Tamim to battle injury for Lord's experience
Tamim Iqbal is expecting to take his place at the top of the Bangladesh batting order when the first Test at Lord's gets underway on Thursday, despite struggling during the tour of England with an injury to his left wrist that may yet require surgery at some stage this year.
Tamim first sustained the injury while fielding during Bangladesh's domestic Twenty20 competition in 2009, but the problem flared up again ahead of the recent World Twenty20 in the Caribbean, in which he played only a minor role during their 21-run defeat against Pakistan in St Lucia and missed the defeat to Australia in Barbados.
Upon arrival in England, Tamim sat out Bangladesh's first two fixtures against Surrey and Essex, but showed glimpses of form with scores of 36 and 19 in the team's nine-wicket defeat against England Lions at Derby last week, and the lure of a Lord's Test is likely to persuade him to push through the pain barrier.
"I've pushed myself five percent more than maybe I would have done on other grounds," Tamim told Cricinfo. "I'm really excited to play at Lord's in a Test match. It will be a dream come true and I really want to play, because I don't know when I'll get another chance."
Tamim conceded that the prospect of surgery had not been entirely ruled out, but given Bangladesh's hectic schedule, which includes the Asia Cup straight after the Test series, followed by the one-day leg of the England tour in July, finding a three-month window that will allow him sufficient time to recuperate ahead of the World Cup next February is a tricky balancing act.
"I went to a specialist yesterday, and he said you've got two choices," Tamim said. "Either you play with taping and hope there won't be any harm, or you can have surgery that will take three months. We have a very busy schedule so the team management told me to decide, so I am seeing another doctor today [Tuesday], and if he gives me the green signal, then I'll play the first match, and think about surgery when I am free.
Tamim was the stand-out performer for Bangladesh during England's tour of the country in March, in which he scored a brilliant century in the first ODI in Dhaka, followed by three free-flowing half-centuries in four innings during the Tests. Whether fully fit or otherwise, his presence at the top of the order will provide his side with vital experience in alien bowler-friendly conditions.
"Test cricket is most important, so I don't want to take any chances, but I'm batting okay in the nets and the pain is getting better day by day," he said. "This is my third tour to England, and last time I played okay. I scored some runs against South Africa and the county teams, so there won't be any problem adjusting to the wickets. I am an international cricket player, so I need to adjust to every ground and every wicket."
Bangladesh's preparations for the first Test have been blighted by illness as well as injury, with their captain, Shakib Al Hasan, being forced into quarantine after contracting chicken pox early in the tour. He took a full part in training on Monday and is sure to lead his team out on Thursday morning, but the disruption is not what Bangladesh needed ahead of such a tough assignment.
"I think he's fully recovered now, he's running around, batting and bowling, and he'll be there in the first Test to captain our side," said Tamim. "We were not allowed to go anywhere near him [last week], he was staying alone, and only the guys who'd had chicken pox before were allowed to go and see him. I asked my mother if I'd ever had chicken pox and she said I hadn't, but then I did a test and it said that I had had, which was funny."
Assuming Bangladesh can overcome their setbacks to field a full-strength side, Tamim hopes that they can build on the encouraging displays that they showed against England earlier in the year. "We know that we are an improving side, we are doing okay in international games, but we are just not winning games," he said. "We've got to prove to the world that we can play in any conditions."
Andrew Miller is UK editor of Cricinfo