'I realised my mistakes and worked on them'
Left-handed opener Naim Sheikh made a huge statement by finishing as the leading run-getter in the recently-concluded Dhaka Premier League, proving instrumental in Abahani's title-winning campaign by scoring 932 runs at an average of 71.69. The 23-year-old, who was dropped from the Tigers T20I side last year, is now gearing up for a comeback. He spoke about how he changed his game and lifestyle among other topics during an exclusive interview with The Daily Star's Mazhar Uddin. The excerpts are below:
The Daily Star (DS): You had a terrific time in the recently concluded Dhaka Premier League (DPL).
Naim Sheikh (NS): The Dhaka league went really well for me. More importantly, we became champions, which is why it is more special. As a batter, it feels great to finish as the highest run-getter of a tournament and boosts confidence.
DS: Do you want to share the areas you worked on specifically?
NS: I worked a lot on mental aspects and also on strength training in the gym. My eating habits were not proper so I tried to maintain a disciplined life and follow a process overall. I won't say I did it a hundred per cent but I am trying to maintain that standard which is required if I really want to compete at the top-level, by which I mean international cricket. When you can properly maintain these aspects, there are greater chances of success.
DS: Did you feel the urge to work and improve after being dropped from the national team?
NS: I worked on training my mind and building up my physical condition as part of my individual plans. I was having issues with sleep since the Covid-19 pandemic so I worked on that as well. Overall, I feel it is important to follow a process. It's easy to say, but tough to follow properly. I realised my mistakes once I was dropped from the national side and I worked on those areas. International cricket is not easy but I realised that it's important to have the ability to bat on all sorts of wickets. Experience matters in international cricket and I feel you should stick to your strengths and basics. Whenever I moved away from my process, I failed and that was reflected in my last few international games.
DS: There was plenty of noise about your strike rate in T20Is…
NS: Look, when the target is around 120, it's tough to expect a high strike-rate since the required run-rate does not demand an opener to score quickly. It's not easy to score singles frequently for openers in the Powerplay, everyone knows that. There was a negative vibe during that period and I think I deserved more support.
DS: Do you feel you are ready for international cricket again?
NS: If you talk about the one-day format, I have played just one game. It's hard to judge me based on that game. If I talk about T20 cricket, I have played over 30 matches and my performances were not that bad. What I realise now is that I tried whatever others suggested without thinking. It's more important to be able to make your own decisions in the middle. I have come out of that mindset and I know how to play T20 cricket. If you look at my List A record, my stats and my recent form have surely given me the confidence to do well in ODI cricket as well. After finishing as the highest run-getter in the DPL, I definitely expect to make a comeback to the national team. I think there is a huge value for performance in the domestic circuit and the selectors surely count that. DPL is the only platform for us to prove ourselves in one-day cricket and make a statement.