After Tamim Iqbal’s relatively restrained 83 not out against the Netherlands last week, he was asked whether fatherhood — he had become a father last month — has been a calming influence. He couldn’t resist laughing. He looked sideways to skipper Mashrafe Mortaza, as though for approval, and replied, “I have been batting the same way in the PSL and BPL this year, and much in the same before. I wasn’t a father then. It has nothing to do with it.” He couldn’t help chuckling. (Full Coverage|| Fixtures||Photos)
Over to the next question. He couldn’t help laughing again. “So did you regret not getting a hundred?” “No at all,” he said after a pause, then giving the sort of wry “you guys’re never satisfied, aren’t you?” expression. He explained his method: “I was just thinking of taking my team to 150.”
But he did agree that he had been underwhelming in T20Is. Prior to that, he had aggregated just 21-odd runs a match and hadn’t made a half-century in four years. “I’ve been talking to a lot to the support staff, players, coaches on how to go about T20 cricket. I wasn’t doing justice to my talent – I wasn’t scoring too many runs in T20s honestly. So I had to find new ways to score runs in T20s,” he detailed. Relatively, plain and simple, if not pedantic, answers.
However, on Sunday, he demonstrated what a century means to him and how much he valued parenthood. Bludgeoning — that’s perhaps the most accurate verb to describe his hundred — the abraded ball between the two fielders placed at an arm’s length at cover, he set off for a single. Then realising the ball had threaded them and was travelling the distance, he dropped his bat and helmet on the pitch, ran back to the crease and started high-fiving and fist pumping as deliriously as a child possessed. You ask him how he felt at the precise moment, he would say he felt something like a blur, or something ineffable to put into words. Then removing his helmet, setting the hair in place, and wagging his digits, he drew a cradle in the air. “This one’s for my daughter,” he seemed to convey.
Whether he agrees or not, or whether you are superstitious or not, his daughter has bought some good luck to his T20 game. Whereas in the past — and not in the ancient past but as recently as the Asia Cup final early this month — he had conceded an impression that he wanted to hit every ball out of the park, he has toned down that impudence — that disregard of everything old-school.
He still is not quite old-school by any measures — it’s the cavalier approach that had helped him be Bangladesh’s highest run-getter in all formats — he has recalibrated his T20 game. Not that he is averse to the waiting game — he once grinded the Kiwis to 74 off 250 balls in a Test in 2014 — but the transformations seemed to have happened overnight.
Last Sunday, in the Asia Cup final, he had cut a forlorn figure. His 17-ball existence, for a meagre output of 13 runs, was a repeated reel of wild heaves and mistimed pulls. Then, three days later, he comes to India and start batting in a entirely different manner, as if the anarchist hippie suddenly turned evangelic. Shelved were the tenuous flashes outside the off-stump and banal heaves across the stumps, not entirely but not very frequently either. He batted with the sort of responsibility expected from a player of experience to ferry his side through to the main round.
Early in the innings he is still nervous, as are most batsmen. As early as the third ball he faced on Sunday, he attempted a pull off a Bilal Khan delivery that was pitched outside off-stump. He mistimed it to mid on. While in the past he would have followed it up with some equally mindless shots, he was more aware of the circumstances this time. The pitch, as the Netherlands and Ireland skippers termed, was tacky. And Bilal was finding some decent purchase off it.
But here is where Oman’s naivety surfaced. In the second over came part-time spinner Aamer Ali, Oman’s first-match hero. He seemed to have taken an edge off Tamim down the leg-side, but the umpire disapproved, so did the snicko, though the replay showed a slight deflection. Three balls later, he smoked Ali straight down the ground. Such was the power of the shot that Ali, on follow through, pulled his arm back from the ball’s path. That was as close he came to being dismissed.
Thereafter, though, Tamim blended aggression with cunning, incrementally accelerating — the first 50 coming off 35 balls and the next off 25. He duly fed on the generous dose of loose balls, while he squeezed in singles and twos — 25 and four respectively. His powerful forearms were at work as were those deft wrists. The first three of his five sixes were all struck straight. Only towards the deep end of his innings that he expanded as expansively as we are accustomed to seeing from him.
The reason for his success, he says, is a calmer approach. He is not over-thinking; nor over-exerting. And whether he believes it or not, fatherhood has brought with it some good fortune as well.
Brief scores: Bangladesh 180/2 in 20 overs (Tamim Iqbal 103 not out, Sabbir Rahman 44; Khawar Ali 1/24) bt Oman: 65/ 9 in 12 overs (Jatinder Singh 25; Shakib-Al-Hasan 4/15) by 54 runs via D/L method