The year started on a hopeful note for Bangladesh as Shakib Al Hasan had returned to international cricket early this year after serving a ban imposed by the ICC for failing to report corrupt approaches by a known bookie. But by the time it ended, supporters of the Tigers were hoping they could forget 2021 as soon as possible.
Shakib was the most valuable player immediately upon his return, in the ODI series against the West Indies early this year. It was not the right indicator of what was in store for the remainder of the year. The downhill slide began in the Test series that followed the ODIs against the men from the Caribbean, who were severely depleted yet totally outplayed Bangladesh in both matches on the way to winning 2-0.
Bangladesh won 20 international matches across all three formats this year, out of 46 played. Although that makes it their second-best year in terms of matches won, this does not reflect the suffering that Bangladesh went through playing at home or abroad in 2021, and across all three formats really.
The poor show in Tests continued all through the year. At the end of the year, the Mominul Haque-led team suffered another 2-0 series defeat at home, this time against Pakistan.
T20 failures continue
Bangladesh suffered a humiliating 3-0 defeat to New Zealand at the start of the year in a three-match T20 series in New Zealand. The biggest disappointment came in the last match when the Tigers were all out inside just 10 overs and endured an inevitable defeat.
But they grabbed headlines beating Australia and New Zealand in two successive T20 series at home- winning both. Shakib and Mustafizur Rahman played tremendously well in those series, which increased the hope of doing well in the T20 World Cup which took place in Oman and the UAE.
Some critics however warned that the pitches used during the Australia and New Zealand series in Mirpur were below par for international cricket, and any expectations raised by the series should be tempered. They warned that Bangladesh would face a tough challenge in the World Cup, where the pitches were bound to be more sporting, and that is exactly what happened.
Mahmudullah Riyad-led Bangladesh team lost the first match of their World Cup campaign to Scotland. That shocking defeat prompted the BCB chief Nazmul Hasan to criticise the senior players in public. Bangladesh won the next matches against Oman and UAE, but that was the end of their happiness in the World Cup as they lost all matches in the Super 12s phase.
Mahmudullah's mixed year
The year 2021 was a checkered one for Mahmudullah Riyad. He led Bangladesh in two historic series wins against Australia and New Zealand, he also led the Tigers in the T20 World Cup campaign which Bangladesh would prefer to forget for their lean show.
However, Mahmudullah's 2021 will also remain notable for his abrupt retirement from Test cricket. He was overlooked previously from the Test squad, which might have played a big role behind his decision to pull off his whites for good after hitting an unbeaten 150 against Zimbabwe this year.
Having announced his retirement immediately afterwards, he even received a guard of honour from his teammates. But it clearly came as a bolt from the blue for everyone and it is still not clear why he did what he did, fueling speculation he may go back on the decision. Later his retirement from Tests became official through a BCB press release.
Mushfiqur gave up keeping, unwillingly
Veteran wicketkeeper-batsman Mushfiqur Rahim finally gave up his wicketkeeping duties. He was asked to keep in the last two matches in the Australia series, but he refused and handed over the task to Nurul Hasan Shohan.
It was the idea of Russel Domingo, the head coach of the Bangladesh team, to appoint Shohan to keep wickets in the first two matches, and Mushfqur later.
It came as one in a series of bizarre moves suggested by the South African coach. It seemed that he was deliberately pushing the impression of a competition between Mushfiqur and the much younger Shohan. Eventually, Mushfiqur gave up his passion of wicketkeeping for Bangladesh.
Shakib invites controversy, naturally
Shakib has always been the best cricketer of the Bangladesh team in terms of performance, but when it comes to discipline, he has been falling short for a long time now. In the Dhaka Premier Division Cricket League 2021, Shakib played for the Mohammedan Sporting Club. But the controversy he created took precedence over his performance.
In a match, Shakib kicked down the stumps in a shocking moment of impetuosity, when an umpire turned down his appeal for an lbw. It was not the only instance of his breach of conduct. When the umpires paused a match his team needed to win due to rain, he went and pulled the stumps out of the ground, before throwing them down in front of the umpire. It was vile behavior.
He then created a fresh controversy at the end of the year by opting to not take part in Bangladesh's New Zealand tour, which kicks off with the first Test on New Year's Day.
It was not the only year-ending controversy for Shakib; he also claimed himself to be the first of the "fantastic five" of Bangladesh cricket in an interview with veteran sports journalist Utpal Shuvro.
When Shuvro asked him about the 'fantastic five' (which refers to Mashrafe Bin Mortaza, Mushfiqur Rahim, Shakib Al Hasan, Tamim Iqbal and Mahmudullah Riyad), Shakib said the list should have his name first and then the rest, which was deemed to be disrespectful towards his teammates - even if he may be right.
It came as just another piece of evidence of the cloud under which Bangladesh cricket currently find itself, from where they seem to have no clear idea on how to get out.
Papon's reign: Unquestioned and unopposed
In the general election of BCB held right before the T20 World Cup, Nazmul Hasan became BCB president for the third consecutive time. In December 2021, the newly elected board formed the new committees with the predominance of the old faces. Nazmul was elected unopposed.
In a year during which the board's failures on various fronts - from failing to ensure a quality domestic First Class cricket competition to lack of world class facilities at district level to arranging an extremely preparation period for the team heading into the World Cup - Nazmul Hasan's unopposed election as BCB president, at the same time as running one of the largest pharmaceutical companies in the country, came as a signal almost, that whatever may be wrong with Bangladesh cricket now, nothing much can be done to fix it. It is clearly indicative that cricket in the country is headed for an obscure future in the foreseeable future, as the present leadership has already proved that they are unable to bring changes for Bangladesh cricket. But the new, or next generation of leaders is yet to emerge out of the abyss.
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