Improving Bangladesh's team culture will be of top priority for newly appointed Bangladesh ODI captain Tamim Iqbal. The 30-year old has called for greater discipline and collective effort after taking over from Mashrafe Mortaza, whose five-year stint ended earlier this month.
The BCB's top brass had convinced Iqbal to succeed Mortaza as captain although the cloud of Shakib Al Hasan's comeback hangs over his new job. Shakib is BCB's preferred long-term captain across formats, despite being suspended till the end of October this year.
"I want to take small steps to improve ourselves," Iqbal said. "How we can improve our training, how much better can we play as a team, how can I contribute to someone else's process, and vice-versa. This is my starting point. We will take it one step at a time. Without focusing much about the long process of everything, we should break it down into small steps. On the field, a lot of things remain out of control but the team culture is within our control. How we think off the field, how professional we are.
"I want to improve on our team culture, so that with time, you can see results in that aspect. We get more disciplined and work harder, minimise our mistakes. When I think how I will take this team forward, the first thing that comes to mind is that we have to fix all our off the-field issues. I think we are one of the most disciplined teams in world cricket, but we can get better. If I can get to work there and we start seeing it reflected in the field, we are good."
Bangladesh's next assignment is a one-off ODI in Karachi on April 1, but that is in doubt, like all other international fixtures, amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Iqbal, though, said that a win over Pakistan in Karachi will boost the confidence of the current group. "When we beat Pakistan under Mashrafe Mortaza in 2015, we started to believe as a group that we can beat bigger teams," he said. The current squad, which has a lot of young players, needs to win against a big team as soon as possible, to bring back that belief.
"This is a different team than 2015. There are a few key players missing. Form is also different. We have at least four or five new players. We are the type of team that needs five or six people performing to beat good teams, so we need that one big win to break the ice. They need the confidence."
Iqbal also spoke of his challenge to bring the best out of each player. He reserved special praise for Liton Das, who forged a strong partnership with Iqbal at the top and amassed 311 runs of his own in the recently concluded three-match ODI series at home against Zimbabwe.
"There is a difference between how Liton thinks now to how he thought six months ago," Iqbal said. "You can see the reflection in the field. I think the young players are positive towards their cricket. They want to do well. But everyone needs improvement in those areas, including myself.
"We are all professional cricketers. You have to treat each individual differently. There are different ways to treat Mushfiq (Mushfiqur Rahim) and Riyad (Mahmudullah) bhai, for example, to get the best out of them. I am talking more about off-field stuff than on-field performance. The sooner, as a team, we can come back into the right track, better for us."
Mortaza ended his ODI captaincy tenure with 50 wins and while it would be difficult for Iqbal to emulate his predecessor's success, the new captain said that his "close relationship" with Mortaza will hold him in good stead.
"I am not an experienced captain. You have to give me time for anything," Iqbal said. I don't know what my performance is going to be in six months' time. Our fans have to be a little patient. I will do for the best interest in the team. You also have to remember that it will be very hard to reach the level of the previous captain. We have achieved a lot under him, but you have to give me some time to reach his level.
"I am lucky that I have a close relationship with him. I saw him from close quarters, and we have played a lot together. I know how he thinks and I can take as much as I can. But, those are very difficult shoes to fill straightaway. I hope that I will take the positives from him. If I face trouble, he will be the first person that I will call to take advice."