Tamim Iqbal’s transformation over the years has been a lot similar to that of the fictional superhero character Green Lantern. The story revolves around the transformation of an ordinary Test pilot, Hal Jordan, into a person with superhuman abilities after he is chosen by alien forces as the right heir to a powerful ring and subsequently becoming the ‘Green Lantern’ to fight powerful evil forces. Superman, Batman, Spiderman and X-Men are some of the most popular superhero characters that have caught our imagination since childhood. However, there are some superhero characters that are not that famous as the other ones but still deserve the same stardom as them. Green lantern is one of them.
Although, we don’t get to see superheroes with those mesmerising superpowers in real life, it is often the emotion behind their common stories that connects real life people to those imaginary characters. In a real world where players like Virat Kohli and AB de Villiers are similar to Batman and Superman respectively, Tamim is its Green Lantern. Kohli and De Villiers may be far superior players as compared to Tamim. However, Tamim has showed in the last two years that the story of his transformation from an aggressive to a responsible player is not one to ignore.
Tamim is showing his class to the world in the ongoing Champions Trophy as he is in rich vein of form with the bat. In two matches so far, he has amassed 223 runs at an average of 111.50 and has led the Bangladeshi batting single-handedly. Moreover, what is commendable is the fact that it has come against oppositions like England and Australia. He played a wonderful hand of 128 runs in their first Champions Trophy encounter against England as his innings propelled Bangladesh to a score of over 300 runs. Although Bangladesh still went on to lose the match, his innings ensured that Bangladesh didn’t go down without a fight.
He showed even more maturity in Monday’s clash against a world class Australian bowling attack with a composed innings of 95 runs. The rest of the Bangladeshi batsmen kept falling like a pack of cards at one end. But Tamim held fort at the other end with the will to guide Bangladesh to a competitive total. Although he fell victim to Mitchell Starc on a score of 95, the spectators at the Oval gave him a standing ovation to acknowledge the valiant effort. He anchored the Bangladeshi innings in both the matches responsibly. There was aggression in his knocks from time to time but it was well mixed with caution. However, he was not always the mature player he is now. During his initial years, he also exhibited the same flamboyance and aggression of youth like most other young batsmen.
It is not at all easy for a naturally aggressive person to mellow down and become a responsible one. However, once a person becomes so, it brings a purpose to his life. Tamim made his debut for Bangladesh in 2007. It was a time when the limited overs cricket was taking a new shape with the advent of T20s. It meant that the senior Bangladeshi batsmen who belonged to the rather classically defensive category of players wouldn’t be effective anymore. It was right then that the selectors brought Tamim to the international scene. He was one amongst the first of the present day aggressive and flamboyant breed of Bangladeshi batsmen. However, with aggression came inconsistency and irresponsibility. He had immense talent and potential in him. Yet, after completion of eight long years of international career, Tamim averaged a mere 24.36 with the bat which was much like his predecessors.
Although Tamim’s stats at that time read 3,971 runs in 135 matches with four centuries to his name, an average of 24.36 was a pretty dismal figure for any opener in ODI cricket. The recklessness in his playing style, inability to convert starts into big ones and lack of proper temperament were the main reasons behind such a dismal number for him. However, things started changing from 2015. It seemed as if the New Year had brought a new version of Tamim with itself. The reason was the change in his attitude and temperament as a batsman. And with him, there was also the rise of a new version of Bangladesh in ODI cricket.
The change was visible in his approach to the game. Instead of going for the kill right at the start of the innings, Tamim started showing the temperament to play the long innings for his nation. He has played in 36 ODIs for Bangladesh since 2015 scoring 1,702 runs at an average of 53.18 which is more than double of what his career average had been till the start of 2015. That year was the beginning of the golden run for him which has continued even today. That time was not only special for him but was also special for Bangladesh as a whole. They had made it to the quarter-finals of the World Cup for the first time in that year. Moreover, they also went on to win consecutive ODI series against India, Pakistan and South Africa just after the World Cup. Since then, Tamim has scored five more centuries as compared to just four in the first eight years of his career.
Critics may say that he has done the bulk of the scoring against associate nations and that is the reason for his high average in the last couple of years. It may seem true when one would see averages of 59.25 against Afghanistan, 111 against Ireland, 95 against Scotland and 44 against Zimbabwe. However, one should not ignore his high averages against big nations that include 156 against Pakistan, 41.2 against England, 43.66 against Sri Lanka, 35.66 against New Zealand and 33 against South Africa. He has scored runs against all of them and tackled their world class bowling attacks accordingly. It is only against India that he averages a lowly 25.75 during this period. But that is expected to improve as he plays more and more against them.
Tamim is on the verge of becoming a Bangladeshi legend. He is their highest run-scorer across all formats till date and that will only increase as he has a fair number of years ahead of him to play. Bangladesh have won on six out of the nine occasions he has scored a century in his career and that sums up how big a match-winner he is for Bangladesh. His career batting average now hovers around a healthy 35, thanks to the fabulous last couple of years for him. Bangladesh and Tamim’s transformation has been synonymous during this period. He lit up the path for his team with his performances and thus showed them the way to success. He has unarguably been the Green Lantern in Bangladesh’s age of crisis.
(This Opinion piece first appeared on FirstPost on June 6,2017)