Shakib has arrived at the T20 World Cup, finally

Bangladesh

Shakib Al Hasan walks out for Bangladesh’s warm-up session ahead of the match against Netherlands in Kingstown wearing a neck brace. Has he hurt himself? But then he does his batting drills with the brace on. What’s this about? Turns out he is fine, he was just trying to keep his head in place while having a hit.

It has been an issue for him since the 2023 ODI World Cup. He sported the neck brace at the nets then too. And then during the BPL, emphasising just how important a still head position is to him.

Coming into the Netherlands game, Shakib had scored 8 against Sri Lanka and 3 against South Africa in his two innings, out to a bouncer both times, and the form of Bangladesh’s top-order batters had also been a worry. On the day, it was 23 for 2 in 3.1 overs when he walked out. He stood tall at the crease with a high back-lift – possibly for the first time in his career.

At the other end, Tanzid Hasan was striking the ball well, and Shakib got going with a cover drive off Paul van Meekeren, before going after Logan van Beek in the sixth over, hammering short wide balls for two fours before pulling one over short fine-leg. He finished the over with a slice through backward point. It was a 19-run over, and Shakib had got to 25 in a T20I for the first time this year.

Then came a straight-bat shot through midwicket, off Tim Pringle. It is an unfamiliar Shakib shot, given that he has mostly resorted to hacks and slogs in the last couple of years in T20Is. This shot in particular drove home the point that he was not going to throw it away in the middle overs. Beating Netherlands was important for Bangladesh, but also, it was important for Shakib to score runs, and he knew it.

Later in the innings, he allowed Mahmudullah to go for the big hits, as the experienced duo kept Bangladesh on course for a strong total. Shakib reached his fifty, his first in T20Is since October 2022. It was also his first fifty in a T20 World Cup since 2016. Shakib and Jaker Ali then ensured Bangladesh had a strong finish, as they added 54.

They had also scored 54 (for 2) in the powerplay. These are significant numbers. This was the first time since coming to this part of the world in mid-May that Bangladesh had scored 50-plus in the first six and the last five overs. All of it, and key wickets from Rishad Hossain (3 for 33) and Mustafizur Rahman (1-12), gave Bangladesh a 25-run win and a great shot at making the Super Eight.

“I thought we assessed the wicket brilliantly. It wasn’t an easy wicket to bat on at the start,” Shakib said in the press conference afterwards. “Scoring became easier once the ball got older. I think the wicket got easier in the second half but our bowlers did a tremendous job. Rishad and the Fizz changed the momentum with their later overs.”

Shakib felt that it was the bowling attack that got Bangladesh the victory in the end. Netherlands went from 111 for 3 to 134 for 8 in the last 32 balls.

“It was a challenging total, so we had to bowl well. The match was 50-50 till the 12th over. Credit to Mustafizur and Rishad. They bowled really well at that stage,” he said. “Our bowling unit is doing well consistently for a while now, especially pace bowlers. Rishad’s addition has also worked for me.

“I think [Rishad] showed great character. The full bowling unit did well. Everyone did their job responsibly. Mustafizur, Taskin [Ahmed] and Tanzim [Hasan] have all bowled well, so it helps the rest of the attack too.”

Shakib finished unbeaten on 68 off 46 balls. It was the sort of innings that would have been out of place at, say, IPL 2024, but is gold dust at this T20 World Cup where batters have generally struggled.

He wasn’t making runs before this game. He had a weakness against the short ball. He could have thrown away his wicket. He has done so well over the years that a blip may not have registered much. “I have never taken personal goals seriously. I would have batted differently if I was playing for personal goals. I batted for the team. I got runs. It is the most important thing.”

Shakib had faced a lot of criticism over the last couple of weeks back home, particularly for his dismissals against Sri Lanka and South Africa. He is also still without a wicket.

“A player doesn’t come to give answers. He has to contribute for the team. He has to bat well. If he is lucky, he can get wickets. His job is to save runs and take catches. There’s nothing more to say,” he said in response to a question on the subject. “I think it is important for a current player that he is contributing to the team. If he doesn’t, there will be talk, but I also don’t think it’s a bad thing.”

Mohammad Isam is ESPNcricinfo’s Bangladesh correspondent. @isam84

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