Bangladesh in 2009 December 29, 2009

With heads held high

Two Test wins, 14 in ODIs, an inspiring captain, and a promising newcomer made Bangladesh's 2009 their most successful 12 months ever

If 2008 was a year to forget for Bangladesh cricket, 2009 has been a rare treat: one to savour.

At first glance, heading into the year, it seemed that cricket's youngest Test nation was destined to have a tumultuous 12 months. Having lost arguably some of their best players to the ICL, Bangladesh also had to contend with injuries to their most reliable bowler and the change of captaincy that ensued. Mohammad Ashraful, Mashrafe Mortaza and Shakib Al Hasan have all skippered the side at one time or another in 2009. Shakib, who signed for Worcestershire late in 2009, proved to be an inspirational captain, and largely under his leadership, Bangladesh have had their most successful year since they gained Test status.

Bangladesh played three Tests in 2009. Having lost the first against Sri Lanka in January in a predictably nonchalant style, they went on to surprise the world and possibly themselves by notching up their first Test series victory against West Indies, who fielded a depleted side. But the victory was no less sweet for success-starved Bangladesh supporters.

Bangladesh's year in Test cricket was notable for other reasons too. They made a top score of 345 in St Vincent, where Tamim Iqbal scored his maiden Test century, and on all but one occasion they were able to post at least 200 runs in an innings. For a side that is accustomed to the ignominy of innings defeats, this was no mean feat.

It was in ODI cricket, however, that Bangladesh made the most impressive strides in 2009. Of the 19 ODIs they played, they won 14 and lost five. This compares favourably to 2008, when they only won five of their 26 ODIs. A success rate of 74% is impressive by itself, but they also twice scored over 300 against Zimbabwe in Bulwayo - a remarkable statistic for a side that frequently struggles to score above 250 in 50-over cricket.

It will be argued that Bangladesh hardly faced the better-ranked sides in 2009, and while this is of course true, it is also worth noting that one of those ODI victories came against a full-strength Sri Lanka side and that Zimbabwe fielded one of their strongest teams in recent years.

High point
There is no doubt that the team's tour to the West Indies in July was the highlight of Bangladesh's year. Bangladesh had tasted Test success just once previously, against Zimbabwe in 2005. Since then, they have come close but ultimately failed to cross the finish line. In 2009 they not only swept the Test series but also the ODIs.

A cursory glance at the scorecards for those Tests will reflect that West Indies fielded an inexperienced side and that both matches were closely fought. However, statistics alone cannot paint an accurate picture. Although lacking big-name players, Reifer's side contained some cricketers who were an injury or two away from selection to a full-strength side (for example, Kemar Roach, Travis Dowlin and Darren Sammy are all currently touring Australia). Moreover, while West Indies were undercooked before the first Test, they were certainly better prepared for the second. It was the nature of those wins that gives Bangladesh supporters cause for optimism.

Bangladesh continue to be overly reliant on their army of spinners and will be acutely aware that matches are rarely won through left-arm spin alone. The lack of seam-bowling support will need to be addressed

Amid all the uncertainty and controversy on that tour, Bangladesh could easily have succumbed to yet another loss. Followers of Bangladesh cricket will know only too well the team's habit of snatching defeat from the jaws of victory. But this proved not to be Multan in 2003 or Fatullah in 2006. Ultimately Bangladesh triumphed.

There were other high points too. In Zimbabwe, Charles Coventry posted the highest individual ODI score, but this could not prevent Shakib's men taking the series 4-1, and then repeating the feat with an identical scoreline at home in November. Bangladesh supporters only dare to whisper it right now, but there is an increasing suspicion that their side has finally discovered the art of winning.

Low point
It was not all success and accolades for Bangladesh this year. In Twenty20s, which would appear in theory to be tailormade for the trigger-happy Bangladesh batsmen, the team have had a year to forget, losing every match they played. The most embarrassing of these was against Ireland at Trent Bridge, where the Bangladesh batting reverted to type and the O'Brien brothers enhanced their reputations.

In this review last year Utpal Shuvro nominated Mohammad Ashraful as Bangladesh's "fading star". This year he averaged just under 13 in Tests and under 25 in ODIs. Ashraful's career has descended into cliché; an apparently gifted young batsman unable to assert himself on the international stage is a story heard before, as the careers of Mark Ramprakash and Mohammad Kaif will attest. Ashraful did make some valuable contributions in 2009, but these were with the ball rather than the bat.

The loss of the captaincy means Ashraful is no longer guaranteed a place in the side. He may be only 25 but he has also played 50 Tests, and more ODIs than Andrew Flintoff. His future must now surely be in doubt.

New kid on the block
Just one cricketer made debuts in all three formats for Bangladesh in 2009, and what a debut it was. Rubel Hossain is young, energetic and capable of regularly hitting 85mph. He returned figures of 4 for 33 from just 5.3 overs in his maiden ODI, against Sri Lanka in January. The 19-year-old from Bagerhat is Bangladesh's answer to Mohammad Aamer, and while he has much to learn, he is certainly an exciting prospect.

What 2010 holds
Bangladesh have a surprisingly busy schedule in 2010, when they will face some of the bigger beasts in world cricket. Sri Lanka, India, New Zealand and England will all provide much sterner tests.

Although they have performed admirably in 2009, there are still unanswered questions. It is not yet clear whether the injury-prone Mortaza will reclaim the captaincy or whether the selectors will keep faith with Shakib. The selectors must also decide whether to recall any former ICL players, who become eligible for selection in the New Year.

Bangladesh continue to be overly reliant on their army of spinners and will be acutely aware that matches are rarely won through left-arm spin alone. The lack of seam bowling support will need to be addressed.

A relatively successful year has come to an end, but Bangladesh's performances in 2010 will provide a truer reflection of how much they have evolved. Greater challenges lie ahead, but a side that constantly has to battle for respectability can venture into the New Year full of hope and optimism, and it is not very often that one can say that.

Abu Choudhury is a regular contributor to He lives in London

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Prince on December 31, 2009, 12:25 GMT

    @Right Arm Fast :- Both Mark Ramprakash & Mohammad Kaif can be thought to be amongst players who couldn't do full justice to their talent-this can be figured out by looking @ their 1st class & list A statistics,& their bursts of talent in international cricket.But Ashraful can't fall into that category straightaway.Ashraful has played 7/8 gems in a 10 year career,so that's even less that 1 every year.Plus Ashraful's test,ODI,1st class,& list A statistics tell that his highest average in any form of cricket is 29,& that too after spending 10 years in the game.People love to talk about him being only 25,but he has been playing international cricket since 2001.Such lowly statistics won't even make bowling allrounders proud.

  • Prince on December 31, 2009, 12:18 GMT

    @Right Arm Fast :- I am not a supporter of any team.It's just that comparing Ashraful to the likes of Kaif & Ramprakash,& comparing Rubel to Aamer is just gross !!!

  • Nahim on December 30, 2009, 21:41 GMT

    Come on people give some credit where it's due. Of course Bangladesh's 2009 success must be heavily qualified by the fact that they played little top-class opposition. But success it still is of a sort,especially when compared to previous years. The performances against WI and Zimbabwe showed a clinical side to their play that has too often been missing in the past. There were a few memorable moments against SL too- a win in the ODI series and nearly an ODi series victory, and a rather gallant chase of 521 where they got as much as 413 of the runs required.

    It's a pity then that there are those who feel compelled to take cheap shots at the Bangladeshi team, who in 2009 rarely put a foot wrong and showed considerable improvement (even if they are still not a match for most Test teams). Blame the ICC for the poor schedule, if you will, but don't blame the BD team for latching onto those opportunities that did come their way this year.

  • Abu on December 30, 2009, 17:26 GMT

    A couple of points for Nipun (who I am guessing is an India supporter). Firstly, both mark ramprakash (who I note you didn't mention) and Mohammad kaif have achieved far more in their careers than Ashraful has, so a comparison to that degree would indeed be absurd. I was comparing them only in so far as they have failed to fulfil their potential at international level - I think that much is clear even from a cursory reading of the article.

    Secondly, Mohammad Amamer has made some huge strides in 2009, the only reason I compare him to rubel is because they are both fast (though aamer is faster), both rose through the ranks of Under 19 cricket, are both roughly the same age and both came to international prominence in last years World T20.

  • Rohan on December 30, 2009, 16:59 GMT

    i guess one of the ways to make test cricket competitive is to revoke bangladesh's test membership. Thats important because one, bangladesh is a poor cricket team and secondaly they are blocking other deserving teams like ireland and kenya. Its largely due to the BCCI largesse that they have been holding on to test membership for so long. Though for BCCI, Bangladesh is nothing more than a vote, thats why Bdesh has never been allowed to play cricket in India. Having said that, i believe that Shakib Hasan is a very good player but its a case of one excellent player among 15 ordinary/poor players. Of all the talks about NZ winning their first test match in 23 years is ridiculous. NZ didn't get a quarter of oppurtunities to play test matches, which bdesh has got all these years.

  • Animesh on December 30, 2009, 16:15 GMT

    The improvement as well as the success or failure of a team is judged by its performance in the field. Compared to its own previous performances, there is no denying fact that Bangladesh has performed better in 2009. But it is also true that Bangladesh needs to continue improvement of its performance. I am following comments on the performance of Bangladesh posted here. It is frustrating that some commentators have not acknowledged Bangladesh's improved performance instead criticizing the team unduly. All of us know the cricket histories of all the established teams. Support from cricket fans is one of the most important things for any team's improvement and it is essential to popularize Cricket globally. I wish a very successful new year for BANGLADESH team.

  • Subrata on December 30, 2009, 10:34 GMT

    Why some people are denying Bangladeshi's successs i cannt understand,think NewZealand even won their first test after 23 years,so Bangladesh have contributed much in this sector and right this moment they have some world class player and they are performing well.So they should give more opportunity to play more games with strong nations.

  • Shakil on December 30, 2009, 10:29 GMT

    if you compare with the previous years you have to agree that 2009 is the best for BD so far. their success was due to their battery of spinners and if they use the same tactics against better teams in 2010 definitely they will pay for that. hope BD will serve some good competitive cricket and shakib will continue to amaze in 2010...

  • Anamul on December 30, 2009, 9:13 GMT

    2009 is a most remarkable calender year for Bangladesh Cricket. in this year we got rubel gussain a young speed star, we got a allrounder/captain shakib al hasan. guys, plsss dont blame bangladesh team, ICL returning player also coming to the team, so let's see how they come good in 2010, & let's pray for tigers, wish u all the best!!

  • Anthony on December 30, 2009, 8:40 GMT

    Plz guy dont nullify our achievements.Danish Kaneria initially got all his 5 wickets haul against weaker sides ,then he started to get against England,Australia India all the top ranked sides.It needs some time to fight the big teams for us.We are progressing.And we hope to beat Sri Lanka in this tri-nation in Janury

  • No featured comments at the moment.