My Shakib Al Hasan experiment

Looking at how a team replaces an irreplaceable player

As a thought experiment, I was trying to determine how important Shakib al Hasan was to Bangladesh when he was ruled out of the rest of the tournament.

It all got a bit crude, but I was trying to work out what happens when a player of his quality is no longer available. I didn't have any advanced metrics on me, so I just had to wing it slightly.

We have to break up the two skills to start.

Shakib the batter:

22 ave with a 121 strike rate.  Last three years, he's been roughly the same as this.

At his best, he was probably a lot better, and also batting in another spot he would be of more use. But Bangladesh have tried to make him into a number three, and he's never really made runs there and done so slowly.

But this is where it gets interesting because to replace him, they picked the 21-year-old Shamim Hossain. Shamim has good low-level domestic numbers, but in the BPL and internationally, he has struggled.  So far in 18 games of those two combined, he has averaged 12, with a strike rate of 140.

The added strike rate is attractive, but Shamim bats far lower. This also means that the batting order needs to move around when you lose Shakib. And while a lower order player going up would be expected to average slightly higher with more opportunities at the top, there is still clearly a gap here. I think all things considered, they lost six runs off their expected total here. And I'm being very generous.

Shakib the bowler:

19.79 ave with 6.66 econ is pretty hard to beat. Last three years the average has actually been 17. In this tournament, he's been averaging 11, so, you know.

And remember, they didn't bring in an all-rounder, so they had to replace him from their existing bowlers. They never got that far into their attack because they didn't make any runs. But my guess from their rotation is they would replace him with a combination of Soumya Sarkar and Mahmudullah.

Sarkar can't bowl; he's going for nearly three runs an over more than Shakib. And less than half the chance of taking a wicket.

Mahmudullah is slightly more interesting. He has good T20 numbers (29av/7.3ec), but that is largely from only being used in favourable conditions. He averages eight balls a game for Bangladesh and has only bowled once in this tournament. If he got the other overs, that's straight away a win because at the very least he is a savvy spinner who the conditions would favour.

If you do a straight number swap, the Sarkar (1) Mahmudullah (3) overs would have gone for 31.1 runs while taking one wicket. Where Shakib would have been 25.2 runs and 1.48 wickets. A wicket in T20 in general is worth seven-eighth runs. So half a wicket better starts to really stretch the difference here.

But there is also when they would bowl. Shakib could come on early and do a job at the end on some of these wickets. While the part-time combo would probably have to bowl in the middle as much as possible.

Based on these numbers, I would say that Bangladesh is 12 runs down with him not bowling in a match at this World Cup if they replace him with part-timers.

In total:

We have Bangladesh down 18 runs overall in this match without him playing. That is even with Shakib's now limited batting out of position.

Think about it this way, if we assumed Bangladesh expected total was 140, without him that drops to 134. And if they could hold down the opposition to 150, with the part-timers it's now 162.

These numbers are a bit out of my arse. But even so, there is some real stats and cricket logic behind them.

That is way more dramatic than I would have thought before this. Part of the problem was the way they replaced him. They could have lessened the damage if they brought in a solid bowling option or a top-order batter. But in this, they kinda made it worse twice. A young low-scoring player that disrupted the batting order and two part-time bowlers pulling together with the ball.

Perhaps there was a bit of last day of term in their decisions, knowing they couldn't qualify anyway. But it does show that even though Shakib is not the freak all-rounder he was a few years ago, he's still not only impossible to replace but incredibly disruptive.

Bangladesh hasn't produced many batters of his quality (even as he has struggled for the national team). His bowling is so much better than even their next best full-time option, that replacing it with anything else is horrible.

This is what happens when you have a superstar T20 all-rounder and you try to replace him. It's not pretty.