From his thunderous 92 against Sri Lanka in 2009 that brought Bangladesh back from the dead to his indomitable spirit against New Zealand a year later that led to the first ever 'Banglawash'; from scalping 10 wickets and scoring a century in a Test to becoming one of the most sought-after T20 cricketers in the world, Shakib Al Hasan has provided Bangladesh fans with several memories to cherish. It will not be an overstatement if one were to describe him as Bangladesh's first cricketing hero.
But ask the all-rounder and he will tell you that deep inside, he is just another player who enjoys the game. The 29-year-old is set to leave for the West Indies tomorrow to take part in the Caribbean Premier League. Before he returns home, he would have completed a decade in international cricket, having debuted on August 6, 2006. Speaking to The Daily Star's Naimul Karim on Wednesday, Shakib talks about his decade-long mantras, his only regret and how pondering about anything outside cricket gets him tense. The following is the first of our two-part exclusive.
The Daily Star (TDS): In the last 10 years you have essentially gone on to become the country's first cricketing hero, surpassing so many boundaries. Did you ever think any of this was possible when you first started playing?
Shakib Al Hasan (SAH): When I started, I never really thought that I would play for so long. That's one thing. But if I think about the current scenario with the amount of cricket that I have played and the amount that I understand, I feel that had I done a few more things properly I could have been in a much better position. I am a lot more capable. For example, I probably could have scored 500 to 700 more one-day and Test runs and taken maybe 20 or 30 more wickets in Tests. Bowling in ODIs, I honestly didn't expect to get more than what I have now. I still might be able to cover it up before the end of my career. If you look at Kumar Sangakkara, his average was around 32, 33. But he finished with a 40-plus average [in ODIs]. The number of centuries he scored towards the end of his career, he probably didn't score as many in the first phase. So it's possible. If I can achieve that then I will be happy. And honestly speaking, I don't regret things much in my life. What's gone is gone, I look to the future.
TDS: That's one thought process that has helped you do well in your career, hasn't it? How did you learn to be so determined?
SAH: It's something that has been present ever since I was a child. Even when I used to go for coaching or studying I used to try do better than everyone in my class. Even when we used to play cricket at home, I used to try to win. I never thought about losing. The fact that you can actually lose a game never crossed my mind. It was always about winning. I think that thinking was always present. It only developed once I joined BKSP. There was a lot more competition there. But I told myself, so what? I still need to be the best here.
TDS: But you never really had anyone to follow. Did you?
SAH: I never followed anyone in particular, but I used to focus on particular attributes. If someone batted well, I tried to bat like him, if someone bowled well, I tried to learn that. For example, whatever English I can speak today is because of Star Movies. Someone once told me watch English movies, read English papers and you will learn English well. That's what I did. When I used to watch cricket on television, I used to see that everyone spoke in English, and that's when I thought that I had to learn this language because I may have to give interviews one day. This thing crossed my mind when I played under-15 cricket in Magura. No one taught me English. This is how I learnt.
TDS: Is there any other quality that you think helped you reach where you are now?
SAH: The one thing that was very important was that I never really thought of becoming a cricketer or a player. I never thought of taking it up as a profession. I just used to feel good while playing. People at home got me admitted to BKSP not because they wanted me to become a player, but because they thought, okay he loves playing so much, why not let him study there at least. He will get a good guideline and also get to play. Even when I had gone to play in the Under-19 World Cup , I couldn't imagine that I would be playing for the national team one day or that this would be my career.
In fact, even when I got a chance in the national team, I never thought that this would be my career. I had just told myself, okay, I have got this chance; let's see what happens. I just kept playing, and that's how my first two years passed by. By the time I realised that I could do a lot in this game and that his could be my profession and that I could earn well from here, I think five years had passed by. And before that it was all about fun for me. I enjoyed every moment.
TDS: Looking back, was there any moment that you recall that made you realise that you were meant to be in this game?
SAH: I don't think there was any such moment in international cricket. But I remember an incident while playing under-15 cricket. They were supposed to name the under-17 team that day. I had just played one series in under-15 cricket and I was expecting to play a few more. But that day my friend told me that my name was put in the under-17 list. And I was really shocked. And then I told myself 'okay, no problem, this is a new challenge'. Let's see how well they play. I played the first practice match and I did well. After that I was asked to sit out for the next game, observe everyone and tell them what their mistakes were (laughs).
Truth be told, the rate at which my career has grown… is just unbelievable. I never imagined I would rise so fast and come to such a good place. It was like thash, thash, thash and suddenly I am in the national team. I held a cricket ball for the first time at the end of 2002 and I started playing for the national team in 2006.
TDS: As a teenager, did you have any special motivation to do well?
SAH: When I was admitted to the BKSP I saw that these under-13 cricketers used to go to Siliguri to play cricket. I used to see those photos and them playing with snow. That really amazed me and I wanted that. I was over 13, so I had made it a point to get into the under-15 team. I had told myself that this was the path that would take me outside and see beautiful places. And that's when I worked really hard to get into the team. So it went like this… okay so where do we go? Kolkata? Oh, okay, I need to see the Eden Gardens and so I need to be in the team (laughs). That's actually how I got motivated.
TDS: What are the performances that you recall the most in the last 10 years?
SAH: I think there are plenty. The game against Sri Lanka (92 not out, 14 Jan 2009) was really important. We had lost three wickets for just 25 runs. [Mohammad] Ashraful bhai and I played well. Naeem [Islam] bhai finished with a four and a six I recall. I also remember hitting [Nuwan] Kulasakera for a six which landed right here in the dressing room. And then there's the century against Pakistan in Multan [108, Apr 16, 2008]. That was special because we were 16 for four. I remember after reaching my half-century, I told Mashrafe [Bin Mortaza] bhai to stay at one end because I was planning to reach my century that day. That was my second after the hundred I scored against Canada. That was memorable.
TDS: Do you think a lot about life outside cricket?
SAH: No, not much actually. I mean everyone does think a little bit. But if I ponder about my life outside cricket for too long, I get tense and I find it troublesome and so I immediately forget the issue. I don't even think about the restaurant that I have. I don't know what's happening. Initially in the first few days, I used to get messages of the daily profit and daily loss. After one or two months I told them, 'bhai, stop sending these messages'. I don't need to see this anymore. I had asked them to send me the report at the end of the month. Now I don't even want to hear about that (laughs).
TDS: We have spoken about the good times. But there have been a few struggling moments for you as well, haven't there? The suspensions and the bans. You recovered quite smoothly from that situation. What did you learn from there?
SAH: (Laughs) I think I can't explain that feeling in words. The things that I learnt from my bad times… it's hard to explain. I don't recall those moments. I prefer not to. That just increases my tension (laughs). I think that's a good attitude from one aspect, no? I mean I tend to let things go easily. I don't hold a grudge against anyone. If something happens, I know that it will be fine after a while.
But I have to say that I learnt a lot from that experience. Today I feel happy that I had fallen in that kind of a situation otherwise I wouldn't have been able to learn what I did. That's why I feel that it was a good thing. I saw it positively. Many would have taken it negatively and their careers would not have continued. But the way I recovered from that phase, I am really happy. I was really happy that I was able to change myself and get out of that zone. It was something I initially didn't think I would be able to do.