I have known Shakib Al Hasan since 2004 when we played for the Bangladesh under-17 team but over the years our paths have diverged. I shifted my profession from a cricketer to a sports journalist while he continued to do what he used to do the best -- play cricket.
I must mention one thing that has not changed even a bit in Shakib since then is his self-belief and accepting whatever comes his way, good or bad. That is perhaps the reason he never looks nervous or tense in any situation in his life, either on or off the field.
The only time I witnessed a panicked and worried Shakib over those years was in October last year when he was in Melbourne, having treatment on an infected little finger on his left hand -- an injury he sustained in the final of the tri-series at home earlier in the same year.
During the course of a phone call, Shakib said: “There is no chance of having surgery until around six months elapse because of the infection. If that [infection] remains [when the surgery is done] then the hand will be ruined, so no one will take that chance. We have to wait till it’s a hundred per cent sure that the infection is gone.”
I could easily feel the uncertainty and the apprehension in his voice while we he was saying that over the phone.
As things were going at that time, it looked that Shakib’s World Cup participation was in jeopardy considering the amount of time left from then to the flagship event.
Another interesting thing about Shakib -- the person as well as the cricketer -- which I have closely observed is that he never wants to prove his abilities to anyone. Instead, he seems to want to eclipse himself silently. Whenever you ask him how things are going, he will give you a smile and say ‘it’s going okay’.
In the 2007, a young Shakib showed a sliver of his ability in his maiden World Cup appearance in the West Indies, scoring a fifty against India in the opening game and helping Bangladesh clinch a memorable win. Expectations rose as Shakib matured and was given responsibility of captaincy, but he was unable to live up to those expectations in the 2011 World Cup at home.
He did however lead from the front both with bat and ball during the 2012 Asia Cup at home the next year, when Bangladesh reached the final of a multinational event for the first time. Shakib was instrumental in the Tigers’ success.
Since then he has continued to perform consistently. He went on to score two fifties and picked up eight wickets in the 2015 World Cup, but there is a sense of dissatisfaction from the champion cricketer when it comes to the World stage. His magnificent century against New Zealand during the ICC Champions Trophy in 2017 is still etched into the memory of Tigers fans. However, Shakib started to eye the 2019 World Cup -- his fourth World Cup appearance -- as the platform where he wanted to elevate himself to the next level.
Perhaps lying in the hospital bed in October 2018, Shakib made the promise to himself to reach new heights in the upcoming World Cup -- what may be one last opportunity in the World Cup -- if given the chance by the Almighty.
One thing I should also mention is that Shakib is not the type of character who sets any specific targets as an individual; rather his best comes when he enjoys his time in the middle, which is being witnessed through his body language and involvement in all the departments of the games in this World Cup.
He might become embroiled in controversies and he may not express himself fully to the media -- only trying to answer to the point without thinking of anything else -- which at times has seen him face a lot of trouble.
But one thing is clear, you just cannot predict Shakib. You can only sit and wait to see: What’s next from this champion?