It was a memorable day in Bangladesh’s cricket history when the Tigers played their 100th Test on 15 March 2017. It was the second Test match of the series against the Sri Lankans at Colombo. And they celebrated the milestone with a thrilling victory over the hosts to level the two match series 1-1. That victory was only their 9th in Tests and fourth overall in overseas conditions.
Five month later, 27 August, 2017 will also go down as an important day in the history of Bangladesh cricket as two of their greatest players ever, Shakib Al Hasan and Tamim Iqbal, will play 50th Test matches of their careers. The milestone couldn’t have come in a better way for Shakib and Tamim, who are also the leading wicket-taker and leading run-scorer in Tests respectively for Bangladesh. Moreover, an opposition like Australia will only make the match even more special as the duo will also play the first Test match of their career against Australia and that too at home.
Fate and destiny can never be predicted. Shakib and Tamim had quite contrasting upbringings. The former is the son of a government employed banker living in Magura whose family has no previous connection to cricket whatsoever. Football was the game that ran in the family as his father played for the Khulna division and a cousin also went on to represent Bangladesh. Tamim, however, belonged to the prestigious Khan family of Chittagong. Tamim is also the nephew and the brother of former Bangladeshi cricketers, Akram Khan and Nafees Iqbal respectively. So, cricket, more or less, ran in the blood of Tamim’s family. Yet, the duo’s fates crossed each other and here they are leading their country to new heights in the cricket world over the last decade. Although the duo had different early lives, they showed supreme abilities in the game of cricket. Both displayed tremendous talents from a very early age.
Shakib was hired to play ‘tape-tennis’ cricket for different villages in his teenage years. He used to bat aggressively like he does today but used to bowl left arm fast. It was one of these local village tournaments that shaped his career.
A local umpire, Saddam Hossain, noticed his talent and invited him to practice with the Islampur Para Club. He started bowling spin there and became a regular player for the club. Moreover, he went on to represent Islampur in the Magura Cricket League and picked up a wicket in his very first delivery with a proper cricket ball, bowling left arm spin.
The talent scouting camp at Bangladesh Krira Shikkha Protishtan (BKSP) played a huge role in shaping Shakib’s career. He gives a lot of credit to his BKSP coach, ‘Bappi Sir’ (Ashraful Islam Bappi). His persuasive tactics helped Shakib to get the backing from his father who was strict about his studies. “ ‘Uncle, let him go. He has a future in cricket,’ Bappi sir pleaded with my father,’ Shakib Al Hasan as quoted by ESPNcricinfo.
Tamim’s career, on the other hand, was shaped by his father, Iqbal Khan. He was the more talented one between the two brothers. His brother, Nafees Iqbal, had revealed in an interview how Tamim had once smashed 148 runs in a chase of 150 when he was 12 or 13 years of age.”When Tamim was 12 or 13, he hit 148 as the team chased 150,” Nafees had said.
Their father also had a huge hand in making the two brothers what they are today. He used to organize small tournaments to help the two brothers practice better. “He would organize two teams of 16 players each on weekends so that both of us could get more chances to play. In some games, when there was a shortage of umpires, he would fill in,” Nafees had recalled in that interview.
The duo are iconic figures in the country today. Although they may not be considered on the same level with some players from other countries, there is little they haven’t achieved as Bangladeshi cricketers.
Tamim is the leading run-scorer for Bangladesh in all three formats of the game so far. Moreover, he is also the first Bangladeshi player to score 10000 international runs and score centuries in all three formats of the game. Shakib, on the other hand, is one of the top all-rounders in the world and had also once been at the top of the ICC All-rounder’s ranking in all three formats.
Bangladesh had just one victory in 49 Tests prior to Shakib and Tamim started representing their country in Tests. Since their debut, Bangladesh have won 8 and drawn 10 of the 51 Test matches they have played. Although these statistics are still not that much impressive, they do highlight the contribution these two have made in improving Bangladesh as a Test playing nation.
Tamim averages 52.25 with the bat in Bangladesh’s eight Test victories as compared to his overall Test batting average of 39.53. The numbers take the same staggering rise for Shakib as well. He averaged 48.80 with the bat in those victories as compared to his overall Test batting average of 40.92. Shakib’s bowling average also undergoes a staggering improvement: 20.32 in victories versus his overall average of 33.04.
Shakib and Tamim were touted to be players destined for greatness when they started representing their country a decade back. However, now, they are players who have already attained legendary status in the history of cricket. On 27 August, they will walk out on the field at the Sher-E-Bangla National Stadium in Dhaka with a sense of completion. And they would like to make the occasion even more special by helping Bangladesh register their first ever Test victory against Australia.
(This article was first published on Firstpost on August 26, 2017)