Tamim's retirement: Why, and why now?
Tamim Iqbal sent shockwaves throughout the sporting fraternity yesterday when the Bangladesh ODI captain announced his retirement from all forms of international cricket with immediate effect.
The best opening batter the country has ever produced, Tamim left all and sundry speechless at a hotel in the port city of Chattogram, where the left-hander abruptly drew curtains on a chequered 16-year international career during an emotional press briefing.
"Yesterday [Wednesday] against Afghanistan was my last international game. I am retiring from international cricket, effective right now," Tamim told reporters.
His decision to quit with the 50-over World Cup in India only three months away and Bangladesh possibly having their best line-up ever and a shot at a first-ever World Cup title led to some burning questions.
Why did Tamim decide to quit when he had at least another couple of years left in him to serve the country? Why did Tamim, who was singularly focused on the coming ODI World Cup only a few months ago, take such a decision, which is damaging for him as well as for his country?
Tamim, at 34, is still no pushover as a batter. His healthy ODI average of 36.62 runs speaks volumes of his ability.
And his record as ODI captain is enviable to say the least. Under his stewardship, Bangladesh have won 60 per cent of their ODIs. After Mashrafe's retirement in 2020, Tamim took over as ODI captain. In his 37 games at the helm, Bangladesh won 21 games, losing 14.
At the press briefing, Tamim -- wearing a black T-shirt and a baseball cap -- did not elaborate on his sudden decision. He thanked everyone associated with cricket and wished the Tigers the best in the upcoming World Cup.
He did not field questions from the attending press corps but left enough food for thought about his sudden decision. "There are different reasons, which I don't think are necessary to reveal here. In fact, for some days, I've been discussing it with my family members," Tamim said.
Tamim has been under tremendous pressure both from the team management and some cutthroat media ever since his last-minute withdrawal from the one-off Test against Afghanistan last month due to a recurring back problem.
The situation probably reached the point of no return after a scathing counter-attack from none other than Bangladesh Cricket Board President Nazmul Hassan Papon.
The BCB boss was reacting to Tamim saying on the eve of the first ODI against Afghanistan that he was not 100 percent fit and hinting that there was a risk involved in playing the game.
While Tamim's remarks drew criticism in the media, Papon only fuelled the fire by publicly saying that it was not some game being played in a neighbourhood. This is not the first time the BCB boss has publicly offended a player when he should instead have been playing the role of protector.
Tamim is not the first cricketer to play a game at less than 100 percent fitness, and he certainly won't be the last. Ask England captain Ben Stokes, currently playing the Ashes with a heavily strapped knee. His less-than-100-percent status is a well-known fact, and has not invited any censure when spoken about publicly.
But the all-encompassing BCB president is perhaps the only cricket chief in the world who pokes his nose into anything and everything when others leave it to people who are experts in this field.
If Tamim's remarks were ill-advised, Papon's counter-offensive is damaging for Bangladesh cricket. For someone like Tamim, who played a key role in taking Bangladesh cricket to where it stands now, there is every reason to be offended by such an unbridled comment from the board president.
It also suggested that there was a division in the team and everyone was not rooting for the captain ahead of the World Cup.
Earlier, Papon went on record and said both Tamim and champion all-rounder Shakib Al Hasan had not been on talking terms for a while. However, there was little visible effort from the board president to break the ice or negate that tension.
While swiping at Tamim's remarks about his fitness, Papon said it has been creating discontent in the team. Even if there was any discontent in the team, is the BCB boss in a position to disclose it to the public? The established cricket world considers the players' dressing room a sacred place, with internal discussions staying just that.
The latest incident was probably too much to handle for a gentleman like Tamim. The southpaw may be criticised for his apparent inability to accept criticism. But unfortunately, this had little to do with his on-field performance.
Making his debut in 2007, Tamim has been the epitome of skill combined with courage. He is the only Bangladesh batter to have put his name on the Lord's honours board with a magnificent century at a tender age in 2010. He is one of the few cricketers who injected a much-needed positive vibe into a defeatist team.
Tamim is a legend of Bangladesh cricket. He has 15,205 runs and 25 centuries across the formats, more than any other Bangladeshi. He has also featured in Bangladesh's highest opening partnerships in both the Test and ODI formats.
He deserved better than a tearful end to a magnificent career.