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Believe me, serious cricket is played in IPL, says Shakib

KKR’s star all-rounder Argentina & Barca fan
Shakib-al Hasan

Calcutta: Shakib-al Hasan, a former captain of Bangladesh and a key member of the Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR), spoke to The Telegraph in the lead up to the franchise’s first match at home, on Tuesday.

As an all-rounder, Shakib’s ranked No. 3 in Test cricket, joint No. 2 with Angelo Mathews in ODIs and No. 2 in T20Is.

It’s a most impressive CV.

Excerpts from the interview...

The most challenging format...

All three formats are challenging... Skill, technique, strength... All formats require all three, but I suppose Test cricket is a bit more demanding than ODIs and T20Is.

Test cricket...

The very duration (five days) makes it tougher. Also, all aspects of the game get scrutinised, more than once.

Specific requirement for T20...

It’s basically power cricket. You may possess the skill, but you’ll be judged on how you actually perform in pressure situations. Bowlers, in particular, need to execute their plans well.

Fourth season with KKR...

(Enthusiastically) I was very happy when KKR bought me at the auction, in February, thereby extending my innings with the franchise... Calcutta is so close to Bangladesh, that one feels at home. Language-wise and culturally, nothing separates the two. Naturally, aami ekdom comfortable and I’ve never had to adjust.

If the IPL has become far more competitive...

Definitely... In the initial years, the IPL was seen as entertainment, not cricket. Today, the IPL is wholly about cricket, not entertainment... Believe me, serious cricket is played in the IPL. Initially, everybody was learning... The franchisees, the players... Perhaps, even the fans. One could say that, in the initial years, the focus was more on glamour. Not now.

Rules allowing only four players from overseas in the XI...

It’s frustrating when you have to sit out, but as professionals, one has to understand that the franchise may not play you in every match... That conditions vary and, so, the composition of the XI will have to change. Some things just aren’t in the hands either of the team management or the player from overseas.

KKR’s run in IPL VII...

To keep the momentum, it was important to beat the Mumbai Indians (in Cuttack) and the Sunrisers Hyderabad... We’ve done that. Early on, we were unlucky in a couple of matches, but we’re looking ahead, not back. It’s a confident dressing room.

When the going isn’t good...

Nobody likes to lose, but the good teams focus on bouncing back. Look, we have the ammunition to win the trophy for a second time. We know what it takes to win.

Gautam Gambhir as captain...

Gauti’s aggressive both as captain and batsman. He’s very supportive of his players and is respected by everybody... I strongly believe that a captain must lead from the front and Gauti does that.

Sharing the dressing room with Sunil Narine...

Narine’s unpredictable and batsmen still struggle to pick him. Most teams, I reckon, keep his four overs out of the scoring equation and look to target the remaining 16.

Narine’s USP...

Consistency with variations... The variations come out at the right time. Match after match, to KKR’s advantage.

Talking spin with Narine...

No, we talk of other things.

Being an all-rounder first and, then, a left-arm spinner...

The effort I put into my batting and my bowling is 50-50... Ekdom shoman... I’m neither a bowler who can bat well nor a batsman who has it in him to bowl well.

Eight years at the international level...

Every day has been a learning experience, but it’s difficult explaining it... What I can say is that experience teaches a lot.

Turning point...

There’s been no one defining moment. I’ve tried to be consistent, for consistency pays dividends.

Favourite all-rounder(s)...

Jacques Kallis, Andrew Flintoff and Daniel Vettori... Kallis’s record does the talking, I don’t have to say anything... I liked Flintoff’s attitude, his aggression on the field... I’ve admired Vettori’s cool-headedness. What composure from a left-hander, like me!

Kallis being No.1...

Absolutely... Just see his achievements in Tests and in ODIs.

Not cool-headed, like a Vettori...

(Laughs) When I get to Vettori’s age (35), even I’ll be cool. Right now, I’m 27.

The spinner he’s admired...

Saqlain Mushtaq.

Big on soccer...

Among international teams, I root for Argentina... At the club-level, I’m a Barca fan.

No.1 soccer player...

Lionel Messi.

Favourites to win the upcoming soccer World Cup...

Can’t predict. Bolte parbo na.

Having been critical of cricket at home...

No comments... Please, nothing about Bangladesh cricket. Absolutely nothing.

Lastly... Message to the emerging cricketers in Bangladesh...

Work hard and recognise the talent within... For things to fall in place, you have to make the effort. Others can’t make it work for you.