The traumatic memories of suicide bombing at Manchester Arena, Manchester on May 22, 2017, were still fresh in the minds of England. June offered England a cricketing carnival to heal the wounds of May 22, but on June 3, England suffered another setback. A terrorist attack took place in the Southwark district of London. Britain was shell shocked but did not lose heart at all. They stood up with their heads high and slapped in the face of terrorism by triggering a cricket festival at Edgbaston.
Two cricket’s fiercest arch rivals, India and Pakistan, contested in front of a jam-packed stadium a day after the attack in Southwark. Sports has the unique to power to overshadow any evil deeds and the passionate cricket fans proved it at Edgbaston. Similarly, the mood of the cricket fans at Kennington Oval, London was festive, but the sky above was still sad and gloomy. The mother nature had seen her dearest children suffer at the hands of devils and obviously, one cannot expect her to offer a sun-kissed day.
Bangladesh captain Mashrafe Mortaza won the toss and elected to bat first. Mash’s decision surprised many, but in my opinion, his decision was not a bad one. Even though the condition was overcast, but the track was still dry and he might have thought of facing the might of Australian pace bowlers on daylight rather than floodlights where the white ball might swing like a boomerang. It was up to the Bangladesh batsmen to support the decision of their captain.
Sadly Bangladesh’s response was abysmal. They kept on losing wickets and had Tamim Iqbal not scripted 95 runs, Bangladesh would have been in an absolute disarray. The fiery spell of Mitchell Starc ended Bangladesh’s pathetic stay in the middle before 50 overs, but just when Australia were looking well poised to achieve full points, the London sky could not hold back her emotions anymore and came down heavily. No play was possible as Bangladesh and Australia shared point. It was a lucky escape for the Tigers.
The first half of the match only witnessed the meek surrender of Bangladesh batsmen except Tamim. Under the gloomy sky of London, the lad from Chittagong was glistening. It was the same venue where he registered a hundred a few days ago and even yesterday, he was all set to essay back to back hundreds. But a mistimed shot ended his fighting knock and still, it earned a round of applauds from the spectators at Kennington Oval.
Tamim is not one of those players at present who can only bat on conditions which are comfortable for him, but he is very much authoritative on tough circumstances as well. He is not one of those players who’ll throw away his wicket but is all about leading from the front and even under pressure, he is not ready to melt down. Tamim is in the form of his life and achieving this consistency has not been a miracle, but more about polishing the technique and temperament.
It is said the back lift can ‘make’ or ‘break’ a batsman. A flawed back lift can result in cheap dismissals and prolong the bad patch. Three years ago, while Tamim was going through one of the most horrible times in his career, his backlift was not perfect. While his teammates, Mushfiqur Rahim and Shakin Al Hasan picked the bat up between first and second slip and brought it down straight and watched the ball carefully, through the line of stroke, Tamim used to pick it from third slip and did not bring it down straight in line of the wickets, which resulted in his cheap dismissals.
At present, his backlift is straight from the coaching manuals and he changes it according to the type of bowling he faces – a high back lift against pace bowlers and a bit lower against spinners. As soon as the bowler is about to release the ball, Tamim bends his knees and transfers his weight on toes rather than heels. He keeps his elbow away from the body in order to enable free movement and left shoulder stays under the chin, with face fully focused on the bowler’s hand. Thus, he is able to pick the length quickly and play through the line comfortably after allowing the wrists to cock naturally.
The result was Tamim’s flurry of strokes through the square of the wicket at the Oval against England and Australia. He played some wonderful shots through the cover and extra-cover.
Another aspect of Tamim’s batsmanship is his improved defence. In the past, while defending the ball, one could notice, the ball did not stand still after defending, but either took an inside edge or juggle between bat and pad and then stopped. Tamim’s defensive play was not perfect, even though he scored runs despite such a shortcoming, but those stroke-filled knocks used to vanish amid the horrible bad patches.
At present, Tamim’s defence has improved. He can block the ball perfectly both on the front and back foot without allowing the ball to kiss the inside edge or find a way to juggle in between the bat and pad. Definitely, an improved defence has enabled him to play long innings.
Playing with soft hands
The tendency of most of Bangladesh batsmen is to go hard at the ball, but it is a destructive ploy when you are playing Australia, England, South Africa and New Zealand. When the ball is moving a bit, it’s always smart to play the ball with soft hands. Tamim, at present, is allowing the ball to come close to his body more and scripting strokes with soft hands. This should be a lesson for his teammates.
Astute on the back foot
Mitchell Starc, Josh Hazlewood and Pat Cummins made the ball talk yesterday which set jitters in the Bangladesh batting line-up. But Tamim mastered the Australian pacers very well. In addition to his improved back lift and good defence, Tamim’s authority on the back foot aided him to pace his innings.
Naturally, Bangladesh batsmen are not comfortable on the back foot and most often committed themselves to play strokes on the front foot even when the ball is moving and jumping. They develop this habit by playing on the flat decks of Bangladesh and thus, struggle while playing in tough conditions. But Tamim proved to be a batsman who’s suited for all conditions.
He never felt like a fish out of the water while going on the back foot and got behind the line quickly than his teammates. This is why Tamim is the best batsman for Bangladesh at present.
No cricketer achieves a purple patch by giving emotional interviews or taking selfies with fans and reporters, but through sheer hard work and thorough studying of the game. Tamim has done both and thus, he is scoring runs consistently.