Back on top, can Shakib return strong again?

Back in 2014, after a six-month suspension by the Bangladesh Cricket Board (BCB) for his ‘misbehaviour’ with the then Bangladesh head coach Chandika Hathurusingha and for his altercation with a spectator during an ODI against India in Mirpur, all eyes were on Shakib Al Hasan when he returned.

The champion all-rounder made a grand comeback by picking up a six-wicket haul against Zimbabwe in the first Test in October 2014 and followed it up with a magnificent hundred in the second Test.

With his one-year ICC ban for not reporting corrupt approaches from a bookie ending on October 29, Shakib’s return to the cricketing sphere was marked by him reclaiming the number-one ODI all-rounder spot without a ball being bowled.

He will return to the country tonight from the US and will take the field in the Bangabandhu T20 tournament late this month, and when he does there is every chance that he will shine.

Before the 2019 World Cup, when the 33-year-old was not being picked regularly by Indian Premier League side Sunrisers Hyderabad, he had his mentor Mohammad Salahuddin flown in and worked silently ahead of the mega event.

The rest was history as Shakib went put in an all-time great all-round performance in the World Cup and could well have been the player of the tournament, had Bangladesh not been eliminated before the semis.

His preparation method has always been very specific as Shakib knows the challenges he will face and works accordingly, which was reflected in both his fitness and skills during the World Cup.

Shakib had expected to return after the one-year ban with the tour of Sri Lanka which was supposed to start last month. The champion cricketer returned from the US in September and worked both on his fitness and skills under his two mentors Salahuddin and Nazmul Abedin at BKSP for nearly a month.

The tour was postponed due to the host country’s strict quarantine protocols, and Shakib will return to competitive cricket in the upcoming Bangabandhu T20 tournament. After returning tonight, Shakib is expected to appear for the BCB’s fitness test on November 9.

With the cricket world mostly being at a standstill for the past seven months due to Covid-19 pandemic, Shakib was fortunate that he did not miss much international cricket.

His climb back to the top of the all-rounders’ charts, which he has dominated for a decade, serves as a reminder to the rest of the world that Bangladesh’s pre-eminent player is back.

But anyone who knows Shakib closely will definitely say that it will not distract him for a second; his focus instead will only be that his new beginning continues in the tradition of comebacks past.

Considering all the comebacks he made over the years, and the controversies he was at the centre of, the absence in the last year – caused by arguably the darkest chain of events of his career – perhaps helped Shakib grow both as a player and as a person, which may bode well for Bangladesh.

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