Country Reviews 2017
From the heights to hell
Bangladesh soared to wins over Australia and Sri Lanka before it all came crashing down in South Africa
Bangladesh started the year in New Zealand, where they had already lost an ODI series in the last days of December 2016. They went on to lose the three T20Is too, looking clueless in the most modern format. Things seemed better for at least the first four days of the Wellington Test, where Bangladesh put on a huge first-innings score, thanks to a maiden double-hundred from Shakib Al Hasan, and Mushfiqur Rahim's 159. Though their bowling was easy meat for the home batsmen, Bangladesh at least remained in the contest for a draw, if not a win. But a final-day meltdown, also led by Shakib, handed the game back to New Zealand, who chased down a stiff fourth-innings target easily. Bangladesh couldn't really recover from that defeat, and folded meekly in Christchurch, finishing the tour with defeats in all formats. On to India for their maiden Test in the country, but it didn't go too well in Hyderabad either. Bangladesh bowled far too short as Murali Vijay, Virat Kohli and Wriddhiman Saha racked up centuries (in Kohli's case, a double) and a first-innings score of 687. Mushfiqur Rahim made 127 in the first innings, so when it came to surviving on the fifth day, Bangladesh believed they could bat around him. They didn't. He fell playing a poor shot to R Ashwin, and a 208-run defeat ensued. There was respite in Sri Lanka, where after a chastening defeat in the Galle Test, they went on to win their first Test in the country, which also happened to be Bangladesh's 100th Test. Shakib, Tamim Iqbal and Mustafizur Rahman starred in the hard-fought four-wicket win, and they took the momentum into the ODIs, winning the first one, in Dambulla. However, that series fizzled out for them after the rained-out second game, as Sri Lanka bounced back to level 1-1. The T20 series also went the same way, although Mashrafe Mortaza's sudden retirement from T20 internationals came as a surprise. This was the first major outcome of the unease between coach Chandika Hathurusingha and the senior players; more such trouble was to follow. Midway through the year, on May 25, Bangladesh learned they would enter the Champions Trophy as No. 6 in the ODI rankings, following a win over New Zealand in Dublin. But the tournament didn't start swimmingly, as Bangladesh lost to the hosts in the opening game. They were lucky to escape with a no-result against Australia, and against New Zealand in Cardiff, they were 33 for 4, chasing 266. The story goes that the Bangladesh team management had threatened Shakib that they would drop him for that game for his lack of form with bat and ball. But he replied, alongside Mahmudullah, in the best way possible: they added 224 runs, both making career-defining hundreds, taking Bangladesh to the semi-finals of an ICC tournament for the first time. The knockout game didn't go well, as Bangladesh lost to India with 9.5 overs to spare, but the nation was mostly satisfied. If only Bangladesh's year had ended on August 30, the day of their maiden Test win over Australia, a game that swayed this way and that, treating the sparse Mirpur crowd to a thrilling contest. Pat Cummins nearly blew Bangladesh away at the start, only for Tamim and Shakib to put on a recovery that took them to some safety. Then Shakib, Mehidy Hasan Miraz and Taijul Islam took 19 wickets as Australia were undone by accurate, smart spin bowling. The visitors fought back in Chittagong, where it became far too apparent that Bangladesh wanted a draw, and belatedly decided to take on the mighty Nathan Lyon, but to no avail.
It was downhill from there. Bangladesh went to South Africa in September and for the ensuing four weeks, they couldn't raise their heads. They were annihilated in the Tests, in Potchefstroom and Bloemfontein, where Mushfiqur Rahim read both pitches wrong. The fast bowlers looked ill equipped, and the batsmen seemed shot, though the pitches were slower than they might have feared.
The ODIs and T20s were torturous to watch for Bangladesh fans, as the South African batsmen found it far too easy to score runs. A week or so after the team had returned, news broke of Hathurusingha's resignation. High point
Bangladesh levelled all three series on their tour to Sri Lanka, which was their first success of the year. But it was the Test win against Australia that stood out as their best performance in 2017. Tamim and Shakib led the team throughout the match, bringing them out of tough spots numerous times; Bangladesh even made the headlines with their replies to Australia's sledging.
The South Africa tour put the cricket-loving nation into a depression. There were seven crushing defeats in total, and Bangladesh looked clueless on pitches that weren't monsters of pace and bounce by any means. It won't be a surprise if some of the underperforming players face at least short-term ramifications in the new year.
New kid on the block
Mohammad Saifuddin made his T20 and ODI debuts this year, and while many remain unconvinced of his ability as a pace bowler with some variation and a late-order hitter, he has already impressed with his ability to bounce back. David Miller and Darren Sammy each stung him for more than 30 runs in a single over apiece in the space of four weeks, but Saifuddin has shown his mental strength to move on and perform better.
He will perhaps come back to the Bangladesh side again, thanks to his domestic form, but Nasir Hossain had yet another forgettable year in international cricket. He made only 87 runs and took two wickets in five matches, hardly looking comfortable against pace bowling in South Africa.
What 2018 holds
Bangladesh start the year hosting T20Is and Tests against Sri Lanka, and playing an ODI tri-series involving Zimbabwe and Sri Lanka. In March, they take part in the Nidihas Trophy, a T20 tri-series in Sri Lanka also featuring India. There is supposed to be an Asia Cup in June, before they travel to Australia and West Indies in July and August. The year ends with a tour to New Zealand, and a home series against Zimbabwe is scheduled for 2017-18 as well.
Mohammad Isam is ESPNcricinfo's Bangladesh correspondent. @isam84