With the beginning of a new decade just around the corner, the time has come to look back on 2019 - a year when Bangladesh cricket endured a number of ups and downs, with the downs perhaps steeper than the ups.
The World Cup year started with the hope of something big but ended in a heap of disappointment, the biggest of them all ironically caused by events off the field, with the suspension of star all-rounder Shakib Al Hasan for failing to report communication with a bookie.
Not that things were that much better on the field. Overall, the Tigers played 30 internationals (not counting the rained-out encounter against Sri Lanka in the World Cup) across all three formats of the game in 2019 and won just 11 of them. Among the 19 defeats, the most ignominious would surely have to be the capitulation against Afghanistan in a one-off Test on home soil.
Instead of developing new players to shoulder the burden of carrying the team to new heights, the team displayed a continued dependence on Shakib for really world-class performances to help them compete with the best. This was deeply distressing for the fans, particularly once Shakib's year-long ban from all forms of cricket by the ICC was confirmed.
The year also saw 2 BPL seasons fitted in - or almost two. The sixth season of Bangladesh Premier League (BPL) which was originally scheduled to take place in November/December 2018, had to be rescheduled for January due to the national election. Comilla Victorians lifted the trophy riding on some tremendous batting performances by Tamim Iqbal.
Players like AB de Villiers, Steve Smith, David Warner took part in the BPL for the first time in BPL6, which was good for the league to draw the attention of the global audience.
However, BPL6 failed to produce any new talent. There was no new face in the top-ten batsmen or bowlers. The sixth season of Bangladesh's most prestigious domestic cricket event was commercially lucrative, but the main purpose- to unearth new talents- was missing.
Towards the end of the year, the 7th season of BPL, rebranded as the Bangabandhu BPL for Bangabandhu birth centennial got underway, and it is scheduled to stretch into the first few weeks of 2020. With BCB not renewing the franchise format that expired at the end of BPL6, question marks were raised over the organisation of the tournament in its 7th outing, and in the opening few weeks, most of these remained unanswered with fans failing to show up at the venues and the quality of cricket leaving a lot to be desired.
Bangladesh's international calendar for the year started with the tour of New Zealand, which remained memorable for off-the-field misfortune. Bangladesh lost the ODI series 3-0 and lost the first two matches of the three-Test series. The third Test was abandoned due to what became an infamous terror attack at two mosques of Christchurch leaving 51 dead. Some of the players were in the vicinity of the Al Noor Mosque to say their Jumma prayers when the carnage erupted, leaving them visibly shaken and in no condition to continue the tour. It was duly called off.
Bangladesh's poor cricketing display on the field and that off-field massacre made the New Zealand tour awful in Bangladesh's memory. However, Tamim Iqbal was tremendous in the Test series. He scored 278 runs in two matches with one century and two half-centuries.
After a gap of one month, the Tigers went to Ireland and played a tri-series with the hosts and West Indies right before the World Cup. They beat West Indies three times in that series to register their first-ever title in a multinational cricket event. Mustafizur Rahman had bagged six wickets in three games, Soumya Sarkar scored 193 runs with three fifties. The triumph in the tri-series created a big hope for the Tigers to do something memorable in the World Cup the following month.
But the Tigers failed to do so in spite of a flying start beating South Africa in the opening game. Riding on the half-centuries of Mushfiqur Rahim (78) and Shakib Al Hasan (75) Bangladesh posted 330 runs. South Africa fell short by 21 runs as Mustafizur and Mohammad Saifuddin bagged three and two wickets respectively to register a confidence-boosting win.
But the Tigers stuttered in the next two games against New Zealand and England. Shakib hit 64 against New Zealand and 121 against England, but Bangladesh lost the momentum. They had a good chance to bring the momentum back against Sri Lanka in Bristol, but the game was abandoned due to unplayable condition.
However, Bangladesh didn't miss the chance against West Indies when Shakib smashed his second century (124) of the World Cup. West Indies batted first and posted a challenging total of 321 for eight riding on the fifties of Evin Lewis (70), Shai Hope (90) and Shimron Hetmyer (50). Bangladesh accepted the challenge as Shakib and Liton Das featured in a brilliant unbroken stand of 189 for the fourth wicket. Shakib remained unbeaten for 124 while Liton also remained not out on 94. The win kept Bangladesh in the hunt for the semi-finals.
But the Tigers lost the next game to Australia despite some wonderful efforts from Tamim (62), Mushfiqur Rahim (102) and Mahmudullah Riyad (69). However, Bangladesh pulled off their third World Cup win beating Afghanistan by 62 runs in Southampton. Mashrafe Bin Mortaza-led Bangladesh had the last chance to qualify for the last 4, for which they would have to beat India and Pakistan in their last two games, but they failed to win either of those games. Overall, Bangladesh failed to live up to the expectation in the World Cup.
Skipper Mashrafe was injured for most of the World Cup, but kept playing despite a hamstring injury which eventually did nothing good for Bangladesh. Shakib was tremendous scoring 606 runs with two centuries and five half-centuries and taking 11 wickets with a five-for. It was the best all-round display in World Cup history, and some felt he should have won the individual honour of player of the tournament. But the team's overall low finish hurt his chances.
From bad to worse
Mashrafe failed to make the squad for the tour of Sri Lanka right after the World Cup. Tamim led the team in the three-match series but the fortunes of Bangladesh were unchanged as the Tigers lost the series ODI 3-0.
The poor spell continued on home soil as well when they lost the solitary Test against Afghanistan in Chattogram. It was just the third Test for Afghanistan. Rashid Khan, the captain of the Afghans, displayed a tremendous performance to ensure the historic win - a triumph of sheer willpower. With help from the weather, Bangladesh needed to bat for barely a session on the fifth day to save the Test, with recognised batsmen at the crease. But the Tigers' failings were badly shown up in the face of the Afghans' hunger.
In the accompanying T20I tri-series, Bangladesh made it to the final, but it was washed away and they had to share the trophy with Afghanistan. The series remained memorable for the third team in the fray, Zimbabwe, as they returned to international cricket with that series after a ban was imposed on them by the International Cricket Council (ICC).
On October 21, 2019, Bangladesh cricket fraternity was shaken up as the top cricketers showed their discontent over the remuneration of first-class cricketers and a slew of other issuues. Shakib-led cricketers came up with 11-point demand and announced that before the board met the set of demands, they would not take part in any cricketing activities. Nazmul Hasan, the board president, addressed this stance of the cricketers as a 'conspiracy to ruin the image of Bangladesh cricket'.
The set of demands increased to 13 on October 23, and the board eventually accepted 10 points of them that same night at BCB headquarters in Mirpur.
After this insurrection of the cricketers, the match fee for first-class cricketers was raised by 100 percent. The cricketers who took part in the National Cricket League 2019 were paid the increased amount. At the same time, BCB increased the facilities available during the First Class matches.
But that was not the only big thing brewing in October. Bangladesh cricket was shaken to its core perhaps like never before on October 30 when news came through of the ICC banning Shakib for two years, with one year suspended, due to failing to report corrupt approaches made to him more than twice.
Shakib accepted the sanction and expressed his desire to bounce back stronger once the ban is lifted. Due to the ban, Shakib missed the first tour of Bangladesh to India for a full series.
It all started with a remarkable T20I win over India in Delhi under the captaincy of Mahmudullah. Mushfiqur hit a fifty to register the first-ever T20I win of Bangladesh against their neighbouring cricket powerhouse. But the remaining part of the series proved painful for the touring side.
They lost the T20I series 2-1. After that, they crashed to an innings defeat in the first match of the 2- Test series. The last match of the Test series was hosted by Kolkata, in something of a double celebration hosted by newly elected president of the Indian cricket board Saurav Ganguly, with the first day-night pink-ball Test hosted in the subcontinent.
Amid all the hype, Bangladesh failed to hold it together and barely made it to the third day - losing the match by an innings and 46 runs. They had to field two concussion substitutes in the game as the Indian pacers ran riot in the helpful conditions under lights. Nevertheless even the truncated contest was witnessed by over a lakh at the Eden Gardens over the 2 days and 47 minutes.
Bangladesh will start 2020 with a tour of Pakistan, though that is subject to security clearances. It means the start of the new year for Bangladesh cricket is clouded with uncertainty, with little sign of where to look for some clarity.