Tamim dropped after drama
The Bangladesh Cricket Board (BCB) announced its ICC World Cup squad last night, excluding Tamim Iqbal following much drama involving the experienced opener.
The BCB dropped Tamim on fitness grounds as the left-handed batter has been carrying a recurring back injury, which saw him missing the Asia Cup earlier this month.
But Tamim, the most successful opener the country has produced, was primed to play his fifth straight World Cup and looked comfortable while opening the innings against New Zealand in the second ODI in Mirpur, where he scored a fluent 44 on Saturday.
Despite playing with some pain, which many top-level and experienced cricketers around the world are known to do, Tamim's place in the squad was likely not a dilemma for the selectors, who were sweating on whether to include Mahmudullah Riyad by sacrificing an all-rounder in the 15-man World Cup squad.
However, the drama over Tamim's selection unfolded since Monday midnight after ODI captain Shakib Al Hasan and coach Chandika Hathurusingha's visit to BCB President Nazmul Hassan Papon's residence.
According to BCB sources, in the meeting, Shakib wanted to step down from captaincy as he did not want unfit players to go to the World Cup. It is understood that Shakib was referring to Tamim's current injury situation.
As the news spread yesterday morning, it caught everyone by surprise. It also delayed the announcement of the World Cup squad, which according to the BCB's official social handles, was scheduled for the innings break of the day-night third ODI against New Zealand.
The board circulated the final squad on its social media platforms at 8:14pm even though it has been a tradition for the selectors to announce a squad at a press briefing, which eventually took place after the match against New Zealand.
Appearing at the press briefing, Chief Selector Minhazul Abedin said, "The squad is prepared after discussing with the medical department, team management, players, the skipper, and the head coach as well. We followed the same procedure for Tamim as we normally do in the case of any other player."
It was a little curious that following such turmoil, Tamim's injury was the sole reason offered for his omission. After all, the very fact that he was played for the first two ODIs against New Zealand, in a series talked about as a final chance to get the World Cup combination right, strongly implies that the medical department and all those other stakeholders had deemed Tamim a risk worth taking.
If his injury took a sharp turn for the worse, there was no word of it over the past three days.
Those associated with the game said the injury issue was just a smokescreen to hide the bigger problem plaguing the national team.
They said the whole episode is disturbing for a team heading to a global showpiece event, which will commence in India on October 5.
It also once again exposed a lack of cohesion in the national team and the board's inability to handle such situations professionally, they said.
An official with knowledge of Tamim's medical condition said the left-handed batter's back injury is known to everybody.
"It was not an issue that can prevent him from playing provided that he manages it properly. He was so fluent in the game against New Zealand. It could have been good for his confidence had he played the third ODI," said the official.
Tamim sat out the last game, with the team management saying that he had opted out to take rest. But insiders say Tamim's decision had to do with a longstanding rift involving him, Shakib and coach Hathurusingha.
Tamim and Shakib have not been on talking terms for a long time and a board official, preferring not to be named, said, "The relationship has become so complicated that nobody knows how to solve it."
The board president has also admitted it publicly, but has done little to neutralise it."
Allegations have also been rife that Hathurusingha has not done enough to play the peacemaker's role. Since his return as Bangladesh coach in February this year, Hathurusingha has so far failed to build the team as a unit.
His inability to create harmony in the team was one of the six reasons that the Sri Lankan cricket board cited for his termination as coach in 2019, after the national team's poor run of form.
Tamim announced his retirement from all forms of cricket, in dramatic circumstances, after playing Bangladesh's first match against the touring Afghanistan team on July 5 in Chattogram.
Insiders had then said an emotional Tamim, who has often been criticised for not handling pressure well off the field, took the decision from a concern that the team management had not kept faith in him while he was playing through pain.
At that time, he had reversed his decision after an intervention from Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina.
This time, though, there was no return for Tamim.