODI No. 1 All-rounder status

Over the past year, I have become an increasingly regular contributor to the BanglaCricket forum. I love the cricketing and non-cricketing discussions that take place on the forum and can't help but marvel at some of the intellect on display. It's a shame that most of these Bangladeshis are expats, never to permanently return to Bangladesh. In any case this was what I wrote in response to some of the comparisons which were being drawn between Shakib al Hasan and latter-day, legendary all-rounders Botham, Hadlee, Khan, Dev, Sobers and co. It was written soon after Shakib lost his throne as No. 1 ODI Allrounder in the world to Shane Watson and there was criticism of his supposedly diminishing performance.

Drawing Comparisons to All-Time Greats

 I think its important to remember that while statistics are indicative of a player's prowess, they still need to be looked at in context. Botham's ODI Batting Average looks poor but it's important to remember that he largely played as a lower-order (pos. 6-7) slogger in England's ODI team. That much is clear from his 79+ SR at a time which had thinner bats, larger boundaries and no Twenty20. Even if the England team of the 80s wasn't the greatest, it certainly had some very good batsman and did not call upon Botham to bat out a majority of the overs. The fact thatShakib has had to do this on a number of occasions has meant that he has had more opportunities to score centuries and half-centuries (and full credit to him for making the most of many of those opportunities!) To illustrate my point, look at the performance of this season's KKR team. They are a balanced outfit with competent professionals and have done well so far (and hopefully will continue to do so, fingers crossed!). They haven't required Shakib's batting services as of yet but from the look of things, if they ever need to, it will be in the last quarter of their innings which is a slog fest. He would have to score runs very quickly and more often than not he will get out on a relatively low score. His average may look poor, (even in T20 terms) but as it is the SR that matters, it would not necessarily indicate his lack of capability with the bat.

Regarding being an All-rounder in general, as an All-rounder in Tests, Botham was remarkable, as 14 Test Centuries and 27 5wicket hauls attest to. As you know, the figures of Sobers, Imran, Kapil and Hadlee are just as/more impressive.That will require some effort and skill for Shakib to catch up to. And I wonder if he will ever get the opportunity to attain such a number of runs or wickets, given the decreasing number of Tests we seem to be playing each year. Shakib has now bowled in 34 innings and taken more than 4wi, 10 times. Will he ever get to play the other 134 innings that separate him from Botham and thereby attempt to surpass his record of 48 4wi+ innings? Probably not. 

As the G8's poor cousins, we're stuck in a vicious cycle of few international-quality first class/test matches and poor overall match performance. Which is not only unfortunate for the country but is also unfortunate for our shining lights, Tamim and Shakib

When they retire people will not look at how ICC rankings changed over the years but at bare statistics. If they play fewer matches, their runs or wickets aggregates will never match those of the best players. Also, the average spectator will not consider how many catches were dropped off Shakib's bowling or how sloppy the ground-fielding was but rather how many wickets he took or how many runs he scored in comparison to the players of the G8. If his side remains mediocre, the vivid images of arm balls shattering stumps and searing square cuts will blur and overtime people will only remember the depressing win-loss column. While the all rounders of moderately successful teams may secure legendary status with sensational performances in one series, Shakib would have to replicate Hadlee and win matches for Bangladesh single-handedly for over a decade, if he wants to enter the 'Allrounders Pantheon'. 

Shakib not being on the list of All-Time Great Allrounders

I wouldn't personally use that list as an authority for this discussion. While the Cricinfo debate is about the 'greatest allrounder', they obviously mean greatest allrounder 'till date'. The Selection Panel have deliberately nominated players who have long since retired and thus have the benefit of a sweeping view of the players' entire careers; the peaks and the troughs and their impact on the game as a whole. (The exception, of course, is Kallis who is still playing but as we know he has broken enough international batting records and been consistent enough with the ball to merit discussion. Importantly, he has also been around as an allrounder for close to a decade and a half now. In contrast to someone like Vettori, who has also been around for ages but has only become an allrounder in recent years.) Shakib's international career is little more than 4 years old and we still can't be certain about how his overall career will pan out - so how can we compare him with someone whose career is/largely is over? It will be interesting to see what the nominations are in 20 years time when such a question is considered again, long after Shakib, Vettori and Watson have retired. Given that they take into consideration unquantifiable parameters like 'impact' on the game and memorable victories/achievements, I have a feeling he will be in good stead. 

University of Warwick, Coventry

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