Abahani Limited captain Tamim Iqbal has lauded his team-mates for producing a comeback midway through the Dhaka Premier League's first phase, which ended up giving them their 18th title. Four hours after they beat Prime Bank Cricket Club by 115 runs in Mirpur on Wednesday, the BCB's decision to give Abahani and Prime Doleshwar Sporting Club one point each confirmed Abahani's title. It meant they would get 23 points, two more than Doleshwar.
Abahani started their campaign with three wins in their first four games, but then lost three matches in a row against Legends of Rupganj, Mohammedan Sporting Club and Kalabagan Cricket Academy in the space of a week in mid-May.
At that stage, Abahani were in genuine danger of missing out on a Super League place but they won their next four games to confirm a place in the last six and launch a title charge in one of the most tightly-contested Dhaka Premier League seasons of the past decade.
Tamim said the key to Abahani's success was the turnaround, as well as Shakib Al Hasan's arrival after his IPL campaign with Kolkata Knight Riders. Shakib made 210 runs and took 16 wickets in eight matches, including a blazing half-century and a five-for against Mohammedan in Abahani's record-breaking 260-run win. He also took a four-wicket haul against Prime Bank in the first phase and made fifties against Rupganj and Doleshwar.
"It has been a massive turnaround for us," Tamim said. "We had some wins at the start of the season but as the tournament progressed, continuous defeats put pressure on the team. At one point it was even tough for us to qualify for the Super League. All the players put in a big contribution behind this success, especially Shakib who joined us midway into the tournament. He had a great involvement in the team, especially with the bowling unit. He encouraged our struggling bowlers."
Tamim had special praise for Mosaddek Hossain, the young batsman who bailed out Abahani time and again from tight spots. His six and four off the last two balls won them the game against Doleshwar. Against Rupganj, he struck 73 and took five wickets and in Abahani's last game against Prime Bank, Mosaddek struck a quickfire 78 in support of Tamim, who scored a century. He ended the tournament with the highest batting average, 77.75, among batsmen with more than 600 runs. He also took 15 wickets, and won three player-of-the-match awards.
Tamim said he was disappointed that Mosaddek's brilliant performance was overshadowed by the talk about alleged favouritism surrounding Abahani.
"Mosaddek had an incredible tournament," Tamim said. "He has very bright future. But the negative discussion about Abahani shadowed Mosaddek's performance. I think he has a brain of a 45-year old person, and I hope he will meet his ambition of playing in the national team one day.
"Mosaddek had to work hard for scoring those runs. Our bowlers had to work hard for picking wickets but people and the media were only talking of the negative things, which disappointed me."
Tamim accepted the Tk 1 lakh ($1,276) fine for his outburst against the umpires in the Super League match against Doleshwar.
"I accept the punishment which the board decided for me. As I have said earlier, it was not right for me to react in such a way with the umpires. I will take lesson from this. I have to be a good human first both on and off the field. What I did that day was wrong."