Tamim Iqbal, speaking from lockdown in Dhaka, gives ESPNcricinfo a sneak peek into his plans for the Bangladesh ODI team after being appointed captain earlier this month. He discusses the difficult terrain of arguably the second-most important job in the country, but relishes the prospect too as he hopes to use all of his experience to take the team forward.
How are you coping with the pandemic and what are you doing at home these days?
I am completely locked down. I am not seeing anyone. It is still early stages. Luckily I have a treadmill at my place. I run in the morning, and the rest of the day I spend time with my kids. The whole world is suffering, but if we fight as a nation, I am sure we can come out of this soon.
How much time did you have to decide on the ODI captaincy?
Look, we have two types of young players in the side: the ones who are quite new and some, like Liton Das, who have been around for four or five years and are just starting to perform. The new captain will also be taking over from someone who had done very well, so I felt that any of the senior players being asked to take the captaincy had to accept the job with the team in mind.
What do you bring to the table as captain?
Most of my initial plans are [for] off the field. You cannot control everything on the field, but if you can tick some boxes off the field, it reflects on your on-field performance. I will take small steps, and I am not the sort of person to dwell on my plans. Everyone's patience is going to be vital as overnight success can't be expected.
The Bangladesh captaincy, especially in ODIs, is seen as one of the toughest jobs in the country. Do you agree?
I am pretty sure there are more difficult jobs in other areas in Bangladesh. But in cricket, it is probably one of the most challenging things. A lot of things come with captaincy. In the beginning it will be difficult as I will be constantly compared to Mashrafe [Mortaza] bhai. But to drive the team and myself forward as a captain and a player, I have to keep my focus where it matters and not on what people are saying. If our thinking is on the right track and we do what we are supposed to do, I believe we can take this team forward.
Do you take inspiration from your past success or how you came back into form in a big way over certain points in your career?
Even when I came back very strongly in 2012 or after the 2015 World Cup, I never really thought that I could do it again. I focus on my process. There are a few things, such as batting well in the nets and feeling good about myself, which tell me that things will change. I think I have achieved a lot by believing in myself. Those were good years, but I want to make the coming years even better. I don't like looking back at my past. It doesn't help me. I need to keep challenging myself.
Still, as a captain, you must be thinking back to 2015, when Bangladesh were in a similar situation.
Especially in ODIs, 2015 was the turnaround year in Bangladesh cricket. Our graph has shown a bit of a downward trend, but I want to take it upwards. There will always be a bit of up and down, but we need to return to stability as a team. The year 2023 seems like a long way away, but you will see that it is at your doorstep in the blink of an eye. We must stay on the right track in ODIs; we aren't playing much [of the fomat] because there are so many T20Is these days. We need to know what we want to achieve as a team. We have a different team than in 2015. There are a lot of young players. I am sure that if we can tick all the boxes, there's no reason why we can't repeat 2015.
As someone who values hard work, process and discipline, you must also want to see these things in the young players in the side.
Our team really needs to value their performance. It means if I am doing well, it should give me the confidence to do better. If I am not doing well, it should hurt. Things are changing. Someone like Liton Das now reacts and behaves differently after getting out on 70 or 80. He wants to do well even after making that record-breaking 170 recently. I see a lot of hunger in him. I hope everybody follows the same path.
Mushfiqur Rahim is another great example. He is never satisfied in any format. He tries very hard when he is not doing well. But when he is doing well, he constantly wants to improve. If this is how everyone thinks, life becomes easier for the captain, coaches and senior players.
The senior players are crucial for Bangladesh to do better. Are you seeking their help?
Mushfiq [Rahim] and [Mahmudullah] Riyad bhai are more experienced captains than I. I will need these guys to help me out if I feel some nerves at the start of my captaincy. I am sure they will give me everything. I think it is also important that the three captains from the three formats are on the same page. I will go to these two guys on the field, and when Shakib comes back, I will seek him out too. The team will need their full support to go forward. Not me. I am not important here. The team is the most important.
You said that one big win will provide your young team the confidence boost it needs.
We have four or five young players, like [Mohammad] Naim, Afif [Hossain] and [Aminul Islam] Biplob. Even someone like Taijul [Islam] is young in ODI cricket, though he has been in the national set-up for six years. A big win will give this group a lot of courage. When you start winning games, you generate confidence. When we beat Pakistan 3-0 in 2015, we started believing in ourselves a lot more. We could defend a score of 250 or chase a 300-plus score. After beating Pakistan, we believed we could beat India and then South Africa. If we can build in a similar manner, by winning against big teams, the boys will find confidence.
And on your own form, the centuries against Zimbabwe must have given you confidence.
Scoring runs always gives you confidence. To be honest, when I came back against Pakistan, I was actually batting well but not able to get the big runs. I was getting a bit frustrated, but the team, especially the coaching staff, kept telling me that it is just a matter of time. I believed what they said. There's a huge difference in confidence from a month ago. It is easier to take a lot of decisions now as I have the runs [to back] me.