May 26, 2017
For much of the last seven years, Bangladesh were ranked No. 9 in ODIs. But series wins over Pakistan, India and South Africa in 2015 have led to a transformation
Even when qualification for the Champions Trophy was based on the ICC’s ODI rankings, it mattered very little because teams like Bangladesh and Zimbabwe didn’t threaten the traditional top eight. But last year when Bangladesh confirmed Champions Trophy qualification, rankings gained extra significance.
They became the biggest mover in the ICC ODI rankings after they reached the No 6 spot for the first time earlier this week. But for much of the last seven years, Bangladesh had been rooted to the No 9 position, hovering above Zimbabwe and Ireland.
It was in February 2011 when they first jumped up to No 8, shortly after beating Zimbabwe 3-1 and New Zealand 4-0 at home. The move came after West Indies had lost to Sri Lanka 2-0, giving Bangladesh the short-lived promotion that ended in March that year.
The progress, especially during the New Zealand whitewash, was surprising because they had lost 17 out of 19 games leading into this home series. In fact, they had arrived home amid criticism after losing to Ireland and the Netherlands.
Tamim Iqbal had been ruled out of the New Zealand ODIs through injury while Mashrafe Mortaza got injured after just one over in the first game. Shakib Al Hasan led the way, averaging 71 in four innings to go with 11 wickets. It was the first glimpse of how Shakib could lift himself in a tough situation and produce a memorable performance. It was gut-wrenching for New Zealand. Daniel Vettori later admitted that the margin of defeat put pressure on his captaincy.
After two years of mostly one-off wins, Bangladesh reached the No 8 position again in January 2013, weeks after they beat West Indies 3-2 in the 2012 home series. They had taken a rapid 2-0 lead in Khulna before West Indies fired back to level 2-2 in Dhaka. In the deciding game, Mahmudullah and Nasir Hossain guided Bangladesh through quick wickets and a nervous finish.
The West Indies series win came in the same year in which Bangladesh beat India and Sri Lanka to reach the Asia Cup final. But the move to No 8 lasted just 12 days. After New Zealand beat South Africa 2-1, they were back to No. 9.
Bangladesh had more success in 2013 when they drew the ODI series in Sri Lanka 1-1 and beat New Zealand 3-0 at home later that year. But 2014 was disastrous as they lost 12 out of 13 matches, with other one being rained out. Beating Zimbabwe 5-0 in November-December that year helped them regain some confidence before they went into training camps for the 2015 World Cup.
They reached the knockout stage of the event for the first time, having defeated Afghanistan, Scotland and England in the group stages. For the period immediately after their World Cup exit, Mashrafe was wary of how players could become complacent for the Pakistan series that followed.
Bangladesh crushed them 3-0 to mark their maiden series win over Pakistan that helped them jump to No. 8. for the third time. Tamim, Mushfiqur Rahim and Soumya Sarkar struck centuries as a new-look Pakistan under Azhar Ali surrendered.
In June, Bangladesh unleashed the mystifying left-arm bowler Mustafizur Rahman on India, as the rookie finished with 11 wickets in the first two matches, both of which Bangladesh won comfortably. Bangladesh moved to No 7 soon after completing their maiden ODI series win over India.
These two major series wins meant that Bangladesh comfortably qualified to the 2017 Champions Trophy. After they also beat South Africa 2-1 in July their rating points received a further fillip.
It took them 21 months to take the next step up, this time with an ODI win over New Zealand in the Walton tri-series. The ICC had outlined before the tournament how Bangladesh would reach the No 6 spot – beating New Zealand once – and on May 24, they replaced Sri Lanka with whom they drew another ODI series in March this year.
Mohammad Isam is ESPNcricinfo’s Bangladesh correspondent. @isam84
ESPN Sports Media Ltd.