Test failures a worry, but Tamim expects 'very, very good' Bangladesh ODI team if things go to plan

"If Mehidy Hasan gets better with the bat, him and Shakib Al Hasan can give a huge boost to the ODI side"

Mohammad Isam
Mohammad Isam
Earlier in 2022, Tamim Iqbal led Bangladesh to their first ODI series win in South Africa  •  AFP/Getty Images

Earlier in 2022, Tamim Iqbal led Bangladesh to their first ODI series win in South Africa  •  AFP/Getty Images

Some way through our conversation, Tamim Iqbal says something he seems he has been trying to find a way to say for a while: that he feels bad that Bangladesh's ODI series win in South Africa was largely unacknowledged in their country. No need for a ticker-tape parade in Dhaka, but a bit more attention for the new match-winners who contributed to the first series win in a country where they hadn't won anything bar a game against West Indies in the 2007 T20 World Cup.
The condensed nature of cricket tours these days meant that the Tests came soon after the ODIs, and Bangladesh lost both of them, competing hard for long periods but then being bowled out for 53 in Durban and 80 in Gqeberha in the last innings in the two Tests, respectively. The landmark wins from the previous two weeks were lost in the rubble somewhere.
"I think winning an ODI series in South Africa's backyard was big for us. It is one of our best achievements till now, but in my heart, I also feel sad," Tamim told ESPNcricinfo. "We, as a nation, celebrate small things. Because of how the Test series went, this ODI series achievement faded away.
"I don't feel bad for myself, Shakib [Al Hasan] or Mushfiq [Mushfiqur Rahim]. I feel bad for the likes of [Mehidy Hasan] Miraz, Yasir [Ali], Taskin [Ahmed] and Shoriful [Islam]. They made huge contributions in the ODI series. It should have been celebrated a lot more.
"We have known all through that they have huge potential, so if they improve upon what they have started to do now, there'll be nothing like it. Taskin, Shoriful and Litton [Das] are contributing regularly. Yasir is very new, but he played a fantastic knock in the first ODI. If they keep doing it, we will become a very, very good ODI team."
But the conversation in Bangladesh turned quickly to how the Test batters had no answers to Keshav Maharaj and Simon Harmer, South Africa's spinners who did the most damage in the Tests. But a cricket team is only as good as what it achieves.
"If you consider our history in South Africa before this tour, we used to get hammered in all formats in that country," Tamim said. "This time, we won the ODI series, we competed in the first Test, but we were not up to the mark in the second. We could have played much better.
"I didn't play the first Test but when I was watching from the dressing room, I couldn't say who would win the Test in the first four days. Both the teams competed hard. We had a really bad last day, which handed the result to South Africa."


All said, Bangladesh's twin fourth-innings collapses is a cause for worry.
"I am someone who doesn't give excuses. If it was my fault, I will readily admit that it was my fault," Tamim said.
"Saying that, you have to understand that Bangladesh batted in the most difficult times in both Tests in South Africa. We were basically playing a day-night Test in the second innings of both games. We had to survive for 25-30 overs. We couldn't score runs. The wicket was also difficult.
"Still, we couldn't find other ways to score runs or survive. I am sure in the coming days, we will have this kind of situation again. We have to react better as a team. We have to play better in this situation, find out ways to score runs or survive."
However, the picture is rosier in the ODI side. Tamim leads a tight unit that has arrived at a good balance between batters, bowlers and allrounders. It has taken time, but the evolution has happened, Tamim said, adding that ODI-like success is needed in Tests - like the win against New Zealand in Mount Maunganui.
"Not just at the international level, our most competitive domestic competition is the Dhaka Premier League. It is a one-day tournament," Tamim explained. "It has been taking place for not just 10-15 years, but 35 years, or even more. We were raised in this competitive one-day environment.
"Secondly, we have tasted a lot of success in ODIs. It is helping improve the team. There's a lot of competition for places. We don't have similar kind of success in Tests or T20Is. What happened in Mount Maunganui, if this thing starts to repeat, then players will understand that we have to get better in Tests. I think we have to take a bigger step in Tests than in the other formats."


Bangladesh used their usual ODI blueprint to find success in the first and third ODIs in South Africa. They made two big starts when Tamim and Litton added 95 and 127 respectively. These were Bangladesh's highest opening stands in South Africa in all formats.
"If we start a series well, whether batting or bowling, it automatically sets the tone for us," Tamim said. "This has always been the case with Bangladesh. The 95-run stand gave us a lot of confidence. Before going to Centurion and Johannesburg, you hear things about the bounce. The pitch does this, the pitch does that. When you apply yourself and put the team in a decent position, the dressing room starts to believe that if these two are doing it, so can we."
But he admitted that it was the bowlers who won Bangladesh both matches, while the improved fielding during the ODI series helped the cause.
"I thought our bowlers won us the ODI series," Tamim said. "We put up a good score in the first game. Shakib played a very good innings. Yasir played well. Litton and I did something. But our bowling was the main game-changer. In the third game, it was again the bowlers who kept them tied up at 150-odd [154].
"I have always said that our fielding needs a lot of improvement. We may have dropped one or two catches, but I thought we actually fielded really well in South Africa. Good fielding lifts everyone."
"It takes a very big heart to do what Shakib did. I thanked him after the game."
Tamim acknowledges Shakib Al Hasan playing the third ODI in South Africa despite a family crisis back home
What also lifted the team and the captain was the way Mehidy responded to critical situations. When he was smacked around in the first ODI, he came back with a four-wicket haul that won Bangladesh the match. His improved batting and fielding have also been noticeable.
"I think Miraz is one of our best ODI players. He is very under-rated as a cricketer," Tamim said. "I think he is the third- or fourth-ranked [eighth] bowler in the world. Nobody speaks about it. Not only his performance, but [also] the energy he brings to the field [with] the never-say-die attitude that he has.
"He is a different character. He will say things that people won't necessarily take seriously, but that's the kind of character you want in the team. He has improved as a batter, but if he gets better, him and Shakib give a huge boost to the team."
Needless to say, Shakib's presence, and his performances, helped. He took down the South African attack in the first ODI, and just the fact that he was around for the third ODI, despite a crisis in his family back home, was a big inspiration to the team.
"The way Shakib batted [in the first ODI] gave positive vibes," Tamim said. "He took on the South African bowlers seven overs earlier than anyone imagined. I said at the time that it takes a very big heart to do what he did [by playing the third ODI]. I thanked him after the game. But just because he has done it, not everyone has to do it. If someone's loved ones are sick, it is absolutely fine for him to go take care of them. I will support them fully."
There was a poignant moment at the end of the third ODI. Shakib and Tamim were at the crease to finish the job. They had utterly dominated South Africa, who have for two decades annihilated them at home. But, now, Bangladesh were about to win the ODI series. When the moment arrived, Shakib scored the winning runs, with Tamim having played a captain's knock at the other end.
"As we were winding down, we were talking about what needed to be done," Tamim recalled. "I remember what I told him when the winning runs were hit. I told that this is one of our biggest achievements as a team. I said that and I hugged him."

Mohammad Isam is ESPNcricinfo's Bangladesh correspondent. @isam84