Can there be any doubt that Shakib al Hasan is the finest player in Bangladesh cricket history?

On facts and figures, on performances, on the ability to rise to the occasion when the chips are down and on sheer force of personality and his effect on the game’s followers in the cricket crazy country the left handed all rounder is the one truly world class player Bangladesh has produced in its 18-year Test history. His latest feat – the quickest to get the double of 3000 runs and 200 wickets in Test cricket – is but the latest in a long line of achievements.

The very fact that he has surpassed a record held by a cricketer of the calibre of Ian Botham speaks volumes of Shakib’s all round skills. Shakib crossed the double in his 54th Test beating by one Test the record held by the England all time great. At 31 one can safely say that more such marks await Shakib for despite a 12-year international career he has lost none of his zest for the game and his skills keep getting better with the passage of time.

What enhances Shakib’s feats is that he has been playing for one of the weaker teams in international cricket. For much of his career Bangladesh has been languishing at the bottom of the rankings table in both Tests and ODIs. But the other teams are aware that in the left handed all rounder they have a truly world class opponent. Under the circumstances he is always under pressure to perform but Shakib is one who thrives on pressure, such is his steely temperament.

And it is not just in Tests. He has an excellent record in ODIs too. With almost 5500 runs and nearly 250 wickets he takes his place as among the all time great all rounders in the shorter format. But perhaps among all his achievements the best would perhaps be the fact that he is only among three cricketers to score a hundred and take ten wickets in a Test match. He is in truly elite company for the other two are Imran Khan and Ian Botham.

Like most prima donnas he has had his moods and his run-ins with those in authority. In certain cases he has not been entirely blameless and has been deserving of the punishment handed out to him. But Shakib is one of a rare breed and not just as a player. He has owned up his mistakes and has taken steps to rectify them. And this has kept his status as the No 1 pin-up boy of Bangladesh cricket alive. Despite his misdemeanors cricket fans are fiercely loyal to him fully aware that he is the one cricketer in the national team who can be depended upon to come up with a stellar performance whatever the odds and however formidable the opposition.

A few years ago Shakib was banned by the Bangladesh Cricket Board for six months. It was clarified that he was being punished for ''serious misbehavior’’ with the Bangladesh coach Chandika Hathurusingha and an altercation with a spectator during an ODI against India in Mirpur. But the BCB subsequently reduced his ban and according to BCB chief Nazmul Hassan, Shakib’s improved behaviour had been noticed by the BCB. ''We are not against our players,’’ said Hassan. ''However there are times when situations demand strict measures.

The ban on Shakib was a message to everyone that we will not compromise on matters relating to discipline.’’ However he was quick to add that he was happy that the player had taken the sanctions in the right spirit and showed his character by coming back strongly – very typical of Shakib.

Like all big names Shakib has had his critics. When he was banned there was a lot of discussion about how he had become too big for his boots. His hot headedness attracted considerable adverse attention and an obscene gesture on TV did not go down with the general cricket loving public. There were those who said he would not improve his behavior and consequently his game would go downhill. Shakib however has has hit back at the critics and in fact since then there has been an upsurge in his performance.

Of late as he has regained the captaincy even his harshest critics would have noticed a quieter, more smiling Shakib. Sometime back in an interview he said ''I feel calm, I am more relaxed. Being mature is important. I think it is working for me and I have to continue with this attitude. I don’t think I will make any of the old mistakes.’’

As the saying goes ''admitting your mistake is the first step towards rectifying it’’ and it is an encouraging sign both for him and for Bangladesh cricket that Shakib has adopted this attitude. One can safely stick his neck out and predict that his best is yet to come.