‘A jack of all trades is a master of none,’ they say. While this statement holds a certain degree of truth, the gentleman’s game has seen plenty of players who would render the claim null.
The modern era has seen one of the best all-rounders of all time plying his trade for Bangladesh, a nation few would ever consider as favourites for a major trophy. Yet, their captain in all but name, Shakib Al Hasan, has led his team close to glory on multiple occasions and his sensational performance at the 2019 World Cup is only the latest in a long line of instances of his incredible consistency.
We have the numbers to compare and contrast the 32-year-old’s ODI career so far with some of the best in the business – Sanath Jayasuriya, Shahid Afridi, Ian Botham, Imran Khan, Jacques Kallis, Kapil Dev and current England star Ben Stokes.
Note that the findings need to be taken with a pinch of salt, given cricket has evolved over time and comparing players across different eras using stats as the means can produce questionable results.
But taking into account that the quality of team-mates of other players in question is also considerably higher than those Al Hasan has had to partner, what he has achieved is indeed commendable.
Jacques Kallis leads the charts in batting averages with impressive figures of 44.36. However, Al Hasan (37.53) has managed to get the better of some of the best all-rounders in the last two decades like the dangerous Jayasuriya (32.13), ‘Boom Boom’ Afridi (23.58) and Imran Khan (33.41).
It’s interesting to note that the Magura-born Al Hasan has achieved those numbers at a healthy strike rate of 82.68. He has not enjoyed the power-play advantages that openers like Jayasuriya (91.22) and sloggers like Afridi (117.01) do.
Stokes has carved out a reputation as a fierce shot-maker in the middle-order – and that plays out with a 94.5 strike-rate ahead of England versus Australia – and his average, 38.39, is slightly superior to Al Hasan.
But, given that Bangladesh have never been the team to casually register 300+ scores, the Bangladeshi’s numbers remain underrated.
The 32-year-old’s versatility in the batting order has also invited obstacles against maintaining a healthy strike rate. Al Hasan has batted at number four and elsewhere, according to the needs of the team. Currently he is providing Bangladesh the spine they need at number three. It’s fair to say that he has often been the one to take one for the team – and done so in superb fashion.
Al Hasan has demonstrated that he is marginally better at handling the ball than wielding the willow and the numbers concur.
An impressive bowling average (runs per wicket) of 29.95 is behind only Imran Khan (26.62), Kapil Dev (27.45) and Ian Botham (28.54) among our select crop of elite players. This makes him the most efficient among other players in the modern era, ahead of Afridi, Kallis, Jayasuriya and an expensive Stokes (41.25).
The Sunrisers Hyderabad star has a healthy bowling strike rate (balls per wicket) to complement his impressive average. Having scalped wickets at a rate of one in 40.1 balls, Al Hasan is up there at the top alongside Kallis (39.38) and Stokes (40.8).
The left arm orthodox spinner is usually the go-to bowler when the team needs a breakthrough and his list of victims is consequently star-studded.
Al Hasan recently became the player to take the least number of games to reach 6000 runs and 200 wickets in ODI cricket. The Bangladeshi took just 202 games to achieve the feat which took Kallis, Jayasuriya and Afridi 221, 235 and 294 games respectively.
While bestowing top players with the ‘Greatest ever’ tag begs for debate, Al Hasan has made a fair case for being a top five all-rounder of all time and one of the best of the era.
The 2019 World Cup has been one of his very best – and ahead of their clash with Afghanistan on Monday, he’s the reason why Bangladesh remain with an outside chance to make the semi-finals.
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