This article was published in the November issue of Sports Tribune Magazine
The Bangladesh-Zimbabwe ODI series was significant in many aspects as the Tigers were without their two regular performers, Tamim Iqbal and Shakib al Hasan.
A few other senior players were also not physically fit after a hectic Asia Cup in the UAE where Bangladesh agonisingly lost to India yet again.
The series was considered as the start of the preparation for the Tigers for the 2019 World Cup.
One man rose to the occasion in the ODI series, and he is Imrul Kayes.
The hard working left-handed opener, who smashed two centuries and missed another after getting out for 90, was absolutely brilliant with the bat, performing beyond expectations.
The three knocks he played against Zimbabwe were 144, 90 and 113.
His average was 116.33 while his strike rate was also impressive – 96.14.
Zimbabwe are not a strong opposition at the moment and their bowling line-up might be relatively weak, but such big knocks, that too in three consecutive innings, certainly demands praise and Imrul deserves it thoroughly.
Imrul has been an underrated batsman in recent years and his batting can be described as “effective”, rather than “destructive”, in limited-overs cricket.
But the way he batted in the first ODI when the Tigers were in trouble showed his class and temperament.
He perfectly balanced his batting in that match and played according to the situation, which was a proof of his growing maturity in the international level.
Imrul’s ODI career can be termed as quite a strange one.
The maverick, who has been playing international cricket for almost 10 years now, is still struggling to fix his spot in the ODI format.
Scoring runs in such a way might change the course of Imrul’s career.
In the past, whenever Bangladesh needed an opener or back-up opener, Imrul was in the call-up list, and more often than not, he tried to perform.
The latest example is the Asia Cup.
Imrul was playing in the National Cricket League and a sudden call-up to the national team saw him fly to Dubai to play a vital match in challenging conditions.
Imrul played that game and scored a valiant 72, which proved to be match-winning in the end.
May be his batting is not glamorous like the other stroke-making openers, or for that matter any other stroke-maker but he is always considered as a team man and hard working.
Imrul also admitted that there is no shortcut to success.
He said he has learned a lot from teammate Mushfiqur Rahim, who is also a dedicated and hard working cricketer.
“When I started my international career, many players made their debut as well. I am still playing while many of them are not in the scenario. I believe determination is very important. And also, you have to do a lot of hard work to achieve it. In the recent past, I always said to myself that my career should not end so early. I have to work hard. That’s why I tried to keep working hard, and always keep myself ready whenever my team need me. As long as I keep playing, I will try to keep myself prepared for the national team,” Imrul said.
“I believe in one thing, one will always get return if he works hard. I learn a lot from Mushfiq. The way he works in the nets. What he is today is a result of pure hard work and dedication. I always try to follow his methods and strongly believe that you get result of hard work,” the 31-year old Imrul said to the media after his century in the first ODI.
But after making his debut back in 2008, and having played 76 matches for the country, why is his position not yet fixed in the 50-over format?
The answer is simple, a lack of inconsistency.
Imrul also knows it and he vowed to keep up such performances.
“A cricketer’s career is full of ups and downs. One will play well one day, and one day he will not. One cannot play consistently well always. My path might have been a bit different. Those who got to play in place of me performed and I could not. But honestly I do not think of these now. I focus and wait for opportunities to play for the nation, it feels good to represent the country. So I wait for it and work hard for it,” he said.
Imrul became the highest Bangladeshi scorer in a three-ODI series, with 349 runs, surpassing opener Tamim's 312 against Pakistan.
Imrul could have added another feather to his cap in the series, had he scored 12 runs more.
He had the golden chance of breaking a world record.
The highest run-scorer in a three-match ODI series is Babar Azam, who achieved this feat against the West Indies in 2016.
Imrul required 127 runs in the third and final ODI, but got out for 115.
Later, Imrul informed he was not aware of the world record.
The humble Imrul smiled and answered politely when asked about the secret behind his recent form.
He said he has not become a “great” player yet and that he needs to work harder to perform better.
MOST RUNS BY A BANGLADESHI IN 3-ODI SERIES
Player Runs Ave 50s/100s Opp
Imrul Kayes 349 116.33 1/2 Zimbabwe
Tamim Iqbal 312 156 1/2 Pakistan
Tamim Iqbal 287 143.5 1/2 WI
HIGHEST TIGERS SCORERS IN ODIS
Player Runs Balls Opp Ground Year
Tamim Iqbal 154 138 Zimbabwe Bulawayo 2009
Mushfiqur Rahim 144 150 Sri Lanka Dubai 2018
Imrul Kayes 144 140 Zimbabwe Dhaka 2018
MOST RUNS IN A 3-ODI SERIES
Babar Azam (PAK) 360
Imrul Kayes (BD) 349
Quinton de Kock (SA) 342