Shakib Al Hasan, the Bangladesh allrounder, is intent on getting a bit of rest from competitive cricket after the upcoming IPL, as he has not taken any substantial time off the game for more than two years. That could mean skipping a stint on the English county circuit this season, following his second season with Kolkata Knight Riders - the IPL ends on May 27, and Shakib is yet to firm up his county plans.
"The county cricket [stint] hasn't been confirmed yet. I still don't know if I would play [county cricket], even if I am fit," Shakib told ESPNcricinfo. "I haven't stopped [playing] for the last three years, so I am thinking that only if I get a 15 to 20 days rest after the IPL, I will go and play in England. If they [whichever county team he might sign with this season] tell me to go and join them straight after the IPL, I won't go, that's what I have planned."
Shakib has had only three major breaks from cricket ever since making his international debut in 2006. He had about three months off in 2008, a few months in early 2009 and, more recently, a break from mid-August to mid-October in 2009, between an away ODI series against Zimbabwe and a domestic Twenty20 tournament. Ever since, Shakib has risen significantly in world rankings and has grown in stature as an international cricketer by playing in the county championship for Worcestershire and the IPL for the Kolkata franchise. This apart, he has turned out in several domestic competitions in Bangladesh.
"I have played a lot of cricket, I need a break. I have some stuff of my own to take care of," Shakib said. "To play good cricket, one needs to stay away from cricket too."
Shakib is coming off a productive year, in which he averaged 44 with the bat and 29 with the ball in ODIs and 50 and 29 with bat and ball respectively in Tests. In Bangladesh's stirring showing in the just-concluded Asia Cup he made 64, 49, 56 and 68. However, he admitted that the responsibility on him as an allrounder was not always easy to deal with and that there is still room for improvement.
"Personally, I want to improve by finishing matches for the team," he said. "My bowling isn't going that well too. It's difficult to keep both going, batting and bowling. I feel that it is hard to concentrate on both in training. I have seen that if I take one discipline and work on it, it gets better. But to work on both is a bit difficult. It is a problem at times [as an allrounder], so there's a lot of room to work hard."
While he remained realistic about Bangladesh's chances in Test cricket and their plans for the immediate future, the success in the Asia Cup, he said, will help them think of themselves differently. "We may not win Tests [for now] because we haven't got the attack to take 20 wickets. We need genuine bowlers to take 20 wickets, but we will win one-day games. This [Asia Cup performance] has helped us set new goals. It is important that four or five players are performing [in the same game] for Bangladesh.
"I feel that at home we can handle teams a lot better than we can away from home. [Bigger teams like] India still have trouble [playing] away from home. So I think we should [first] become tough competitors at home so that in the next year or two, no one can come and whitewash us easily."