Nafees shared his thoughts during an exclusive interview with Dhaka Tribune
where he spoke in details about his Test career, future plans and the country's cricket structure, among other topics.
Here are the excerpts:
How do you evaluate your national career?
I started my journey well but I'm not at all satisfied with my national team career. May be I did not do enough hard work. I also blame my luck a little bit as I had to face lots of injuries in vital moments of my career.
The Test century against Zimbabwe was perhaps the highlight of your career. What went wrong afterwards?
I played two tough Test series', against England away and against Sri Lanka at home. I got some starts against Sri Lanka but was unable to capitalise. After that, Australia came and I was in the squad but did not play. Later, I almost had a year's break. I was only playing Tests then. After that long break, just before the India series, I broke my chin. A few months later, I torn my ankle ligament. Such injuries forced me out for almost one and a half or two years. After that, I never got called up again. There were some close calls but it (return) did not happen.
How tough it is for a cricketer to make a comeback?
At the moment, players are getting enough opportunities. I am talking about the last five-six years. This is a good sign. I hope it will continue. But during our time, it was a different scenario. Players got dropped after a few innings of scoring big. I think a talented player should get enough opportunities. In such cases, a player can play in a relaxed manner. But during our time, it was difficult. In my case, I got dropped from ODIs, despite scoring a fifty against Zimbabwe three games ago.
What should the board do in the event of a player being dropped?
I think BCB will not be able to take responsibility for around 300 players every time they get dropped. It is quite impossible. I think BCB is doing the right thing. They are taking care of U-19, the national team and the High Performance camp. This is enough. But I think there will be more competition if improvements are made to the regional and divisional stages. But the players, who are not in the national team or the HP camp, find it difficult to compete in top level. I think only Rajshahi have some facilities. But Chittagong, Sylhet or Khulna have no such facilities. In other countries like Australia, India and New Zealand, divisional players get enough facilities to practise and compete in the highest level with proper intensity. But in Bangladesh, it’s pretty difficult. If I consider myself as an example, people expected big runs from Nafees Iqbal in order for me to get back to national reckoning. But what is Nafees Iqbal getting while preparing himself to compete in the top level? That’s one question nobody considered.
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Nafees Iqbal during an ODI match COURTESY
What is the difference between the current Bangladesh Test team and the one where you played?
At that time, players played for survival. Then, they had to score runs. But now, the team believe they can win. Cricket is going in the right path. But we should stop thinking that we are still in the learning period. Bangladesh have proved many times that they can beat any side. So I think result should be more positive these days. Players have to believe this. The players have the belief but they have to think more confidently. Then I think we can go forward more.
From your batch (Aftab Ahmed, Mohammad Ashraful and Enamul Haque Jr), only Mashrafe bin Mortaza is playing right now. How do you rate him?
He is a sheer talent. He is a rare talent. I still believe he is one of the best fast bowlers in the country. May be he is not quick like others. But he is one of the most successful bowlers Bangladesh have ever produced. As for his mental toughness, I can compare him with any best athlete around the world. The amount of injuries he has faced, I can bet any other player would have quit a long time ago. There were many talented players in various times. But at one stage, only talent is not enough. You need hard work to shine. Mashrafe did tremendous hard work, may be the others were lacking in this aspect. That’s why Mashrafe is still going strong.
Bangladesh will contest their 100th Test match, against Sri Lanka, in around two weeks' time. With that said, the Tigers are yet to establish themselves as a competitive Test side. Why?
I think we are doing good. We have some world class players in our side. I believe it’s just a matter of time before we perform more consistently in Tests.
Do you think our first-class structure is competitive enough to produce quality Test players?
I think BCL (Bangladesh Cricket League) is competitive, but NCL (National Cricket League) has to be improve a lot. In terms of financial aspects and facilities, NCL remains same as it was in the last seven-eight years. If NCL gets financially lucrative, then competition will automatically increase. Compare this to the BPL or DPL (Dhaka Premier League). Why are these two leagues so important to people? Because there are lots of money involved there. Players will concentrate more on NCL if the financial aspects and other facilities improve. There were many occasions when we participated in a NCL match after just practising for two-three days on a concrete pitch.
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The stylish top-order batsman believes he still has plenty to offer in domestic cricket COURTESY
Do you think we're lagging behind other teams in terms of facilities?
Clubs in England have their own ground. So imagine their facilities. Just like The Oval for Surrey, Lord's for Middlesex and Old Trafford for Lancashire. They have international facilities there. We have fields but there is nothing for divisional sides. Everything is looked after by the BCB. So I think, if the divisions can be involved, then it will bring betterment for our cricket. We are being paid as a first class cricketer. But if this payment comes from the division, then they will ensure that year-long practice goes on. The cricket board can bring contracted trainers, physios and coaches in every division so that regular weekly practice can continue. If this culture takes shape, then we can expect a lot of betterment in our cricket structure. And first-class cricket will be more competitive.
Do you still believe that you can open the innings for Bangladesh alongside your brother Tamim Iqbal?
Yes, I recently scored 99 in first class cricket (smiles). Actually, I don’t have a particular dream right now. All I want is to enjoy my cricket as long as I can and finish my career on a high note. I just managed a team in the BPL (Khulna Titans). But I hope it will not hamper my one-dayers or four-day career.
You recently worked as a manager for the Titans. Do you still believe you have what it takes to continue playing in the domestic level?
I quit playing the BPL. I missed one T20 tournament for managing a team. That does not mean I forgot my game. I gave an honest confession that T20 is not my game at the moment. Then why should people think that I have quit from one-dayers and first-class cricket also?
I just did not want to change my style of play for the sake of T20. That’s why I managed in a T20 league. I have loved this game for the last 18 years or so. I believe I still have plenty to offer in one-dayers and four-day cricket.