The Financial Express

Shakib at 3: The question that needs answer before the World Cup

| Updated: September 22, 2022 19:37:34

Shakib at 3: The question that needs answer before the World Cup

With Mushfiqur Rahim's retirement and Mahmudullah Riyad's expulsion, Shakib Al Hasan has become the only player of the fabled five to have kept his place in the Bangladesh team for T20 Internationals.

He is currently leading the side and has been batting at No.3 for quite some time. While there can be no questions regarding the value he brings to the table, there have been questions about whether he should be playing at number three for the Tigers, especially with the likes of Liton Das and Afif Hossain amongst the ranks.

Shakib's stats since the start of 2021 are not great but are not menial either. Since his ban for failing to report corrupt approaches was done, he has played 25 T20Is, batting 24 times. In those matches, he has scored 478 runs with an average of 20.78 and a strike rate of 111.68.

In a Bangladesh context, his record seems pretty good. But stats often paint a cloudy picture, and a deeper digging into them results in a whole new outlook.

Rezwan Rahman Sadid, a young sports data analyst, has taken on a metric from ESPNCricinfo and CricViz, which speaks about the impact of the runs scored by a batter.

For example, if a batsman bats slower than the ideal strike rate in certain conditions, their runs may value less than their final score. On the flip side, if someone bats more efficiently than the average/expected, it may add more value than the final score.

Since the 2021 T20 World Cup, Shakib has played 12 T20Is. In those matches, he has scored 5.9 runs less than expected. For comparison, Mushfiq, who was criticised for his failure in the format, scored 3.5 runs less than expected in this period.

In the nine matches they played together, including the two at the Asia Cup, Shakib cost the team 15.687 runs, while Mushfiq cost the Tigers 4.776.

Yet, the data remains shady as Shakib has been able to stay at the crease longer than Mushfiq. But the modern style of T20 cricket never asks for performance but speaks for impact. For example, in the shortest format, a golden duck might add more than scoring 22 runs from 19 balls. Shakib has simply played a lot of balls, but he has not been able to make most of them.

For example, in Bangladesh's match against Sri Lanka in the Asia Cup, Shakib played 22 deliveries to score 24 on a pitch where Bangladesh scored 183-7. According to ESPNCricinfo, Shakib's impact score was 19.92, 4 less than what he accumulated.

Despite the data, what has been worse about Shakib's batting is his approach. While his attitude to try positive all the time is commendable. Still, his throwing the kitchen sink at everything does not remind of a proper No.3 batter but rather a tailender trying to score as much as possible before the tail is cut off.

According to reports, the Bangladesh team management are thinking of putting Liton at four and Afif at five to make sure the flow of runs in the middle overs, with Shakib continuing at three and Mehidy Hasan Miraz playing as an opener.

But if Bangladesh can use Miraz as a free slogger at the top, they can do it with Shakib. The left-hander bats in a similar fashion these days, and doing that would allow Liton, Afif, and Yasir Ali to have more balls to face as the country's better-suited T20 batters.

While Shakib is still Bangladesh's best with the ball, his batting has dropped off. And if he can't regain his form, it might just be best for Bangladesh not to play him at the pivotal number three.

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