Bangladesh: Going through nine Tests without a century can’t be labeled a crisis, but the wait for Tamim Iqbal has been for more than three years. The dry period hasn’t affected his position in the team, but neither is it befitting for an opener of such high regard.
Bangladesh’s opponents would always consider him among the three or four players who could be trouble. Tamim has been Bangladesh’s mainstay in the top order, and his aggression has always threatened good bowling attacks. His approach has remained almost the same over the last six years since his Test debut. The repertoire has widened, as he has worked extensively to curb out flaws and look for more scoring areas.
After his initial burst in the 2007 World Cup, Tamim had to rebuild his game on the leg side with Jamie Siddons, the former Bangladesh coach. This development in his game was considered as a factor that set him apart from any opener who has played for Bangladesh. He reeled off seven centuries in the three seasons after March 2008, but it all stopped in June 2010.
Interestingly, during his dry period, six of his team-mates have scored one century each. It helps the rest of the batting line-up if he scores big, particularly for the Bangladesh team that craves for a good start from the openers. Before Tamim, Bangladesh had to be content with defensive openers, many of whom struggled against good pace.
Earlier this year he did score an ODI hundred against Sri Lanka, breaking his long-standing drought in all formats. It was an innings which released the pressure at the time, but still, the drought in Test cricket is gnawing at him.
“Of course the target in this series will be to score a hundred,” Tamim told ESPNcricinfo. “I haven’t scored one in eight or nine Tests. I did score an ODI hundred against Sri Lanka. But I would like to bring back that aspect of my game.
“Some of my colleagues have been scoring hundreds too. Mushfiqur [Rahim] got a double-hundred, Ashraful bhai scored 190. Nasir [Hossain] scored a hundred. These innings motivate me. I want to score hundreds too, and now is a good time.”
He had similarly looked forward to a hundred a year ago ahead of last season’s home series against West Indies. He had vowed that he would be disciplined in his batting, but in his first innings in the series, Tamim attempted a forehand smash to a wide delivery from Darren Sammy, which ended up softly in mid-on’s hands. He was on 72, and a hundred was for the taking.
He also got out poorly against West Indies in the 2011-12 series, when he top-edged a slog-sweep in Chittagong to get out on 52. He had looked calm in his approach till that point, having played one of his slowest knocks.
In the Mirpur Test, he got out on 83 in the second over of the fifth day, one that was vital to Bangladesh’s survival in the series. He under-edged an expansive cover drive from Devendra Bishoo, only to be caught behind.
Since June 2010, Tamim has averaged 31.38 in 18 innings with just four half-centuries, but the New Zealand series has encouraged Tamim to think positively. “I am more hopeful about this Test series than the last ten Tests. It is our home ground, where we have started to push teams.
“Results recently have been very close. We hope to turn those results towards us. We know their weaknesses, so we will have to take advantage of it.”
The positive intent of the rest of the team is one of the factors that is encouraging Tamim. The opposition too, particularly the memory of sitting injured in the dressing room in the last New Zealand series at home, is exciting him.
“We are thinking positively but this is a different ball game. We have a lot to improve on. We know what their weaknesses are. At most times we haven’t taken advantage of the opposition’s weakness. But here we are working on their weakness. We hope it will be a spinning wicket in which we can stifle them, like we did to them the last time.”
It doesn’t take Tamim much to change gear in the middle. He can turn around a match at the onset, because Bangladesh often begins as the underdog. Now to revive an important aspect of his career, he has to shift gears a little more carefully. A Tamim century will make a lot of difference, especially with so many of his colleagues now as confident as him.