Shakib Al Hasan will need to fire with bat and ball if Bangladesh are to achieve their ambition of reaching the World Cup semi-finals for the first time in their history.
The side’s 32-year-old talisman is top of the one-day international all-rounder rankings, with more than 5,700 runs and 249 wickets to his name.
Shakib, an attacking middle-order batsman and canny left-arm spinner, is arguably one of the only players in world cricket who would justify his place in the team as either a specialist bowler or batsman after the retirement of South Africa’s Jacques Kallis.
Preparing to play his 199th ODI, he is just one wicket away from joining a select group of all-rounders, including Kallis and Shahid Afridi of Pakistan, who have completed the double of 5,000 runs and 250 wickets in ODI cricket.
The former skipper has been central to Bangladesh’s successes in recent years, injecting a belief into the former whipping boys of world cricket, who are currently seventh in the ODI rankings.
And he always gives Bangladesh the advantage of playing an extra bowler or batsman.
But he has also had his run-ins with the Bangladesh Cricket Board down the years, and in April missed the official World Cup squad picture after leaving the Shere Bangla stadium in Dhaka before the photo session took place.
“It is disappointing, what else can I say?” said BCB president Nazmul Hasan. “He didn’t turn up for training but we hoped for his presence in the photo session.”
Nevertheless, no one disputes Shakib’s importance to Bangladesh’s fortunes, with former captain Raqibul Hasan saying: “He is the nucleus of our team, making up about 30 to 40 percent of the team.
“How far Bangladesh can go in the World Cup will largely depend on his performance. His batting, bowling and even his fielding — everything is absolutely crucial for Bangladesh in every game, every tournament they play.”
Vice-captain Shakib will also carry vital experience into the World Cup after playing in three previous editions, one as a captain in 2011, where he led the side to a victory against England.
With an ageing Mashrafe Mortaza expected to retire after the tournament, Shakib will likely return to the helm of Bangladesh’s one-day side once again.
But first he will be focused on inspiring his side with bat and ball.