New Delhi, Feb 3 (AFP) If Saddam Hossain had notintervened, Shakib Al Hasan, Bangladesh''s World Cup captainand leading all-rounder, may have been lost to football.
Growing up in Magura, a small town away from the capitalDhaka, Shakib was hooked on football, a game his father playedat the club level while a cousin had represented the country.
The only link with cricket was an occasional game with ataped tennis ball, but it was enough for a local officialnamed Saddam Hossain to see the potential Shakib had with bothbat and ball.
Saddam invited the young lad to play for his club in theMagura cricket league and Shakib responded by claiming awicket off his first delivery with a normal cricket ball.
Shakib''s career took off and he is now top all-rounder inthe official one-day rankings ahead of stalwarts like JacquesKallis of South Africa, Pakistan''s Shahid Afridi andAustralian Shane Watson.
This when Bangladesh continue to languish at number ninein the rankings ahead of only Ireland, Zimbabwe, theNetherlands and Kenya.
In 102 one-day internationals since his debut in 2006,the left-hander has scored 2,834 runs at 34.98 with fivehundreds and 17 half-centuries.
He has also claimed 129 wickets at 28.80 with hisleft-arm spin, with a best of 4-33 against New Zealand inChristchurch last year.
Shakib, who turns 24 on March 24, has loads ofself-confidence and is determined to outdo the other, whethera team-mate or rival.
"Whenever anyone outperforms me, whether in academics orsport, I tell myself that if he could do it, so can I," Shakibtold Cricinfo in a recent interview.
"If someone from the team is adjudged man of the match, Ifeel the honour could have been mine as well. It''s notjealousy - my team-mates'' success obviously gives me a lot ofjoy - but if he could, why couldn''t I?"
Often asked if he was a batting or bowling all-rounder,Shakib has one answer, as simple as his game in the middle. "Iam a cricketer," he says.
Shakib was a star performer for Bangladesh in the lastWorld Cup in the Caribbean, where the minnows knocked outIndia in the first round and then stunned South Africa in theSuper Eights.
But he goes into his second World Cup a reluctant leader,having publicly denounced the responsibility thrust on himsince he wanted to concentrate on his batting and bowling.
The Bangladesh Cricket Board deliberated hard on thecaptaincy before appointing Shakib after senior pro MashrafeMortaza went down with a recurring knee injury.
His cricket-crazy nation, which co-hosts the World Cupwith India and Sri Lanka, will hope Shakib continues to leadfrom the front. (AFP) SNK