Tamim's audition a blessing in disguise

Tamim Iqbal celebrates his century AFP

Over the last eight years, Bangladesh have seen Mashrafe Mortaza, Shakib Al Hasan and Mushfiqur Rahim gradually lead the team through a transition period and towards some success. Now for at least one Test, it is time to see what Tamim Iqbal, another pillar of this era, offers as captain.

Though his elevation is inadvertent and, in a way, unplanned, it isn't a bad time to have a first proper look at his captaincy, especially in the context of Bangladesh's leadership future.

There have been constant talks over the last two years about the burden of Mushfiqur's triple role in the Test side: as captain, wicketkeeper and middle-order mainstay. During the last BCB board meeting in 2016, there were discussions about picking a new Test captain, talks in which Tamim's name featured prominently.

Tamim steps up in Christchurch only because of Mushfiqur's thumb injury. Mushfiqur's 159 in the first innings in Wellington and the subsequent 80-minute bouncer barrage he underwent in the second enhanced his reputation as a batsman, but question marks remain over his captaincy.

For two years after he took over from Shakib in mid-2011, Mushfiqur enjoyed a fruitful reign, except for the resignation midway through the 2013 tour of Zimbabwe. But much of Bangladesh's decline in 2014 was attributed to his reactionary leadership, which led to the BCB splitting the captaincy for the first time in September that year.

Mushfiqur continued to be the Test captain, though concerns remained, particularly after the Dhaka Test loss against Pakistan in 2015. Rained-out draws against India and South Africa kept him going but when they next played Tests, against England at home in October 2016, doubts returned.

When England raced to 100 for no loss at tea, chasing 273 in Dhaka, coach Chandika Hathurusingha apparently asked the senior players during the break to step up. In the final session, during which Bangladesh clinched the game by taking all ten England wickets for just 64, it was Tamim who took a more active role in directing field placements for Shakib and Mehedi Hasan.

Hathurusingha, Mushfiqur and Tamim have played that down in subsequent interviews, but as a window into the potential thinking of the team management, the development was hard to miss.

Tamim was appointed Test deputy during the leadership shake-up in September 2014, in which Shakib was made Mashrafe's deputy in the limited-overs formats. Currently, Tamim is Bangladesh's highest run-getter in each of the three formats, and is one of only two batsmen from the country to have a 40-plus average after 45 Tests - the other being Shakib.

There will be preferences among fans, but Tamim's impact and numbers give him a strong claim to being the team's best batsman. How he will fare as captain is difficult to predict. On Thursday he said that his captaincy will draw from the same well of positivity as his batsmanship.

"I am the sort of individual who likes to take challenges," Tamim said. "My type of captaincy will look fantastic when my plans are working but it can also go the other way. It is very new for me in international cricket, which makes it a learning curve for me. I am an attacking batsman so I will try to be as positive a captain as I can.

"When you take over as captain in the middle of a game, you can't put in your own plans or organise things. When you know that you will captain the next match, it does become easier. I will need support from everyone in the team, and walk in the same path. It will make everyone's job easier in that way."

With Mushfiqur's thumb injury likely to keep him out of the one-off Test in India as well, Tamim's audition for the captaincy will stretch a little longer. A successful run, even in this short period, could improve his chances of landing the job permanently. He has the experience and credentials as a player. Since the 2015 World Cup, he has become more mature on and off the field, coming out of a number of difficult situations with lessons well learned.

Now, in Christchurch he has his first chance to express himself as a captain and leader.