‘Shakib can go a long way if he keeps fitness levels up’

Shakib following the end of day four’s play during the Dhaka Test. Photo: Firoz Ahmed File

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Shakib following the end of day four’s play during the Dhaka Test. Photo: Firoz Ahmed File

Spin coach Rangana Herath is conducting a four-day spin camp with 32 spinners in order to strengthen the spin-bowling pipeline. It became apparent that there was a lack of spinners around the periphery of the national team when Bangladesh played the recent Dhaka Test against Sri Lanka with four front-line bowlers despite Shakib Al Hasan being there. Mosaddek Hossain came in as a batter who can bowl and the burden of majority of the overs fell on Taijul Islam and Shakib.

Shakib bagged five wickets in the first innings but without support of another spinner other that Taijul, Sri Lanka got ahead in the game by putting up more than 500 on the board. The lack of quality spinners became apparent and with Shakib being 35, the concern over who could take the mettle to spearhead the spin department, raised its head.

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Herath however was of the opinion that Shakib can still go a long way.

“He’s [Shakib] a very experienced guy. You know he is always up to the mark. He only needs to think about fitness. If he can keep his fitness levels up, he can go a long way,” Herath said about Shakib continuing his services for Bangladesh cricket following today’s session at the Academy Ground in Mirpur.

The injury to Nayeem Hasan saw Bangladesh play with four specialist bowlers in the Dhaka Test against Sri Lanka and while Shakib opens the door to playing five bowlers in Test, injuries to Mehedi Hasan Miraz, Shoriful Islam and Taskin Ahmed, did not allow Bangladesh to use five bowlers. Asked on the advantages of such spin camps, Herath said: “If you have an extra spinner as backup, it will be an advantage for Bangladesh cricket. For example, now Nayeem got injured and there is no proper off-spinner. We need to keep a record of the spinners and maintain those spinners.”

Rangana Herath during the spin camp today. Photo: Firoz Ahmed

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Rangana Herath during the spin camp today. Photo: Firoz Ahmed

Shakib himself was not bothered by the lack of preparation he had with the ball before the Test series. Having recovered from Covid-19, he underwent just one practice session. He was more focused on purposeful training rather than putting in long hours at the nets.

“I don’t think after playing for so many years I don’t need 10 to 15 days for me three sessions is enough if I am playing and if I am not playing than maximum I need five to six sessions (to prepare) and “I don’t need more than that if I am fit. For me training is not important what is important is that whether I am doing it with a purpose,” Shakib had said after day four of the Dhaka Test following his 19th five-wicket haul in Tests.

For Shakib, physical fitness and match fitness were two different things. He had enough confidence that the fitness he had was going to be enough even on sweltering heat, especially at Chattogram.

“It depends on the individual player’s fitness on what can be termed match fit. Match fitness and being physically fit are two things. There are many who bowl over after over, even fast bowlers who bowl 6-8 over spells but they don’t cross 10 in the beep test. There are others who get 10-13 in beep test but can’t bowl five overs on the trot. So definition of fitness is different in different places. I played four matches in the DPL in the heat and that helped me. I knew that the first two days in Chittagong was going to be difficult for me and then slowly it will be become easier. It was about taking a chance [regarding being able to play] but it was calculative,” Shakib had remarked when he was asked about match fitness and bowling long overs in Tests since returning from Covid-19.

In the dearth of credible replacements, Bangladesh team management will ofcourse be hoping that Shakib can intelligently use his schedule to train purposefully both in terms of physical fitness and match fitness, to prolong his career.

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