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1 January, 2018 00:00 00 AM
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Mixed year for Tigers; tough challenges ahead

SYED MOHAMMED PITHU
Mixed year for Tigers; tough challenges ahead
Bangladesh ace cricketer Shakib Al Hassan raises his bat to celebrate his maiden double century in Test cricket against New Zealand in Wellington as the then captain Mushfiqur Rahim applauds him for the feat. AFP photo

Team Bangladesh could not quite match the success of the previous two years, but they did not end 2017 empty-handed either.

They had a successful run in the ICC Champions Trophy, until they lost in the semi-finals. The team tasted victory on several overseas tours—first, against Sri Lanka, in which they drew the series in both the Test and ODI formats. They also scripted their first-ever Test win against the mighty Australia.

However, things took a nosedive after that, with a whitewash in South Africa. The team rounded off the year on a disappointing note, and a tough 2018 awaits them, as they will play most of the matches overseas.

 

Aggressive at home, submissive away

Going by the global trend, it would be harsh to criticise Bangladesh’s overseas performance. But then, they got conditions very similar to those of the subcontinent in New Zealand and South Africa—something the other Asian teams never enjoyed. That was perhaps the best chance to make an impact, but they failed miserably.

The year began with two Test defeats in New Zealand, but at least the team could put up a fight. They even dominated the game in phases. However, their inexperience in wrapping up the game in overseas conditions cost them the series.

Their lone Test on Indian soil, which was dubbed ‘historic’ given that it was their first visit to the country since getting the Test status, did not go according to plan. A gutsy century by Mushfiqur Rahim just about spared them an innings defeat.

And finally, the series whitewash in South Africa completed their depressing overseas run. Bolstered by the historic win in Sri Lanka and against Australia on home turf, the team had gone to South Africa with high hopes. But, it turned out to be one of their worst overseas series. The condition wasn’t typically South African, but Bangladesh couldn’t cash in on it.

Sandwiched between two series defeats—in New Zealand at the beginning of the year and in South Africa at the end, Bangladesh enjoyed a good run in the middle. Inarguably, the series against Sri Lanka was the best, as they drew the series across two formats of the game, sealing their first solid overseas victory against a top-notch opposition, barring those against a depleted West Indies side and Zimbabwe.

They won a Test against Australia even though the Mirpur wicket was designed to their advantage. They could even have won the series, had David Warner not played a great knock on a tricky wicket in Chittagong to deny them that chance.

In all, apart from the two Tests on home soil, the team played all the matches overseas. In nine Tests, they won two and lost seven. In the 14 ODIs they played in 2017, the win-loss ratio was 4:7, while three matches produced no result. In the seven T20s, they won only one and lost six.

 

Consistent in global tourneys

Team Bangladesh maintained a certain consistency in global tournaments. In the 2015 World Cup in Australia and New Zealand, they had moved into the quarterfinals for the first time in history. In the 2016 World T20 championship in India, they couldn’t get through the knock-out phase, but their performance was praiseworthy. And they kept up the good run by moving to the semi-finals of the ICC Champions Trophy held in England and Wales. Luck favoured them, as their match against Australia was abandoned due to rain, giving them a valuable point. And then, they won the match against New Zealand by five wickets. With the team teetering at 33 for four, Shakib Al Hasan and Mahmudullah Riyad scripted a fabulous comeback with a 224-run partnership, granting the team a place in the last four—for the first time in a multinational tournament. However, the dream run ended with a nine-wicket defeat to India.

 Winning celebration of country’s 100th Test

17 years after getting the Test status, Bangladesh played their 100th Test on March 15, 2017 when they took on Sri Lanka in the second and final match of the series at Colombo. The landmark Test turned out to be one of the most blissful moments of the country’s cricket history as they beat Sri Lanka by four wickets and thereby drew the two-match Test series.

Papon creates history

The 2017 saw the election of Bangladesh Cricket Board (BCB) in which Nazmul Hasan Papon was elected the president for the second consecutive time after it was ensured nobody challenged him in the top post of the board. He was the first elected president in BCB history as ICC made election mandatory in this post.

Mushfiqur’s outburst

The South Africa tour shook Bangladesh cricket in many ways and finally led to Mushfiqur Rahim’s sacking from Test captaincy. He faced severe criticism from the top bosses of the Bangladesh Cricket Board (BCB) for opting to bowl in a batting paradise in both Tests against South Africa after winning the toss. His captaincy failed to motivate the players in tough periods. Mushfiqur finally lost his cool, and made an outburst in the middle of the second Test. He blamed coach Chandika Hathurusingha for ruining the dressing room environment and making the players insecure. His fate was sealed despite his magnificent batting form throughout the year.

 

Mashrafe’s retirement from T20

It was widely believed that Hathurusingha forced Mashrafe Bin Mortaza to retire from T20 cricket. His performance was up to the mark, which he showed during the BPL T20 tournament. But he was under massive pressure to retire from this format of the game. He finally bowed to Hathurusingha and BCB by retiring from the format after the series against Sri Lanka in April.

 

Shakib gets charge of T20 and Test teams

His appointment as the captain hardly came as a surprise. When Mushfiqur Rahim was at loggerheads with the BCB, it was all but certain that Shakib would take over from him. Following the retirement of Mashrafe Bin Mortaza, he was appointed the captain in the T20 format. Mortaza is still in charge of the ODI team. But, Papon has already hinted that once Mashrafe retires from ODIs, Shakib will lead the team across all formats of the game.

 

Best innings of the year

Shakib hit a double century (217) in New Zealand—the highest Test score by a Bangladeshi batsman. Mushfiqur scored a gutsy century in India to force the hosts to bat a second time. But it was Tamim Iqbal who stole the show this year. He was the architect of two Test wins in 2017. His 82 in the fourth innings in a tricky chase helped Bangladesh script its first overseas victory against a top-notch opposition. The series was a low-key affair; so, his innings went unnoticed. But given the conditions and the pressure, it was a class act and easily one of the best innings of the year. Later, his 71 and 78 in the two innings against Australia on a two-paced and uneven wicket in Mirpur took Bangladesh to its first victory against Australia. He might not have been consistent in 2017, but Tamim’s 82 in Sri Lanka was probably the best innings for Bangladesh in 2017.

 

Player of the year

Shakib Al Hasan has a gift: if he fails in either the batting or the bowling department, he makes amends in the other. So, no wonder that he could make an impact in every match he played. But, more importantly, he did it consistently, which was reflected in the ICC all-rounder rankings across the format. This year, he recorded the highest Test score for Bangladesh and also scored a century to take the team to victory against Sri Lanka. His 665 runs in Tests came only second to Mushfiqur Rahim’s 766. His 430, including a match-winning 114 against New Zealand, in the ICC Champions trophy was only third to Tamim’s 646 and Mushfiqur’s 458. In T20, his score of 120 placed him in the fourth position. He also had the highest 29 wickets in Tests, including two five-wicket hauls and one 10-wicket haul. He bagged eight wickets in T20, which was the highest in the team. But, he fared badly in ODIs, claiming only six wickets in 14 matches.

New kid on the block

Mohammad Saifuddin may have conceded 31 runs in an over, including five sixes to David Miller, who went on to score a 35-ball century, joining the ‘fastest T20 century’ club with Rohit Sharma. But the Bangladeshi all-rounder showed a glimpse of his talent. Along with Mosaddek Hossain Saikat, who missed most of the season due to the eye infection, he could be the player to watch for next year.

 

Hathurusingha’s resignation

He had laid down a long-term plan for the 2019 World Cup after being given a fresh contract in 2016. He held elaborate discussions with BCB president Nazmul Hassan Papon about the team’s shape and the players who would be part of the 2019 World Cup. He kept dropping players and experimenting with them. The BCB president gave him all-out power to do so. But half way into his experiments, he resigned, leaving the BCB quite shocked. He later claimed that the senior players’ behaviour, especially Shakib Al Hasan’s six-month leave from Test cricket, had prompted him to step down from the post and take charge of the Sri Lankan team instead.

Gayle-force in BPL

The fifth edition of the Bangladesh Premier League (BPL) drew immense success even though the pitch invited massive criticism. However, the tournament was all about Chris Gayle, who blasted two epic centuries in knock-out phases. In the final, he hammered a 69-ball 146, smashing 18 sixes, the highest by any batsman in T20 history. His 146-runs score was also the highest in the final of a domestic T20 tournament, which helped the Rangpur Riders clinch their maiden BPL trophy, outclassing the Dhaka Dynamites.

 

Gazi Group the domestic champions

The Gazi Group Cricketers won the maiden title in the Dhaka Premier Division Cricket League—the most coveted domestic tournament—this year. The Gazi Group, along with the Abahani Ltd and the Prime Doleshwar Sporting Club, were level in terms of points at the end of the Super League phase. Thereafter, with the Gazi Group winning most of the head-to-head matches among the three teams, they were crowned the champions.

 

Khulna’s hat-trick

Khulna Division proved that they are the boss of the National Cricket League (NCL) by claiming the title for the third time in a row and for the sixth time in NCL history. This brought them level with the Rajshahi Division. They defeated Dhaka Division by an innings and 43 runs in the final round. They were the only team in Tier-1 to win two matches while the other teams did not win a single match.

 

Bangladesh A show promise

Bangladesh A played only one series, comprising an unofficial Test and five ODIs against Ireland on home turf, in 2017. They won the unofficial Test and went on to score a 4–0 victory over the Irish. But the number of matches the team played raised eyebrows. How can the fringe players prove their mettle if the A team doesn’t play enough matches? However, according to BCB, the High-Performance (HP) Unit has replaced the A team, which will be called the Second String Team, in which the fringe players will get a chance to prove themselves. The HP team played 14 matches in the UK and Australia in 2017. They won five ODIs and one three-day match in Australia and six out of eight matches in the UK.

 

Women need to buck up

The Bangladesh women’s team played only two series in 2017—a five-match series against South Africa and the ICC Women’s World Cup Qualifier in Sri Lanka. They played 10 matches in all, with a 2:8 win-loss ratio. They lost the series to South Africa 1–4 and registered a win against Sri Lanka in the Qualifier. In the domestic Women’s Premier League, Abahani Ltd became champions for the first time.

 

The future of Bangladeshi cricket

This was a year for the under-19 team to prepare for the 2018 Youth World Cup in New Zealand. The team played a five-match series against Afghanistan, in which the Afghans stunned them, winning the series 3–1. They won a five-match series against Nepal 2–1. However, the shocker came in the ACC Under-19 Asia Cup, in which the team lost to Pakistan by two runs by the D/L method, to be denied a place in the final.

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Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman

Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman
Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

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