Shakib's masterplan: Allrounder's stellar showing was no fluke

Shakib Al Hasan pulling and hooking West Indies' pacers made for riveting viewing Getty Images

Shakib Al Hasan played only three matches during this year's IPL, ceding his spot in Sunrisers Hyderabad's combination to Rashid Khan.

The Bangladesh allrounder is not used to being dropped. He could well have spent that time as other benched players do, swimming in the hotel pool, living the life of the idle rich sportsman, seeing the bank balance go up without much effort. But he had a plan. With the World Cup just weeks away, Shakib called up his mentor Mohammad Salahuddin and brought him to Mumbai for extra batting sessions. He worked on his fitness, lost weight and retained focus.

That hard work - completely off his own bat, pardon the pun - paid off spectacularly in England. Shakib left the campaign as the first cricketer in the tournament's history to score more than 600 runs and take 11 wickets. Only Neil Johnson's tally of 367 runs and 12 wickets in the 1999 edition comes statistically close to Shakib's performance, which included two centuries, five fifties and a five-wicket haul.

On Saturday, Shakib reflected on that plan with more than a degree of satisfaction. "Personally, it was a good World Cup," he said. "I am very happy. I am satisfied in the way I have achieved what I had hoped for, particularly after the way I had prepared for the tournament."

When he said he knew it would go well from the start, it was believable - not just because of his preparations but because he usually starts World Cups with fifties. And so, after that customary good start against South Africa in Bangladesh's spectacular tournament opener, he knew the trick was to continue through the tournament. "I was hoping to get the momentum, and then hold on to it."

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Once again, Shakib's planning was evident. He struck consecutive centuries against England and West Indies, highlighting how well he had prepared against the short pitched deliveries. He scored 67 runs off the 43 short balls that West Indies' fast bowlers sent down in Taunton, and 72 off 70 similar deliveries by the England bowlers in Cardiff.

Shakib's sustained assault was quite different from how he had approached bouncers in the past. He would just hook at everything, often losing his wicket as a result. But here, he was happy to duck under Jofra Archer, Mark Wood and Sheldon Cottrell and pick the right moment to play the aggressive shot. He would often get a boundary early in the over, riding his luck with a few top edges, and with the bowler under pressure, sustain the run-rate with singles and twos off back-foot shots on the leg side.

Shakib, and the rest of the Bangladesh batsmen, had three days of intense net sessions against bouncers ahead of the West Indies game, often getting hit on the chest or hand. The training sessions paid off as Cottrell and co kept bowling bouncers, which became too predictable by the end.

Shakib's true all-round performance came against Afghanistan when he scored a fifty and took a five-wicket haul. Defending a competitive total, Bangladesh only got into the game when Shakib was introduced into the attack. And suddenly we weren't at the Rose Bowl. We were back in Mirpur.

Using a pitch comes from experience and at times opponents have struggled against Shakib simply because he read the conditions quicker than they did. It happens all the time at home but even somewhere like Christchurch, couple of years ago, the New Zealand batsmen took a while to figure him out because he kept changing the pace on another slow pitch (despite the deceptive grass cover on it)

Shakib also showed a lot of patience when he batted in the Afghanistan game. He didn't go charging unnecessarily against their spinners. "It was challenging to tackle the Afghanistan bowling attack, mainly because of their high-quality spinners on that type of pitch," he said yesterday.

By the time he got to the last two matches - against India and Pakistan, when he also made fifties - he was running on reserves. "I was mentally fatigued in the last two matches, but I think my fitness levels have helped me stay in the game. I think I might have done better had I worked on my fitness for a couple of days, but tiredness came in the way. It was difficult to balance the two, so the last couple of matches was challenging."

You could say Shakib's preparation for this success began even before that IPL downtime - it began with his insistence on moving up the order to No 3. He had built most of his career as a No 5 batsman, but had, for some time, been pushing then coach Chandika Hathurusingha to promote him to first drop.

Hathurusingha kept insisting that Shakib was better off lower down the order. Shakib didn't budge, and, after Hathurusingha left, he still managed to convince the rest of the team management to give him the No 3 spot. He averaged 43.92 in the 15 innings at the position leading up to the World Cup.

Shakib has always been this confident, always been this calculating, ever since he took guard for the first time as a teenager in the BKSP sports institute. The story goes that when he and Mushfiqur Rahim started batting there, the coaches predicted they would be playing for Bangladesh one day.

So, really, nothing has changed in Shakib to suddenly make him a run machine. He has always backed himself to the fullest, particularly when he is committed to a cause. And this World Cup showed how sheer strength of will made him into such a successful cricketer.