Tamim lights the way

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Asianbangla Desk :┬áThe 2005 Ashes series is popularly remembered as Flintoff’s Ashes because of the rousing performances of the former England all-rounder Andrew Flintoff. Although the recently concluded tour of West Indies by Bangladesh does not elicit the same fanfare from neutrals as the Ashes series does, nor does it have a catchy name, it will be fitting to unofficially name the month-long tour as Tamim Iqbal’s series.

Although the left-handed opener did not fire in the Test series — and it was hardly surprising that the team fell to two heavy defeats at the start of the tour — in the ODI and T20I series that followed he was comfortably the best batsman on either side, which is saying something when the opposition included names like Chris Gayle and Marlon Samuels. The numbers brook no argument.

He hit his 10th and 11th ODI tons in the first and third ODIs, and sandwiched in between was a fifty in the second ODI. The player-of-the-series in the ODIs, Tamim scored 287 high-quality runs at an average of 143.5. In the second T20I, he set Bangladesh on the winning path with a blistering 44-ball 77, rolling back the years with a trio of sixes in an over from fast bowler Andre Russell.

There were missteps however — he lost his wicket in the second ODI by charging down the wicket to Devendra Bishoo, and inexplicably repeated the shot off the first ball of the first T20I from Ashley Nurse with the same outcome. In both matches, his wicket was the preface to losses. But even in his missteps Tamim ensured that his recovery would remain as a shining beacon for the rest of his teammates. In the third ODI he buckled down and scored 103 to set up what proved to be a match-winning total. In the second T20I he started slowly as wickets tumbled around him, before exploding during a partnership with Shakib Al Hasan in a chanceless innings.

It is also true that when Tamim departs to poor shots, it draws criticism that is arguably more intense than for any other batsman. It may seem unfair, but that is perhaps because over the past three years of consistent self-improvement and evolution, the left-hander has become — next to the beloved Mashrafe Bin Mortaza — the symbol of responsibility within the team. If one thinks back to how he started as a madcap opener capable of flaying attacks but not on a consistent basis, the extent of his transformation looks all the more impressive.

He scored just 64 runs in the four innings in the Test series, but he was also the only one among the specialist batsmen to not give his wicket away with a shot that was not on. That did not happen by accident — Tamim has for some time been a batsman who values his practice immensely, and one who practises with a purpose. That is probably why he trusts that in the longer version, he can last long enough to score runs without looking for the release shots that have become a scourge of the Test team.

Of course, there are improvements to be made in Test cricket, but given his record of self-improvement the odds are in favour of Tamim not just being the best batsman in Bangladesh, but in the top few in world cricket.

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