A year after first mooting the idea, coach Jamie Siddons has lured his former star pupil Tamim Iqbal to Wellington, describing him as an untapped Twenty20 batting force.
The 23-year-old Bangladesh opener signed with the Firebirds on Friday and will be available for their T20 campaign from their fourth-round match against Otago in Dunedin on December 23.
He joins England all-rounder Chris Woakes on an impressive Firebirds roster set to be bolstered further by at least one Australian import for their first two matches at Westpac Stadium on November 9 and 16.
Tamim - the 2010 Wisden Cricketer magazine's test player of the year - and all-rounder Shakib al-Hasan were two Bangladesh players Siddons said he'd sign in a heartbeat when he took the Wellington job last year.
The latter, on a US$425,000 (NZ$521,000) Indian Premier League contract with Kolkata, was "a little harder to corner" and requires knee surgery.
Siddons kept in regular contact with Tamim and, after securing a no objection certificate from the Bangladesh Cricket Board, the deal was done.
"He's going to be one of those guys that when it all clicks for him . . . he's had some outstanding matches but the consistency has probably not been there," Siddons said.
"His numbers are against the best opening attacks in the world, not first-class cricket in New Zealand, so you can probably add 20-30 per cent to that."
The explosive left-hander averages a respectable 38 in 24 tests, and in 23 T20 internationals averages 20 at a strike rate of 102.
On the 2010 tour of New Zealand, Tamim scored 14 in the T20 international, 62, one and eight in the one-day games, and 68 and 30 in the test. "I just see him as a T20 force that hasn't really been realised and I'm hoping it will all come to fruition in our set-up."
Cricket Wellington's director of cricket, Robbie Kerr, described Tamim's capture as a "superb result".
Siddons said talks were under way with several Australians.
Woakes' first match isn't until round three, against Central Districts in Napier on December 7, so a top-order batsman and a bowling all-rounder will be sought for games one and two.
"We'll be a better team than last year but our local players, like any T20 competition, have to step up," Siddons said.
One of those local big ticket items, Black Caps aspirant Jesse Ryder, blazed 100 off 36 balls in an intra-squad game on Saturday during the Firebirds' Mt Maunganui camp.
Wellington take on Northern Districts in two T20s and a two-day game over the next three days, and Siddons was impressed by Ryder's form and attitude.
"He's seeing it really well and feeling really good about himself which is a good thing."
Their season begins on Sunday with Wellington's Plunket Shield opener against CD in Napier.
Australian gloveman Luke Ronchi will be available, with his Perth Scorchers team out of Champions League semifinal contention.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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