The year Liton came through on the long-overdue promise
Ever since Liton Das made his international debut in a Test against India back in 2015, the common sentiment, especially from within the team management, has been that he is a player with a ton of potential to flourish.
Years passed as Liton turned into a more seasoned player with his bag of experience enriching but the promise of his flourishment was still just that – a promise.
Sure, there were instances of brilliance when those mesmerising strokeplays combined and culminated into milestones and landmarks for the aesthetically pleasing wicketkeeper-batter, but those only deepened the frustration of seeing Liton still unable to leave a more substantial mark in Bangladesh's cricketing landscape and even in the global stage as consistency was hard to come by for the 28-year-old.
But the year 2022 proved to be Liton's year. All the expectation surrounding the exquisite right-hander, which often put him under pressure and at the receiving end of the sticks from the critics and the media, started to finally materialise with Liton slowly living up to his billing and gradually transforming himself into a prospective leader of Bangladesh cricket for years to come.
And even though Liton left it a bit late to come through on the promise made, his emergence as one of the consistent performers for Bangladesh could not have come at a better time – with stalwarts Mushfiqur Rahim and Tamim Iqbal already retiring from T20Is this year after Mahmudullah Riyad hung up his whites in 2021.
This year, Liton, in 50 innings in 42 matches across formats, scored 1921 runs at an average of 40.02. He remains only behind the year's leading run-scorer in all formats, Pakistan's Babar Azam, who scored 2584 runs in 51 innings.
Also, three of Liton's eight centuries in international cricket came this year.
Aside from racking up the numbers to aid his stats, Liton also impacted when it mattered the most. He was one of the star performers for Bangladesh during their most historic Test win, against New Zealand at Mount Maunganui, in January this year. Liton's 86-run knock on way to a 158-run stand with Mominul Haque gave the Tigers the stability they usually look for in the middle order.
Following that historic eight-wicket victory, Bangladesh were thrashed by an innings and 117 runs in the second Test in Christchurch. But Liton still managed to stand out in that game, scoring his second Test ton in the second innings to reduce the degree of humiliation for the Tigers.
Alongside being the top run-getter in both ODI and T20I series during Afghanistan's tour of Bangladesh in February-March, Liton was picked as the most impactful player by cricinfo with 115.58 impact points.
When the chips were down and the Tigers were pushed to a corner, losing five for 24 inside just seven overs of a Test against Sri Lanka at home in May, Liton once again came through for Bangladesh as he stitched a record 272-run sixth-wicket stand with Mushfiqur Rahim.
He remained instrumental in Bangladesh's historic ODI series win over South Africa -- first time that the Tigers won a series away from home against the Proteas -- in March and also in the series sweep of the Windies in the Caribbean in July.
It was Liton's brisk 27-ball 60 against India that almost paved way for Bangladesh's maiden semifinal berth in the T20 World Cup in a campaign where the Tigers had their best-ever showing in the marquee event with two wins in the main phase for the first time ever, that too after overcoming some turmoil and sudden changes in the leadership just prior to the tournament in Australia.
With Tamim sidelined due to injury, Liton showed that he has what it takes to take on the baton when he led the Tigers to their second ODI series win over India at home in December.
It is only a testament to Liton's consistency and the faith shown in him by the team management that the right-handed wicketkeeper-batter saw the year close with something that any modern cricketer craves -- an Indian Premier League contract. With Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) swooping in for the 28-year-old's services, the year 2023 is set to see Bangladesh's highest representation in the money-spinning franchise league -- Shakib went back to KKR to join Liton and Mustafizur Rahman was already retained by the Delhi Capitals.
After all these years, with Liton finally finding his feet in the international arena in the true sense, the hopes will be that he can only keep on maintaining the upward trajectory the coming year, especially in order to help the Tigers explore the uncharted in their most favoured format when the ODI World Cup returns in October-November in India.