Bangladesh opener Tamim Iqbal potrays a close bond with England. He once again evoked that bond as he showcased his good form with a brilliant 128 in the opening match of the ICC Champions Trophy against England at the Kennington Oval.
The innings of 128 was a follow up to a century against Pakistan in the warm-up match. Tamim has a history of flourishing in English conditions; as a 21-year-old he scored one of the most convincing Test centuries at the Lord’s seven years ago.
The dashing opener sat down with icc-cricket.com to talk about Bangladesh’s chances, promising youngsters in the squad ranks and the joys of revisiting the city where his career first took flight.
How did preparation go for the tournament?
Tamim: The preparation has been fantastic. We came early; we had a camp in Brighton for two weeks, played a few practice games there, then went to Ireland, played a few games there and had a good series. The first warm-up game [against Pakistan] was nice too and I’m sure whatever is left the boys can take out from there and be 100 per cent happy for our matches.
As part of your preparations you played New Zealand, and beat them quite comfortably in the second match. In alien conditions this looked to be quite a significant result…
TI:Definitely. Playing in Ireland in the Tri-Nations has definitely given us a lot of confidence, and [so did] the way we started in the first practice game against New Zealand. It was a very close game we should have won, but that’s cricket. We were here a month before and couldn’t ask for more.
Do you ever actually get used to conditions in England? Are you acclimatised sufficiently now?
TI: We’ll be better prepared, that’s for sure. This is a place we don’t come too often. If we came a week ago then there’s a problem! At least with the weather we are quite comfortable now. We can’t have any excuses regarding the weather. The wickets, you never really know what wicket you are playing on. Normally in England you get a good wicket anyway.
How do you see the make-up of your group?
TI: It’s a difficult group. Playing Australia, New Zealand and England, the top teams, especially in these conditions. It will be difficult but I believe no one is unbeatable, and if we can play our A-game then you never know.
It seems like this is the beauty of this tournament, eight teams together, there are no ‘gimme’ games, it seems like it’s wide open. Is that how you see it in your camp?
TI: Definitely. You can’t predict that this is a game where you have a big percentage chance of winning or not – you’re playing the top eight teams in the world, so you have to be on your A-game always in this tournament to compete and that’s what we’re looking for. The preparation has been fantastic but that’s done. It’s now the time to execute in the middle.
The evolution of this Bangladeshi side, especially in one-day cricket, has been great to watch. Do you feel like your cricketing culture is in the best place it’s ever been?
TI: We’re getting there. I won’t say it’s the best place we’ve ever been but we’re getting there. We’re ranked sixth which is really good and this is the time to cash in and keep on improving, because if you stop here there are other teams who will catch you up. We know one thing for sure, that as a group you need to learn, to keep on improving and if you want to compete with all the big boys you need to keep on improving and that’s what we’re looking to do.
Who of the relatively new faces in the Bangladeshi squad would you suggest we keep an eye out for?
TI: I reckon Mosaddek Hossain. He’s a gutsy cricketer. Comes in late, and whatever ball he uses, he utilises it well. That’s one player you can keep an eye on. [Right-hand batsman] Sabbir Rahman is another, and we all know about Mustafizur [Rahman]. I didn’t give you Mushfiqur [Rahim] or Shakib [Al Hasan] but they are probably the best two players in our team.
Of your own relationship with English cricket, English fans well remember when you stole the Lord’s Test back in 2010 with a run-a-ball hundred – what memories do you have of that career-defining week?
TI: That was special, you know? To score a hundred at Lord’s is special for any cricketer, and still people remind me of that. But it’s seven years back, and if I want to be successful in this tournament again I need to work even harder and capitalise on the starts if I get any.
Finally, there are a lot of Bangladeshi immigrants in England, and in London in particular – are you able to mix with the Bangladeshi contingent while you’re over here?
You know sometimes you feel like you’re in Dhaka, there are so many Bangladeshis here! This is one place the boys love to tour… because there are no issues with the food! We love to come to England – the only sad part is we don’t come often.