'I never received so much respect before'

Tarek Mahmud . Dhaka | Update:

Shakib Al Hasan. Photo: Prothom AloShakib Al Hasan was the sensation of this year’s cricket World Cup, scoring 606 runs including two centuries and grabbing 11 wickets. In an exclusive interview with Prothom Alo at his home in Banani yesterday, the cricketer opened up and spoke about his performance at the World Cup and more.

Prothom Alo: You have attributed fitness to your amazing performance in the World Cup, but surely fitness is just one of the factors behind your consistent excellence.

Shakib Al Hasan: Fitness and planning were both factors. I start planning about the World Cup four months in advance. I begin preparing from then.

The best time was during IPL. Because I wasn’t playing then, I could work. Salahuddin sir (Shakib’s BKSP coach and former assistant coach of the national team) was there for two weeks. The one and a half months that I practiced made a difference. I have to thank my IPL coach Tom Moody. The others on the Hyderabad team also helped. No one obstructed me in any way.

Also, during the World Cup my family was there. My parents also came. All that gave me mental strength too. Everything was according to plan.

Prothom Alo: So that was your mental planning. What about your planning for the game itself?

Shakib Al Hasan: I consulted with a lot of computer analysts from abroad and ascertained my weaknesses and my strengths. I assessed the different ways the bowlers and he batsmen could be pitched against me and planned accordingly. They showed the possible spots where the ball could be bowled against me and that is exactly how it happened in the World Cup. So I was prepared.

I spoke to Kumar Sangakara. I was prepared with the bowling in the same way. He had scored a lot of runs last year and in the county matches and I learnt from him how he did so. At the MCC meeting, Sangakara said, “The fresher and freer that you are, the better it will be. There is no need of excessive practice. If you play well, enjoy it. Go around and enjoy yourself. Just give your full attention when you play.”

Mushfique bhai also encouraged me a lot. I had a good understanding with him when batting at the World Cup.

Prothom Alo: Everyone aims to play well at the World Cup. But where did you get such determination?

Shakib Al Hasan: The honourable prime minister Sheikh Hasina is a big factor. Once she told me, “Look, before we would hear about Sachin. People would talk about Imran Khan. We had no one as such then, but now we can talk about you.” Those words are etched on my mind.

I thought that I was fine that people talked about me and that I was the number one all rounder for so long, but I hadn’t done anything all that spectacular. I hadn’t received that much acclaim in the World Cup. So after the prime minister has spoken to me, I began thinking about really achieving something. Since the people believed in me, even the prime minister, I knew it was possible. And the World Cup was ahead. This was an opportunity.

Prothom Alo: Alongside your own performance, had you hoped for Bangladesh to do well as a team too at the World Cup?

Shakib Al Hasan: I had always believed it would be possible for us to go far this time. Perhaps with everyone’s cooperation we could have gone on to the semi finals. But there are many reasons why things don’t go as they should.

If a player doesn’t play well, he starts thinking about himself more than about the team. That creates problems. I think that is what happened in the case of Mashrafe bhai. When the captain doesn’t perform well, it has an impact on himself and the team. The captain has to perform well, there is no alternative to that. We lagged behind in that area. But even then it was not impossible. We began the World Cup well, but couldn’t hold on to that.

Prothom Alo: You had a good chance of being man of the tournament in the World Cup. Was that part of the plan too?

Shakib Al Hasan: No. If there was any target, that was to play at least 9 to 10 matches. Even if I scored 50 runs per match, that would be 500 runs. And then I could take around 10 to 15 wickets. I didn’t expect things would go so well.

If I played for myself, I could have perhaps scored even more runs. But I always had the team on my mind. During the IPL, before the World Cup, I heard someone say something. He said that we have our own names on the back of our jerseys and our countries’ name on the front. He said, never play for the name on the back, play for the name on the front. Those words stayed with me. In every match when I bowled or batted, I played for the name in the front even in the most difficult circumstances

I knew I had to do something for the country when I played Jofra Archer. Such thoughts made me play easier. And I think I never sang the national anthem so loud and with so much dedication in my life before. I had planned all this beforehand.

Prothom Alo: As a Bangladeshi players performing so consistently well, what reaction was there among the players and coaches of the other teams?

Shakib Al Hasan: They praised me a lot and I won a lot of respect. I never received so much respect before.

Prothom Alo: Then again, amidst all this there were some controversies. You reportedly told captain Mashrafe to drop Mahmudullah from the net match after he bowled at a slow pace against England.

Shakib Al Hasan: There is nothing to hide here. Whoever reported this or leaked this out, should not have done so. During the World Cup there was a report in the media about Saifuddin that he was too scared to play against big teams. Such reports do not bode well for the team. The team members know very well who gave out this news. Didn’t Saifuddin play? That is all that is need to break a team’s morale.

Prothom Alo: But when a journalist gets hold of such news, it is inevitable that he will report it.

Shakib Al Hasan: I am not blaming the journalist. It was someone from inside that gave out this news and that was bad. How will you get the news? Only when one of us tells you? If someone from within acts in this manner, it diminishes our chances of doing well. This had an impact on our result.

First of all, I never said any such thing. And even if I did, who will take the blame for leaking the news? We certainly can discuss matters among ourselves. Other than the foreign coaches, there are just a couple of people who are involved in the team’s planning. That means someone from among them leaked this out. Who was that? This is not good. Either they do not want good for the team, or do not want good for the player. If a player is playing as a replacement for an injured player and someone remarks that the original player would have made such a difference, can the replacement player perform well? The day such remarks and attitudes emerged, I knew this team would not fare well in the World Cup.

Prothom Alo: Do you want to specify who was the one who leaked the inside news out, or is this just an assumption?

Shakib Al Hasan: It is clear that someone who was there from our country leaked this out. No foreign coaching staff would speak of this to the journalists. After all, even if I said something like that to the captain, I would have said so in Bangla.

Prothom Alo: You are now in charge of the Test and One Day cricket and may also have to take charge of the T20 head. Are you prepared?

Shakib Al Hasan: I am not mentally prepared to take charge of Test or T20, but the team is not in a good shape at present. So I realize if the team is to be improved to an extent, I have to take on the captaincy. Otherwise I am not interested in captaincy in any form of the game. If I don’t have captaincy, I can concentrate on my own game. That too would help the team. We have been captains at just 20 to 22 years old. They are now around 26. Until and unless you give them the responsibility, how will they ascertain their own potential?

There is the Test championship and the T20 World Cup ahead. We should plan for the next four years from now.
*The interview, published in Prothom Alo print edition, has been rewritten in English by Ayesha Kabir

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