After Mashrafe Bin Mortaza, Mushfiqur Rahim and Shakib Al Hasan reached the 10-year mark in their cricketing careers, Tamim Iqbal will be next to that milestone on February 9, 2017. Tamim recalled his time with the national side and even he could not pinpoint exactly when the Tigers' attitudes shifted from an individual perspective to a team mentality. Speaking to The Daily Star's Bishwajit Roy at the Bangladesh Cricket Board Academy's gymnasium yesterday, Tamim reflected that attitude as he spoke about the team rather than himself, while also crediting Mashrafe for that change in their outlook. The excerpts from the interview are below:
ON TEN YEARS: It's a very big moment of pride for me because when I started playing in the national team I always said that I wanted to play in the national team for 10 years. That time has passed in the blink of an eye and now I feel like I want to play for 20 more years. There can be nothing prouder than representing your country. 10 years is just the beginning.
There were lots of ups and downs but also fun times. I haven't only grown as a cricketer, but also become a better human being. I had set a lot of goals, I achieved some and didn't achieve some.
We also had a goal as a team. Two or three years ago we had a team meeting where we decided where we wanted to see Bangladesh cricket in the next few years. We talked about where we wanted to be in one day cricket and Test cricket and the position we had aimed for in ODIs, we almost reached that. Maybe even now we are not where we hoped but we are almost there. So when I see the things we achieved as a team, it gives you a different feeling.
ON FUTURE ASPIRATIONS: The next few years will be the most challenging because as long as I play I have to maintain a high performance because the competition in Bangladesh has increased manifold. Secondly, you have to be fit. Although once fitness was not taken very seriously if you were performing, nowadays even if you are performing but are unfit then the team has a problem.
If I keep playing in the national team for the next six, seven years, my target will be to take my skills further and minimize my shortcomings. For example, I have wasted many of the starts I had got.
In terms of fitness, I'm in a great place. If I can go one step forward, then I can be one of the fittest guys in the team.
ON PAIN AND PLEASURE: I felt pain because I had to make a lot of sacrifices towards my family but there is no end to fun. Everything I have in life, I have got because of cricket. When I go to the streets and two people say hello to me and recognise me, it is only because of cricket. And I don't think there can be anything more fun in life than scoring a hundred.
ON A TEAM PHILOSOPHY: If I score a hundred but my team loses, then nobody will value that. But if you score a hundred and your team wins, the appreciation is something else. Especially in the last two years, the team has been everything.
I started to realise, fine I'm Tamim Iqbal and I have scored two centuries at Lord's but when we go to mix with other cricketers, they will hear about that once, but after that the discussion revolves around your team. That felt a bit embarrassing to us a few years ago because we didn't win a lot. So when we spoke to other players we used to feel a bit small. But now look at us, wherever we go, whoever we mix with, they always say: “you guys are doing tremendously well.”
ON MASHRAFE AS A CHANGEMAKER: I believe all the credit goes to Mashrafe Bin Mortaza because he believed what nobody else believed. And his biggest power is that he managed to transfer his belief into each one of us. Whenever I speak about Mashrafe bhai I always say that even if he gets 400 wickets, it will never be as valuable as him saying that we will go to Australia and defeat England.
When he said that a year before the 2015 World Cup, even I didn't believe it. But as the World Cup came closer, I found myself starting to believe it.
ON DREAMS OF LIFTING THE WORLD CUP: If you don't dream, then you have a lesser chance of achieving things. Whether or not you achieve your goals it doesn't matter, but you have to dream big. Why won't we be able to [win the World Cup]? I don't want to say too much but the road we are taking now, if we can continue along that path and become a strong unit overseas like we are at home, you never know.
ON FUTURE EXPECTATIONS IN TEST CRICKET: Everybody had a contribution to Bangladesh cricket reaching this stage. According to the circumstance, our predecessors played the best cricket.
If we had won the Multan Test 13 years ago, it would have been perfect. Sometimes things come late but the hunt never ends. We have now won a Test match and taken a step forward, but after winning this one game Bangladesh will not suddenly become a very good team.
The win against England gave us great confidence in Test cricket.
Expectations will increase, but there is still a big gap. We need to take eight more steps to become a very good Test team.
ON COMPARING MASHRAFE AND MUSHFIQUR: Mashrafe's contribution is definitely reflected in Tests. Our Test captain Mushfiq's contribution is no less. Mashrafe bhai inspires the team with his words, with his actions. But Mushfiq inspires the team with his hard work. He is leaving a legacy of working hard for the coming generation.
ON PROVING THEMSELVES ABROAD: These things are said more about Asian teams. I never hear that England have to prove themselves in the subcontinent. “India have to prove themselves in Australia,” you hear that. I don't know why this happens. Even in regards to wickets we hear: “Too much spin.” But India, Bangladesh, Pakistan or Sri Lanka don't go to England and say: “Too much grass.”
There is nothing to prove, but if we can play well overseas then it will benefit us.
I think the best moments are yet to come, maybe they have started as we are winning series against big nations. Those moments are always special, but I am waiting to go overseas and win series.
I think in the two upcoming series [against New Zealand and India], we won't be easy to beat, whether we play in Australia or South Africa or wherever. We won't be easy to beat, we will give them a tough fight.
ON HIS MOST SATISFYING WINS: Beating India in the 2007 World Cup was the most satisfying feeling. I don't think I can ever forget that feeling.
In Tests, this [2nd Test against England] is probably one of the top results because we took ten wickets in a session and the way we fought was incredible. This was maybe one of the biggest Test wins for me. Also the two wins against West Indies. They weren't one of the best teams at the time but neither were we.
ON HIS FAVOURITE INNINGS: One of my favourite innings was 125 which I made against England. The team lost but if you ask in which match I enjoyed batting the most, then it's most probably that one and the 154.
In Tests, the innings of 104 against England this time was also very special. There is also a double-hundred and another innings which I rate very highly is the 74 against New Zealand because I had to save the match and bat through.
ON HIS CHANGED ATTITUDE: Now I can take criticism positively, which was not the case previously. Before, I used to take criticism very negatively because I am very emotional. When someone criticised me, I used to think that I would prove them wrong but that led to building pressure on myself. In helping me change this attitude, I must thank Mashrafe and Ali bhai [former BCB psychologist]. I won't say that I am perfect, but I have improved.
ON THE ENGLAND SERIES PITCH: In this Test, we thought a spinning wicket would be difficult for England. But, we knew it would be difficult for us as well. What I liked most is that everyone batted with intent. That was the most important thing, especially on this kind of wicket.
I think Mushfiq was the one who wanted this kind of wicket. I strongly believe that because I first heard it from him. I didn't take it so well because I'm a batsman, I want to score runs. But when he explained to me I realised that maybe it's for the best because it was our chance to defeat them. I scored a decent number of runs but it was a very difficult wicket.
ON SPICE IN THE ENGLAND SERIES: I think every series should have a dash of spice in it. It's true that there were some incidents on the field, but that's common. Nothing went beyond the boundaries, so that was good. I thought we should have won the ODI series for sure, and we should have won the Tests as well. If we gave 10 to 15 per cent more effort, then it could have been 3-0 and 2-0, but we made some mistakes.
Losing isn't always a bad thing. I think a lot can be learnt from a loss. Matches like these can make you a better team and a better cricketer if you take things positively.
ON SHAKIB'S SALUTE: I call it 'The National Salute' now. The situation was such that we were on the verge of winning a Test match. The way Shakib celebrated, it was amazing. That one salute took the whole nation by storm. I don't know if he had an ulterior motive but I think he just did it. He went with the flow and it was quite a nice gesture. And he has a good relationship with Ben Stokes anyway.
ON TEAM SPIRIT: In my opinion, when a team improves you can notice that from the dug-out. If you feel as good as the batsman who is hitting a four or if you feel as much pain as the bowler when he gets hit for six, then that shows the character of the team. I believe that we should enjoy success and share failure. This is how the Bangladesh team should be and this is the path we are on.
ON THE TIGERS' CORE GROUP: There is definitely a core group, but I think the standards of this core group should be set so high that whoever fills our shoes -- those of Shakib, Mashrafe, Mushfiq, Mahmudullah Riyad and I -- have to work harder than we do. We have all played almost a decade of cricket. The nation and fans have done a lot for us so it's time to give back.