Liton Das was an enigma for Bangladesh fans. Since his international debut in 2015, and even before for the followers of the domestic cricket of Bangladesh, Liton was something the country’s cricket had never seen.
A rough diamond, a devastating beauty; an absolute delight that would rip you like a vicious sandstorm; a modern-day batsman who encapsulates class and domination together, and on his day, there is no stopping him.
And his debut innings of 44 against India and a few starts here and there showed that Liton had it in himself. But then there was the question, can Bangladesh afford the luxury of playing a batsman hoping that someday he would make it rain?
Bangladesh kept their patience and Liton is, indeed, making it rain, that too in a way that we now are forced to ask - is he the best in the world?
No, surely not the best batsman in the world. But he must be, at least, in the discussion of whether he is the best wicketkeeper-batsman in the world in red-ball cricket.
Liton has been phenomenal since the start of 2021. In this period, he has batted in 22 innings in 13 Tests. In those 22 innings, Liton has scored 1152 runs at an average of 52.36. He has hit three centuries and eight fifties in them, meaning a 50+ score every two innings.
Also, since the start of 2021, Liton’s eleven 50+ scores are the second-highest in the world. Only Joe Root (13) has more, well, the former England skipper is truly in some kind of purple patch form.
The stats reveal that only India’s Rishabh Pant is comparable to Liton. Pant has 1106 runs in 29 innings, compared to Liton’s 1042 in 20 innings. While the Bangladeshi right-hander averages 52.10, the Indian left-hander scores at an average of 42.53. Pakistan’s Mohammad Rizwan has an average of 46.68 but has scored 887 runs in 24 innings.
And Liton has scored everywhere, except the recent South Africa tour. He scored a hundred and a fifty in New Zealand and a fifty each in Sri Lanka (75) and Zimbabwe (95).
While the stats almost single-handedly put Liton ahead of everybody else, it cannot state one crucial factor. Pant or Rizwan don’t have to carry the burden of being their team’s most reliable batsman, and Pant even gets the free license to play his natural game.
Well, Liton's case is different. In the last two years, no other Bangladesh batsman has scored above thousand runs; only Mushfiqur Rahim has gone past 800 runs, with a large chunk of it coming through his recent centuries against Sri Lanka (105 and 175*).
Tamim Iqbal and Shakib Al Hasan have been irregular, skipper Mominul Haque lost his touch, Najmul Hossain Shanto has looked like a fish out of water in international cricket, and Mahmudul Hasan Joy is just a newbie.
That means Liton has to take immense responsibility while batting -- not getting much support from the preceding batsmen. As seen in the recent Dhaka Test against Sri Lanka, he had to come in to bat with the Tigers cornered at 24-5 in the first innings and 20-4 in the second.
The statistics already show that Liton is far ahead of his peers. In the ICC Test Men’s batting rankings, Liton is 12th, while Pant is 11th.
A good performance in the Caribbean will see Liton go ahead, but the stats and the responsibility endowed on Liton sum up into one statement that he is indeed the best Test wicketkeeper-batsman in the world.