The year of Mehedi's elevation
After losing Tamim Iqbal, their most dependable opener, to a left knuckle fracture sustained in the first match of the Asia Cup against Sri Lanka in September this year, Bangladesh's already shaky top-order was shaken to its core. Having tried Nazmul Hossain Shanto and Liton Das in the opening slot in vain, it was off-spinner and potential all-rounder Mehedi Hasan Miraz to whom ODI captain Mashrafe Bin Mortaza turned as he was vested with the responsibility of opening with Liton in the Asia Cup final against India.
Overshadowed by Liton's brilliant 117-ball 121, the patiently built 59-ball 32 from Miraz was exactly what Bangladesh needed as the Tigers' opening pair made over 100 runs for the first time since December 2016.
In Bangladesh's 37-run victory against Pakistan in the Super Four stage of the same tournament -- a match where all the spotlight was rightly grabbed by Mushfiqur Rahim for his heroic 99 -- Mehedi's role with the ball had escaped the eyes of many. The off-spinner dispatched Pakistan opener Fakhar Zaman in the very first over and also came on later to end a 71-run sixth-wicket stand between Imam ul Haq and Asif Ali by removing the latter and ending with a miserly economy rate of 2.8 with figures of two for 28.
Although it was Bangladesh's Big Five -- Mashrafe, Tamim, Shakib Al Hasan, Mushfiqur and Mahmudullah Riyad -- who shone throughout 2018 across all formats, Miraz remains the only other player to have risen to the occasions at crucial times for the Tigers.
Other than the five stalwarts, players like left-arm spinner Taijul Islam and off-spinner Nayeem Hasan also made an impact in Tests -- the former finished the year as Bangladesh's top wicket-taker in Tests, scalping 43 wickets in seven matches while Nayeem made his Test debut against West Indies in November memorable by becoming the youngest ever to register a five-wicket haul in the format. Another exciting prospect -- opener Shadman Islam, who was a surprise inclusion in the Tigers' Test squad against the West Indies -- marked his debut with a memorable 76 earlier this month.
While the likes of Nayeem and Shadman still have a long way to go and Taijul currently only considered for Tests, Mehedi stands tall with consistent performances across all the formats. Following his impactful performances in the Asia Cup, the off-spinner also proved himself in the longer version of the game. His 12 wickets for 117 runs in the second Test against West Indies -- the best match analysis for Bangladesh -- had earned him the player-of-the-match award in a game that Bangladesh won by an innings and 184 runs, their biggest ever win in Tests. His 41 wickets in eight Tests sees him in second position on the wicket-takers' list for Bangladesh in 2018.
His multi-format abilities were proved yet again when Mehedi was the difference maker in the series-deciding third ODI against West Indies in Sylhet. His four for 29 in 10 overs helped Bangladesh win the match handsomely and he was also rewarded for his efforts with another match award.
While he has not set the world alight in T20Is, there were enough creditable performances in the format -- not least his economical spells against Sri Lanka in the Nidahas Trophy and in the second T20I against West Indies last week.
Another player outside the Big Five who made a notable impact this year is Mustafizur Rahman as he finished as Bangladesh's highest wicket-taker in both ODIs and T20Is. Mustafizur however does not have the Mehedi's Test performances, and given that once promising youngsters Taskin Ahmed and Sabbir Rahman have fallen by the wayside, 2018 can be seen as the year that Mehedi cemented himself as the next big thing in Bangladesh cricket.