Tamim Iqbal last played a T20I match more than two years ago. In March 2020, just before the Covid outbreak, he made 41 off 33 balls against Zimbabwe. The southpaw kept himself away from T20I cricket beginning from March last year when he skipped the shortest format during the New Zealand tour. He did mention retiring from one form of cricket to prolong his career just a month later. Tigers' ODI skipper voluntarily pulled out of contention from the T20 World Cup in the UAE last year. He later took a six-month break to think further regarding T20I cricket.
So, Tamim retiring from T20I cricket was inevitable, sooner or later. The question was - "when?". Tamim answered it himself on Sunday, shortly after leading the ODI team to a 3-0 win over West Indies where he was named the best player of the series. He wrote a short message on his official Facebook page, posting in Bangla saying, "consider me retired from T20 internationals from today. Thanks, everyone."
Tamim realised his time was over in the shortest format of the game. It's no secret that Tamim is nearing the twilight of his career. He had to make a decision. Khan Shaheb showed the guts to call it a day before it was too late and messy.
But the question remains, how will this affect the team going forward and also his personal career including his ODI captaincy.
No replacements in sight
Now that Tamim has retired, the team management will have a clear plan regarding the opening position in T20Is, especially for the upcoming T20 World Cup in Australia.
Since Tamim pulled himself out of the T20 WC last year, a lot has been talked about and discussed who will take his place. The likes of Soumya Sarkar, Naim Sheikh, and Anamul Bijoy have been tested, but they couldn't live up to the expectations, yet. The search goes on. And the main challenge for the team management is to find a proper replacement for Tamim.
Yes, there were criticisms regarding his batting approach in T20Is, but he did score runs on a regular basis. The other batters that have been tried on, failed in this regard. Even Soumya and Naim lost their places in the recent few series.
Tamim's retirement will surely open door to a number of newcomers. But whether they can live up to the expectations and help the team on the big stage remains a concern.
Tamim the batter and the captain, flourishing in Tests and ODIs
"My full focus will be on Tests and ODIs," Tamim made it clear regarding his priorities earlier this year. Now 33, Tamim may have good two-three years in his tank. And as he said after the second ODI against West Indies, the 2023 World Cup may be the last hurrah for him and the other three seniors.
Tamim has had a good run in the longer formats in the past two years. In the ODIs since 2021, he scored 741 runs at an average of 39, which is better than his overall career average. He scored a brilliant 112 off 97 deliveries against Zimbabwe last year.
The southpaw also had a better run in Tests in the last two years. He averages 42.31 during this time while his overall career average is under 40. He bagged 677 runs from the 17 innings he batted.
Clearly, Tamim is better off T20Is. And this retirement from the shortest format allows him to play his natural game in ODIs and Tests with proper rest ensured, he can prolong his playing time in these two formats.
Also, Tamim's ODI captaincy has been top-class since he took over. He won six out of seven series as a captain in the past two years, including five consecutive ODI series victories. Tamim has the best winning percentage as a captain (minimum 20 matches) for Bangladesh. Bangladesh have won 15 out of 24 matches under his captaincy with a winning percentage of 62.50. Next to him is Mashrafe Bin Mortaza, winning 50 matches out of 88 with a winning percentage of 58.13. Is Tamim going to be the best-ever captain for Bangladesh? Only time will tell. This can be a huge boost for that.
Tamim retiring from the shortest format of the game will have some consequences in the coming days. The search for his replacement is going to be a tough one, no doubt. But the courage he showed is praiseworthy considering how unappreciative the fans and media have been toward him. Also, it will allow Tamim to focus and plan solely on the 2023 World Cup, which matters the most.