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Tuesday, June 15, 2021

A people’s opener: Tamim gifts iPhones,bikes

The Sher-e-Bangla stadium staff know they are in with a chance to win a week’s supply of hilsa whenever Tamim Iqbal drops in to practice his famous towering sixes

Written by Nihal Koshie | Mirpur |
March 22, 2012 12:17:05 am

The Sher-e-Bangla stadium staff know they are in with a chance to win a week’s supply of hilsa whenever Tamim Iqbal drops in to practice his famous towering sixes. With every catch held by the groundsmen,lined just outside the boundary rope,worth 1,000 taka,Tamim’s generosity is part of the local folklore around and the appearance of the ‘people’s opener’ at the stadium here an eagerly awaited event.

Tamim’s natural swagger gets a regal touch when at Sher-e-Bangla. For someone from a privileged background,he has often given the impression of being aloof and arrogant. But the legions of fans around here warn you against taking these first impressions too seriously.

The waiters in the dressing room have tales about the 23-year-old’s large-heartedness. Often before he goes out to bat,he promises gifts to ‘team minders’ in case he achieves a target he has set for himself. An attendant,flashing an ‘iPhone’,says the star always keeps his words.

The story goes that once Tamim believed that he would be named player of the tournament,and in anticipation of winning the jackpot pledged the award — a sports motorcycle — to one the team’s support staff. As fate would have it,Tamim missed the award by a whisker but still the dressing room hand got the 100,000 taka worth bike. So it doesn’t come as a surprise that there are a number of fingers crossed when the stylish left-hander comes out to bat.

Tamim happens to be from a family of cricketers with uncle Akram Khan and elder brother Nafees Iqbal having represented the country in the past. But with former skipper Akram also the present chairman of selectors,the family has to often face allegations of favouritism.

Following his good form in the Asia Cup,three half-centuries in as many games with a top score of 70 in the win over India,discussions about the Tamim-Akram connection have died down. But this wasn’t the case before the start of the tournament. Four runs with two ducks in three games against Pakistan at home before the Asia Cup,saw Tamim being axed by the Bangladesh board president Mustafa Kamal. Uncle Akram resigned in protest. It was only after the intervention of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina that saw Tamim,and even Akram,returning to the fold.

Had Tamim failed he would have been squarely blamed for all ills connected to Bangladesh cricket. But that was not to be and Tamim says that his groin strain,after the first two games of the Bangladesh Premier League,was a blessing in disguise. “I was out of the country and having a holiday when these things were happening. It gave me some rest and mental freshness. I wanted to prove myself after I came back,” Tamim said.

Staying fit has always been a challenge for Tamim,who used to start his day with a cola and have a pizza for lunch. When the team was issued a strict diet chart ahead of the tour to South Africa in 2008,Tamim convinced the team manager to carry aerated drinks in his bag and pass them to him after reaching the hotel .

His elder brother Nafees says that Tamim has turned a new leaf. “He is a big foodie but now he has cut down on the junk food. Tamim knows what he needs to do to become the best player,” Nafees said. Between the two brothers,Tamim was more talented. “When Tamim was 12 or 13,he hit 148 as the team chased 150,” Nafees said.

To help his sons train more their late father,Iqbal Khan,would sponsor cricket matches. “He would organise two teams of 16 players each on weekends so that both of us could get more chances to play. In some games when there was a shortage of umpires,he would fill in,” Nafees recalled.

Khan died in 2001,three years before Nafeez made his international debut and six before Tamim played for Bangladesh. “Our only regret is that our father couldn’t see us play Test cricket. He was our biggest fan.”

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