Before New Zealand’s tour of Bangladesh in October 2008, Shakib was considered more of a batsman than a bowler, despite being an all-rounder. Though he usually batted down the order at number seven in Tests, he had mostly batted in the top five in ODIs. In a departure from Shakib’s usual role Jamie Siddons, the coach, stated that Shakib would play the Test series against New Zealand as a specialist bowler. The move immediately paid off, and he took 7/37 in New Zealand’s first innings in the opening Test. They were the best bowling figures by a Bangladesh player in Tests. Bangladesh lost the series 2–0, but Shakib finished as Bangladesh’s leading wicket-taker in the series with 10 wickets at 17.80. Bangladesh won the opening match of the ODI series against New Zealand – securing their first ever ODI win over them– although they eventually lost the series 2–1. Shakib finished with 5 wickets from three matches, making him Bangladesh’s second-highest wicket-taker for the series behind Mashrafe Mortaza however Shakib scored just 16 runs in the series.
The following month, Bangladesh toured South Africa for two Tests, three ODIs, and a T20I. While Bangladesh lost all their matches against South Africa except for an abandoned ODI, Shakib continued to build on the good bowling form he had found against New Zealand. On the first day of the opening Test, Shakib went wicketless; on the advice of Mohammad Salauddin, Bangladesh’s assistant coach at the time, he gave the ball flight on the second day and went on to take five wickets. He took another five-wicket haul in the second Test, again as Bangladesh lost to South Africa. Along with South Africa’s Makhaya Ntini, Shakib was the series’ leading wicket-taker with 11 at an average of 20.81. Shakib’s performance against South Africa in a losing cause prompted former Australian leg spin bowler Kerry O’Keefe to describe him as the “world’s best finger spinner at the moment” Sri Lanka toured Bangladesh in December 2008 and January 2009 for two Tests and a tri-nation tournament including Zimbabwe. Sri Lanka won both Tests and the tournament final, although Shakib turned in a man of the match performance, scoring 92 not out, in the second ODI against Sri Lanka helped Bangladesh to their only victory against them on the tour. In the first match of the Test series, Shakib took another five-wicket haul as his team again was defeated.
On 22 January 2009 Shakib was ranked first amongst ODI all-rounders the by ICC.Although he was part of the auction of players held the following month for the 2009 Indian Premier League, Shakib was not chosen by any of the eight teams and no bids were made for him. This was despite being rated as the world’s highest ranked ODI all-rounder at the time. Fellow team-mate Mashrafe Mortaza, who was bought in the auction, said “I would have been a lot happier if Shakib had got a team because he truly deserved it for his sensational form with the bat and ball