The Unfolding of Tamim Iqbal's Un-Retirement

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The story of Tamim Iqbal’s retirement and subsequent un-retirement unfolded in a dramatic fashion, with the intervention of Bangladesh’s Prime Minister, Sheikh Hasina. As a passionate cricket enthusiast, she closely follows the national team’s matches and shows genuine concern for the players’ well-being.

Tamim’s unexpected and emotional farewell announcement struck a chord with fans and the cricketing fraternity. News of his retirement reached the Prime Minister, prompting her to take action. When Tamim received a message requesting a meeting with her, it became evident that his retirement decision would be reversed.

Following a three-hour discussion involving all parties, including BCB president Nazmul Hassan, the meeting concluded on a positive note, with smiles all around. Tamim officially announced his decision to continue playing cricket, much to the delight of his fans and the cricketing community. President Hassan warmly welcomed Tamim’s return, and it’s worth noting that Mashrafe Mortaza played a significant role behind the scenes, even if he didn’t seek recognition for it.

Thanks to the intervention of the Prime Minister and the collective efforts of those involved, Bangladesh cricket quickly returned to its familiar state, with Tamim once again in the fold.

However, it is important to acknowledge the significant contributions made by the Prime Minister and Mashrafe, despite not being directly involved with the Bangladesh Cricket Board (BCB). Their
intervention became necessary when the individuals responsible for handling such situations failed to address the issue adequately. Once the Prime Minister was informed about the matter, she promptly reached out to both Nazmul Hassan and Mashrafe.

On Thursday evening, Tamim responded to Mashrafe’s call, and together they met with the Prime
Minister on Friday. This meeting played a crucial role in resolving the situation and ultimately led to Tamim’s decision to reverse his retirement.

The entire saga had its origins on July 4, when Tamim mentioned in a pre-match press conference before the first ODI against Afghanistan that he was available for selection. However, he also expressed the need for monitoring his back condition due to experiencing pain while performing gym exercises prior to the series.

Through the involvement of influential figures like the Prime Minister and Mashrafe, the situation took a positive turn and resulted in Tamim’s un-retirement.

During a pre-match press conference ahead of the first ODI against Afghanistan, Tamim openly discussed his back issue, emphasizing that he was not fully recovered but would assess his condition after the upcoming match on July 5. He prioritized the team’s well-being and stated that he would not jeopardize their performance. Tamim expressed his readiness for the game but acknowledged that any decision would be made in consultation with the medical team based on his feelings during the match.

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Tamim’s back problem had been a known concern for more than a week, with the medical team actively treating it. The team management, including head coach Chandika Hathurusinghe, was well aware of the situation.

However, the decision-making process within the Bangladesh Cricket Board (BCB) operates differently. Despite having personnel at various levels, all decisions, regardless of their significance, ultimately come from one source: Nazmul Hassan, the BCB president. This centralized decision-making approach resembles the portrayal of the late George Steinbrenner, owner of the New York Yankees, as depicted in the American TV show Seinfeld.

Hassan’s approach impacts the entire chain of command within the BCB. The national team, coaching staff, support staff, and the selection committee technically fall under the cricket operations department of the BCB. However, it is no secret that players and coaches often have direct access to Hassan. Some individuals maintain regular communication channels with him, while others do not. Notably, Hassan shares a strong relationship with Hathurusinghe.

In addition to maintaining positive relationships with several cricketers, including Shakib Al Hasan and Tamim himself, Hassan actively monitors their progress. However, when Hassan learned about Tamim’s comments regarding his back, he reacted impulsively, resulting in his outburst being immediately reported in a newspaper. Rather than utilizing existing channels of communication or his personal relationship with Tamim, Hassan chose to go straight to the press. It appears that Hassan may have been upset that Tamim did not approach him directly.

Hassan’s interview, published in the Bengali daily Protidiner Bangladesh on the morning of July 5, just hours before the first ODI against Afghanistan in Chattogram, contained accusations against Tamim of unprofessional behavior. Hassan claimed that head coach Hathurusinghe was furious with Tamim.

In the interview, Hassan was quoted as saying, “The captain is declaring himself unfit right before the first match of the series, yet he insists on playing. This is not a professional attitude. I am unsure why Tamim would make such statements. I spoke to the coach, who is not accustomed to such behavior. He is upset. Tamim needs to clearly communicate his intentions. I will travel to Chattogram to observe the match.”

“I lost my temper over Tamim’s statement. Hathu yelled at me for half an hour on the phone. Does he think this is a street cricket match? Tamim claims he will assess his fitness by playing the match. Either you are fit or you’re not. The doctors have not found any issues. The coach informed me of his statements [in the media]. Tamim needs to make a decision about what he wants to do. He always seems unsure about playing. He did the same in the previous match.” Hassan referred to Tamim’s withdrawal from the one-off Test against Afghanistan.

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The meek defeat in the rain during the first ODI was followed by Tamim scoring only 13 runs. Shortly after the match, he announced a press conference scheduled for Thursday afternoon, leading to speculation about his intentions. The words spoken by Hassan had already spread rapidly, and it is likely that Tamim had read or been informed of them. Unfortunately, Tamim’s performance in the match did not yield runs, resulting in another loss for Bangladesh.

BCB directors were aware of Tamim’s impending press conference and attempted to reach out to him on Wednesday night, but their efforts were in vain. It became apparent that Tamim had made up his mind about retiring and was not open to any influence or communication at that point. Despite their calls going unanswered, Hassan made another attempt to contact Tamim on Thursday evening. He enlisted the help of Nafees Iqbal, Tamim’s elder brother and the Bangladesh team manager, to convey his message. However, Tamim remained resolute in his decision.

Tamim’s emotional press conference provided insight into his mental state. For those closely following Bangladesh cricket, he symbolized the challenges faced by players at the pinnacle of the sport in the country. As captain, Tamim not only leads the team on the field but also shoulders the responsibility of managing the players off the field. The role of man management is crucial in this position, and many previous captains have faltered in their attempts to unite the team.

Tamim is well-regarded for his welcoming attitude towards new and younger players and is known for his open personality. However, it is a common occurrence in Bangladesh cricket for secrets to be revealed quickly. While those involved with the team were aware of Tamim’s injury, considering Hassan’s access to the team, it remains a mystery as to how this issue went unnoticed. It is commendable that Tamim did not place blame on anyone during his retirement speech. Although his speech was relatively short, his emotions overwhelmed him on several occasions.

When the Prime Minister extended an invitation for a meeting on Friday afternoon, the situation took a swift turn. Tamim, accompanied by Mashrafe and his wife, visited the Prime Minister’s residence in Dhaka. Shortly after, Hassan joined them, marking the first direct conversation between Tamim and Hassan since his retirement. It is possible that had they communicated earlier, the outcome might have been different.

Tamim later confirmed his decision to un-retire, and he will also be granted a six-week break to recover from his back injury. Hassan expressed his satisfaction with the outcome.

However, this entire episode raises questions about the functioning of the BCB. The board had no prior knowledge of the ODI captain’s intentions, and even if they did, they lacked the authority to influence his decision. Is it because matters of this nature can only be handled by the board president?

As discussions and evaluations take place regarding the Tamim saga, these questions should echo within the corridors of power at the BCB. Although there may be a temporary respite from discussions surrounding Tamim and his choices for the next six weeks, when he returns, the same issues may resurface. The BCB will have limited time to address any team-related concerns as the ODI World Cup is fast approaching. Despite the camaraderie within the Bangladesh team, true leadership, at all levels, appears to be lacking.

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