Eight defeats, one draw and one win.
This is the Bangladesh men’s cricket team’s report card in Tests in the year 2022.
For anyone familiar with Bangladesh’s plights in the format, this report card is hardly surprising. And one also can’t be blamed if they chalk up 2022 as another year of disappointment for the Tigers in red-ball cricket.
But when one looks past the outcomes and dives into what the Bangladesh Test team has done in the past 12 months, it becomes evident that 2022 has been a year where the Tigers have taken steps in the right direction in red-ball cricket.
However, this year has also made it clear that Bangladesh still have a very long way to go before being considered one of the Test elites.
Miracle in Mount Maunganui
Bangladesh won just one Test in 2022, and that too at the very start of the year. But it was a victory to savour, as it was against New Zealand, the reigning ICC World Test Champions, and that too in New Zealand.
Before that Test in Mount Maunganui, Bangladesh had taken a hiding every time they went up against the Kiwis on their turf.
Bangladesh first toured the country in December 2001. From then till 1 January 2022, when the Test at Bay Oval started, the Tigers had faced the Black Caps in 36 matches across three formats in New Zealand and lost in all of those games.
Bangladesh came into the Test with little expectations, especially as they were without Tamim Iqbal and Shakib Al Hasan.
But Mominul Haque’s men flipped every pre-match equation on its head, went toe to toe against a strong New Zealand side in difficult conditions and, in the end, emerged victorious by eight wickets.
Bangladesh’s win at Mount Maunganui was astounding, with many analysts calling it statistically the biggest upset in the history of Test cricket.
Bangladesh, however, couldn’t replicate that same magic in Test cricket for the rest of the year.
The lull in between
On the back of the historic Test win against New Zealand, the One-Day International (ODI) side also achieved a milestone series win against the Proteas in South Africa.
Bangladesh went into the two-Test series against South Africa with a lot of momentum and did well to take the game into the fifth day, with all three results still possible.
But in the fourth innings, when Bangladesh needed 274 runs to win or had to play out a little over three sessions to secure a draw, the Tigers got tangled in Keshav Maharaj’s spin web and were bundled out for a mere 53.
That Test was also marred by some verbal spat, as Bangladesh captain Mominul accused South Africa of excessive sledging, which the Proteas skipper Dean Elgar vehemently denied and asked Bangladesh to ‘harden up’.
Much like the on-field battle, Bangladesh conceded defeat in the off-field war of words when Mominul backtracked from his earlier stance right before the second Test and said he had never made any such accusation.
This entire episode didn’t help Mominul’s case as captain and the left-hander stepped down from the role in May, right after Bangladesh lost a home Test series against Sri Lanka 0-1.
Shakib Al Hasan, for the third time in his illustrious career, was named the Test captain.
Nearly the perfect finish
After resuming his role as captain, one of the first things Shakib did was ask for patience.
It was clear why he did that after his first assignment as new captain as Bangladesh got clean-swept 0-2 by the West Indies at the Caribbean islands.
After a gap of six months, in which Bangladesh played only white-ball cricket, Shakib led the team in his second assignment as Test skipper, at home against India.
In the first Test, India overpowered Bangladesh and won handsomely by 188 runs.
Debutant Zakir Hasan’s century and a five-wicket haul from Taijul Islam were bright spots for the hosts, but the Indian team was too good for Bangladesh in Chattogram.
However, in the following Test in Dhaka, the tables nearly flipped. Bangladesh, despite conceding an 84-run first innings lead, clawed their way back into the match thanks to Liton Das’s 73 and a five-wicket haul from Mehidy Hasan Miraz.
Bangladesh needed just three wickets to win, while India required another 71 runs on a turning Day 4 track at Mirpur.
But Bangladesh then made one mistake on the field, which proved costly.
Mominul, the man who had led Bangladesh to its greatest Test win earlier in the year, dropped a simple catch off Ashwin when he was batting on one.
Ashwin went on to score an unbeaten 42 and crush Bangladesh’s hopes of securing their first ever Test win over India.
Getting closer to the 'boiling point'
Have you ever boiled a pot of water on the stove?
In the first few seconds, the water stays perfectly still, seeming unaffected by the heat. But as time wears on, some bubbles start appearing at the top.
The bubbles double, triple, and quadruple before becoming too many to keep count of. The pot of water then begins to rumble, it starts resembling a small-scale volcanic eruption and a sharp whistling noise begins disseminating from the pot, signalling that the water has reached its boiling point.
If one imagines the Bangladesh Test team as that pot of water (and not boiling inside it!), 2022 has been the year when positive changes have finally started coming to the foray after years of ‘heating’.
Like bubbles of a boiling pot of water, new faces like Zakir Hasan, and Mahmudul Hasan Joy have emerged, players like Miraz and Liton have begun showing signs of maturity and Taskin Ahmed, Ebadot Hossain, Khaled Ahmed are giving the Bangladesh attack some much needed pedigree on the fast bowling department.
If the process remains the same, 2023 could be the year when the pot starts to rumble, more match winners appear and Bangladesh get closer to its ‘boiling point’, getting closer to fulfilling their goal of being a formidable Test team.
However, in a year where Bangladesh are scheduled to play just five home Tests, three of which will be against newcomers Ireland and Afghanistan, and a 50-over World Cup is scheduled on the horizon, the focus could shift away from red-ball cricket.
If that happens, Bangladesh will have to restart the lengthy heating process and all the ground gained in 2022, could wither away.