Captain toasts success, but calls for an improved performance from his team
“Winning is happiness.”
Tamim Iqbal‘s croaky voice couldn’t hide the fact that he has just led Bangladesh to break a ten-match winless streak. Just how important it was for the team that beat Sri Lanka by 33 runs, was writ large on the captain’s face. But ending a losing streak doesn’t mean everything has changed for his team. Iqbal knows all too well that when he talks about happiness, he has to punctuate the sentence with the exasperation of the difficult streak, and caution for what was needed to be achieved.
“We know that the job is not done. There’s two more games to go [in the series]. We hope to put on a better show,” he said.
There were still question marks over Bangladesh’s performance, which the BCB president Nazmul Hassan was very quick to point it out. He held a press conference in the middle of the match to voice his disgust at some of their dismissals.
These words may not have reached the team at the time, but they are well aware of the environment they operate in. Hassan’s words often stem from his expectations around the Bangladesh team which had steadily progressed from 2015 to 2019, before hitting a downward spiral in the last two years.
The resilience they showed in the first ODI against Sri Lanka could, however, turn the tide. It was by no means a pretty little win. Iqbal, Mushfiqur Rahim and Mahmudullah had to rescue Bangladesh twice. After Mehidy Hasan Miraz’s four wickets almost derailed Sri Lanka’s chase, the home side ran into Wanindu Hasaranga, but they found a way to stave off his late charge.
Miraz, who was adjudged Player-of-the-Match for his four-wicket haul, said that the match was a great example of how often a win can be achieved when several players make contributions.
“Every contribution was important,” he said. “Tamim bhai gave us a good start but when we lost two quick wickets, Mushfiq bhai and Riyad bhai put together an important partnership. Afif and Saif batted well towards the end.
“I tied up one end at the start and although we gave away some runs from the other end, I feel the wickets in the middle overs was crucial. Myself, Mustafiz and Saifuddin bowled well in that period. It all contributed to our win. It wouldn’t have been possible if just one or two of us did well.”
Miraz said that having a full-strength team – alluding to the return of Shakib Al Hasan and Mustafizur Rahman – made a big difference. “We weren’t able to win for a long time,” he said. “We won the ODI series against West Indies but we couldn’t convert good performance in the Test series against them. This was an important match, but we have always played well in ODIs. Having everyone around also played a major role in the win.”
Miraz said that he stuck to his usual plan of drying up the runs, which often leads to the batters charging at him. “My initial plan, as I have always done in the past, is to contain the runs,” he said. “I try to bowl on good line and length, and contain the runs.
“I believe that if I do that, I have a greater chance when the batsman makes a mistake. I just tried to bowl more dot balls.”
He also paid tribute to Sohel Islam, the BCB coach under whom he has worked since his Under-14 days, and Nazmul Abedeen Fahim, the veteran coach who oversaw his growth in his early years, for helping him out.
“I speak regularly to Sohel sir, my local coach,” Miraz said. “We have been working together for a long time. I recently got a call from Fahim sir. Actually, we have been in touch since we were in Sri Lanka.
“We spoke about bowling, but he was mostly boosting me to do better. I tried to follow the guideline from both coaches. They really helped me.”
Mohammad Isam is ESPNcricinfo’s Bangladesh correspondent. @isam84