Let the salute remain a mystery

Shakib Al Hasan (L) gives England all-rounder Ben Stokes, crouching in anguish with his stumps dislodged, a parting salute during the exhilarating third session of the second Test which Bangladesh won by 108 runs at the Sher-e-Bangla National Stadium. File Photo: Firoz Ahmed

“I don't know. Let some things remain a secret,” chuckled Shakib Al Hasan when asked why he celebrated Ben Stokes's wicket with a salute. That is all he said and then paused for the next question of the interview.

It is something that the all-rounder does when he is not too keen on further elaborating on an issue. All you can do then is quickly hope to find a complementary question out of the corner of your head.

But was it fun to dismiss England's most threatening batsman of the tour? To that he replied: “Yes, of course! They have a few main players… Joe Root, Ben Stokes, Alastair Cook, [Jonny] Bairstow… you always feel excited when you get any of those wickets. That's pretty much it.”

He further adds that he had a good rapport with the English players and that they hung out quite a bit off the field.

Shakib might not have been too keen to continue speaking on his celebratory move, but the country's social media just could not have enough of it. Pictures of random people saluting the oblivion started flooding the timelines and it even led to some of the more popular figures, including the  US ambassador to Bangladesh, to join in.

It is amazing and partly funny at the same time how Shakib almost always somehow manages to become the centre of discussion after a series. But of course, it is not as though the left-hander turned out to be one of the main talking points just because of the salute. He has managed to put up yet another emphatic performance in yet another series for Bangladesh.

The ease with which he always manages to put in match-winning performances was perhaps the reason why his answer to the question on whether the win against England was Bangladesh's biggest ever, was a lot calmer when compared to his peers.

“This definitely is the biggest win ever. Considering the circumstances and the situation we were in, this is the biggest. I don't think we have won a more crucial Test before,” he says during an exclusive interview with The Daily Star yesterday.

One of the major reasons behind Bangladesh's win was the change in approach of the team. They played on turning tracks as opposed to flat decks that were so frequently used in the past in order to achieve draws. Shakib  elaborates on the decision to take that step.

“There are a number of reasons. Firstly, we had better spinners than them. And then, whenever we made flat wickets we played for a draw. But we ended up losing those games. So we told ourselves that since we lose on those pitches anyway, there is no harm in trying something different.

“Because at the end of the day, if you can't take 20 wickets, then there's no chance for us to win. And that's why we tried to help the spinners and by the grace of God, it worked,” he explained. 

But will the pitches that were laid down during the England series be a blueprint for future visitors? Shakib did not think so.

“It depends on who we play against. According to me, England and New Zealand have lesser experienced spinners than us. But other countries have quality bowlers. In this case, apart from Moeen Ali, there wasn't really any other threatening spinner.

“So, before working on a pitch, we have to judge all aspects. It depends upon the combination of our batsmen and their team as well,” he said.

Ask Shakib about the expectations about the Tests of the future and he will cut you short, “Bhai, now that the Test is over, I am thinking about the BPL.” It is the way he thinks; one thing at a time.

But he elaborated when asked if defeating a top-ranked Test nation has helped Bangladesh overcome a mental block of sorts.

“We didn't have any mental block. If you keep playing you will automatically improve. The current circumstances gave us a good opportunity to beat England and we managed to do that. Against New Zealand, the circumstances will be different. Every Test poses a new challenge,” he explained.

While he did put in match changing performances, he was also criticised for some of his actions in the series. On the third day of the first Test, when Bangladesh were looking to build a lead, Shakib shockingly charged at a Moeen delivery in only the second ball of the day. The ball turned and the left-hander was comfortably stumped.

It was an action that many claimed to be the turning point of that first Test. When asked if the approach he followed in that Test was a part of his aggression or whether that was a mistake, the left-hander took his time before coming up with a reply.

“I don't know. Human beings make mistakes. If they don't make mistakes then how can they get out?” he said after a few seconds.

It was a mistake but one that the left-hander, like so many times before in his career, managed to rectify at the exactly the right moment.