Not minnows of world cricket anymore, not punching bags either, Bangladesh, despite not being a cricketing giant have come a long way since the onset of 2000.
They might not possess a major trophy or two in their cabinet to speak of, but almost every year, Bangladesh are taking little steps towards being considered as a serious threat. You don’t take this side lightly when it plays on home turf.
In 2015, they beat England to reach the semi-finals of the ICC World Cup. It was a momentous first for Bangladeshi Cricket and clinching ODI series victories against sides like India and South Africa at home later counted big. In 2016, Bangladesh would deal world cricket a double whammy by first emerging in the finals of the Asia Cup T20 and would later register their first ever Test victory against England.
2017, too, has been interesting. Characteristic of the tigers being volatile and vulnerable at the same time, their lows have been placated by some memorable highs. So how did 2017 go for Bangladesh Cricket?
To be honest, 2017 wasn’t the most memorable year for the sub-continental cricketing force. One reckons, had they showed a little more gumption under pressure, it could have turned out to be a historic year.
When Bangladesh toured New Zealand earlier in the year for a 2-Test series, not much was expected of them. But the visitors put up a solid show in the first Test at Wellington courtesy a sublime 217 by Shakib-al-Hasan. Their staunchest critics were stunned to see them post a mammoth 595-8 (dec.). But then, they would crumble in the second innings for just 160 which led to a 7-wicket loss. At Christchurch, they were walloped by 9 wickets.
The Tigers then moved to India to play their first ever Test in the country. A one-off test didn’t make much sense to anybody, least of all Bangladesh, who being scuttled for a 208 run loss found no second chance to mount a comeback.
But after a string of lows, Bangladesh would fight back and find some fighting spirit. In defeating Sri Lanka at their own den- to give an evidence of how hollow the Islanders have become in the post Mahela-Sanga era, they made the most at Colombo after their repeated drubbing at Galle.
It was that man again. Shakib-Al Hasan. This time with an important 4-for.
Continuing their good Test form, Bangladesh faced Australia for a two-Test series at home. Here again the Tigers produced a landmark moment in their cricket history by beating Australia for the first time in a Test match. This did make their 2017 an year of several ‘Test firsts’. They won a low-scoring, nerve-wrecking first Test at Dhaka through a combination of great spin bowling and astute teamwork by 20 runs. Even as they lost the next Test at Chittagong by 7 wickets, it was regardless a memorable achievement for Bangladesh, tying a Test series against one of the best Test teams out there. How often do you see anyone take the Steve Smith side lightly in the longer format? England did. The results are there to see.
However, all the good work throughout the year came a copper as they ran into a blistering South Africa late in the year. Completely bulldozed by the Proteas, they lost the two Test matches of the series by 333 runs and an innings and 254 runs respectively. Fans saw abject surrender and their plummeting to ignominious lows showed how much work is still needed for Bangladesh to reach the next level in Test cricket.
Now that Shakib-al-Hasan has been appointed as the new captain of the Bangladesh Test team there are hopes that he would inculcate his buccaneering spirit to his team members.
Quite frankly, 2017 was just another year for Bangladesh in ODI cricket.
Against Sri Lanka, they drew the ODI series 1-1 on tour after which, they managed to win just two matches in a triangular series involving hosts Ireland and New Zealand. apart from
However, mid-way into the year, they would show massive improvement in the coveted ICC Champions Trophy 2017.
One wondered, did the side see itself entering the semis?
But their form was undone by vapid weather conditions with two important games being called off due to rains. But, Bangladesh’s victory against New Zealand at Cardiff was one to savour. Chasing 266 on a difficult track, Bangladesh were reeling at 33-4, before Shakib’s masterful 114 along with Mahmudullah’s unbeaten 102 took them home in spectacular fashion.
Despite losing the semis against India, Bangladesh still left the Champions Trophy with their heads held high.
The highs of Champions Trophy, however, were soon quashed as the Tigers reached South Africa for a 3-match ODI series. As if the thrashing they had received in the Tests of that tour wasn’t enough, South Africa pulverized the visitors 3-0 in the ODIs, beating them by 10 wickets, 104 runs and 200 runs in the three games.
It was a disappointing end to Bangladesh’s ODI journey in 2017 and there is much that Mashrafe Mortaza would need to mull over for better performances in the coming year, leading up to the 2019 World Cup.
Surely, if there’s a format where Bangladesh need to reassess their strengths and perhaps completely reorient themselves then its the game’s briefest format.
2017 wasn’t the year for them in T20s. Playing three T20I series where they performed horribly, Bangladesh won just a solitary match.
On their tour to New Zealand, Bangladesh were thumped 3-0 in the T20I series and were shoddy throughout, with no notable performance to drive home about. In the 2-match T20I series on their tour to Sri Lanka, Bangladesh did manage to eke out a win in the final game with a comprehensive 45-run victory and thus drew the series 1-1.
South Africa completed their savage pounding of Bangladesh at home as they beat them 2-0 in the T20I series.
Overall, it was a rather miserable year for Bangladesh in T20Is and one that they would like to forget in a hurry.
Clearly, 2017 was a mixed bag for Bangladesh cricket. They could have done a lot more in the shorter formats and scaled some sizeable heights in the longer one. Perhaps entering the semis of the ICC Champions Trophy in England and beating Australia in a Test for the first time in their cricket history proved they cannot be bullied into subversion easily.
In the near future, they would want to tackle biggies like South Africa differently and not allow themselves to be devoured. Being a tiger at home is easy, but barring Sri Lanka, Bangladesh have merely been lambs on overseas assignments.
Individually, however, a lot of players stood out in 2017 for Bangladesh. Mushfiqur Rahim with 766 runs in 8 matches and Shakib-al-Hasan with 665 runs from 7 matches were leading run-getters for Bangladesh in Tests this year. While it is good that the two stalwarts continued to reign supreme, it is also a cause of worry that youngsters like Shabbir Rehman and Soumya Sarkar haven’t lived up to their talents.
Mehidy Hasan Miraz’s 24 wickets in 8 Tests was one of the shining lights for the team this year and Mustafizur Rahman’s poor run was another cause of worry.
In ODIs, old guard Tamim Iqbal ruled yet again amassing a whopping 646 runs from 12 matches, followed by Mushfiqur Rahim with 458 runs in 14 ODIs and Shakib-al-Hasan with 430 runs from 14 ODIs.
That said, one wonders what might become of the side in the absence of their star performers- Tamim, Shakib and Mortaza? Are the young that capable to even out their odds?
But Bangladesh would be vary of a core truth that there’s no substitute to experience. They can be expected to grind it out in 2018. After all, their biggest strength is their abundance of talent.