Bangladesh need to play more Tests - Tamim
Tamim Iqbal has said Bangladesh's performance in the Asia Cup was a turning point in its cricket history but his team could only carry such form into the five-day format if it played Test matches on a more regular basis. According to the Future Tours Programme, Bangladesh only play 42 Test matches until the end of 2020, with no tours of India and England. Their next Test assignment is against Zimbabwe in August.
"That's the main problem for Bangladesh," Tamim, 23, told ESPNcricinfo. "The moment we start to do well in Test match cricket, we get a year's break or a 14-month break. If we want to really improve in Test match cricket, we need to play the format a lot more. You see us playing ODI cricket for quite some time and quite regularly, and the performance is changing. The world is seeing that Bangladesh is coming up. It's the same with Test cricket.
"We need to play a lot of Test matches to improve, to gain confidence, to learn how to deal with situations and play session by session."
Bangladesh have lost 63 of their 73 Tests, winning only three since their debut in 2000-01. They've had more success in ODIs and, most recently, almost won the Asia Cup, falling short by two runs in the final against Pakistan. They beat India and Sri Lanka en route to that final, and ran Pakistan close both times they played.
"We have been playing international cricket for quite some time now and we needed something like this," Tamim said. "Scoring hundreds is a habit. Winning matches is a habit. Against India, we chased down 290. Sometimes when the opposition teams batted first and got to around 300, if you are not habituated to chasing down those kind of runs you get confused. So, when you start doing it, you know what to do, how to go about it, make plans and how to bat.
"The more matches we'll start to win, the better we'll get. So, this was a great tournament for us because we chased in every single game and did very well. The boys will remember how we did it and take it forward."
The Asia Cup was preceded by the inaugural edition of the Bangladesh Premier League. Tamim missed much of that tournament due to injury, but said it had an impact on the national team's Asia Cup showing as the experience of playing with other international stars made its players more self-confident. "In Bangladesh domestic cricket, you're facing bowlers bowling at 125-130kmph, so sometimes it's hard to adjust when playing international cricket.
"But here you've seen Shakib [Al Hasan] playing some unbelievable shots, which was rare for him. Mushfiqur [Rahim] played an unbelievable innings against India, hitting sixes. So they're getting this kind of confidence from BPL."
The build-up to the Asia Cup was mired in controversy surrounding Tamim's exclusion from the squad, but he was eventually drafted in and went on to get four half-centuries in a row in the competition. Tamim admitted he'd been in poor form in the home series against Pakistan but said he'd been able to recover through practice and showing more determination at the crease.
"These things happened to me in the last series against Pakistan, and to be very honest I panicked," he said, about a series in which he had scores of 0,4 and 0 in the ODIs and averaged just 15 in the Tests. "I wasn't sure what to do, whether I should relax etc. I practiced really hard, did everything possible to score runs and I went there, took my time and eventually it happened."
Tamim, who is the third-highest run-getter for Bangladesh in Tests and ODIs currently, was grateful for the support of his team-mates during his exclusion and after his return to the Asia Cup squad. "Sometimes, when these kinds of things happen in different teams, they talk about it. They ask you, 'Why did this happen and why were you dropped?'. The best part of my team was they never talked about this, they always trusted my ability and knew what I'm capable of.
"If someone else goes through the same period, the boys should react the same way. It's not the first time a cricketer is facing this kind of thing. It'll happen again, it's a part of life you know."
Tamim had an excellent run in the Asia Cup but was disappointed not to have converted those fifties into bigger scores. "When you're going through a good patch, you should make it count as much as possible. Someone like Virat Kohli, he's doing tremendously well, scoring hundreds every second game. The way I got out in the final wasn't good, that is something to work on."
Tamim was signed up by Pune Warriors before the ongoing IPL season. "I'm lucky to be part of Pune Warriors because you've got Indian legends like Sourav Ganguly, someone like Michael Clarke is also a great player. I'm young and I have a lot to learn."
Siddhartha Talya is a sub editor at ESPNcricinfo