Bangladesh head coach Chandika Hathurusingha told his players that this opportunity will never come again
A day after Bangladesh’s historic Test win over England, bright sunshine engulfed the Radisson Blu Hotel in the capital where the Tigers are currently staying. And a large part of this unprecedented success is largely down to Hathurusingha, who helped shape up the new-look Bangladesh team after his appointment back in 2014 when the Tigers were going through a tough time and were extremely low on confidence.
He was busy receiving congratulatory messages and phone calls, including one from Sri Lankan cricketer Rangana Herath currently in Zimbabwe, during an interview with Dhaka Tribune where he talked about several topics, mainly his vision when he took up the job.
Here are the excerpts:
What does the morning after a big Test win look for you?
The reaction is more than what I expected, and not just in Bangladesh but from the world over. It is beginning to sink in what a big achievement it is.
How Bangladeshi do you feel right now?
I am very proud of the players, [Bangladesh Cricket] board and fans. I think they waited a long time for this, after the Test status. I can see what it means for them as well. I am proud to be part of it.
Overwhelming reaction is only because Bangladesh beat England?
It is one thing, but also the way the whole series played out. It wasn’t surprising that we were close in every game. The expectations of the fans and players were high. They expected to win, rather than compete and take out a draw. People expected us to do well.
How difficult was it to translate the ODI success into the Test arena, particularly playing one after 14 months?
The challenge wasn’t much ability-wise. It was about mentally preparing for Test cricket. We had to believe ourselves that we can compete and trust the game plan. The biggest challenge was to be not afraid of losing, and thinking about winning. We all believed that if we are not afraid to lose, we can achieve bigger things. All credit to the boys again, to believe in that as a group. If you notice lately, the team is not afraid to try things hoping for a better result.
What are the major changes between your first Test series – West Indies 2014 – and this Test series?
One day I was watching those matches, and I was surprised how much we have changed in every area of the game. Unfortunately I saw Shafiul [Islam] running away from the ball. This just sums up their change in attitude, and how they are no longer afraid of anything. Their demeanour is changed. Now they prepare and play to win. People have short memories so if you watch those videos you can see how far they have come.
How did the belief come about?
Belief comes with results. It is harder at the start but one success brings another success. If someone’s there to challenge the way you are doing things, you will always get better. If you’re happy to stay where you were, you will never achieve things. Your success can’t only be quantified by winning, there’s a lot of other things.
When you took over as Bangladesh coach, was making the Test team better your biggest challenge?
I didn’t look at it that way. My biggest challenge was to improve the team. Before I came, I thought this is the opportunity to find the true potential of this team. I knew they are a team maturing with core group of players coming into their prime. The coaching staff and some of the board members also helped me, and gave me freedom to push the boundaries.
How much hands-on coaching do you have to do in the Bangladesh team?
This group is still learning. They have a long way to go. Otherwise we would have had more success. I hope that after this win, they will have better memories if they get into such winning positions in the future, to do on their own. They can find the ways on their own in the middle. There’s a lot of idea-sharing and making sure we create the environment that they get challenged.
When was the first time the idea of playing in these wickets came up in your planning? Who came up with the plan?
It was everyone’s idea. The players have to believe and come up with the plans as well. They have to change their ways of training and mental ability to handle situations, because the players are under pressure, not us. They also came up with those plans, not only us. Once the players start to believe, and embrace the idea, the job is much easier because they will do it.
What goes on during a batting collapse?
I think it has a lot to do with what goes on between their ears. We don’t see it coming. In this series it was a challenge for everyone because of the pitch. Once that come into your head, you are in a difficult place. All the training and experience you have, go out of the window once you press that panic button.
The other challenge is that when you haven’t won many Tests and you are nearing one, so many ideas come into you. So many people talk to you. We are not bullet-proof. It takes a long time, many occasions you face such a situation and then come out on top. I normally call it – “your computer is full of ideas” so you find your own solution rather than listening to someone else.
You think that game in Bangalore can now be forgotten?
If you try to forget, you lose the sight of what you’re trying to achieve. You must not forget that game. The players have to learn from it. If they forget, they are losing the sight of what they have in front of them.
What goes through your mind when you see Shakib al Hasan or Mahmudullah playing the kind of shots they played to get out in the first and second Test?
They are human beings. They can make mistakes. The quicker they learn the better for their careers.
How much do they learn actually, especially the senior players?
What is the important thing in that situation? If you define that, you can find your own answer.
How do you deal with these things when you see a senior player doing such a thing?
The best way to deal with this is for them to realise it. I am always open for them to come and ask me. That’s where the learning start. Not if I start chasing after them and shouting at them.
What makes you more proud – the result or improvement?
The improvement. How they take ownership of their success and failure makes me more proud.
Are you getting what you want from the players?
I got lot of support from the players who are open for ideas. I got lot of support from the board members, which is all you want. You don’t need everyone to like you. In that way, you’re pleasing people. The more people criticise you, it means you are challenging what is happening. Results on top of that, give you a positive sign.
Do you realise that you have challenged many things in Bangladesh cricket?
I know. My career has been like that; I have never been afraid of standing up for what is right. Whether I lose or not. It is all about not being afraid of trying things.
When you see young guys like Taskin Ahmed, Mustafizur Rahman and Mehedi Hasan Miraz who have started so well in their international careers, what message do you have for them?
It is a bigger challenge in the sub-continent because this game is more than just a game. It is a huge burden of expectation on a young man to suddenly come from nowhere to stardom. The best thing you need is good people around you to keep your feet around you, and to support you and give you proper advice.
I had a chat with Mehedi after the game. I told him the first thing you do is celebrate the success with the teammates. He is a good kid so he realised the message I was giving him. I hope they will handle it well.
Are you going through the best phase of your coaching career?
I don’t know. I always expect to do better in the future. I am enjoying the job.
Big challenge next year is most of the Tests will be played abroad. How do you look forward to it?
I don’t see it that way. Every day is a challenge so it is regardless we are playing abroad. We need to come up with a plan that we can believe in. I am happy with executing the plan, regardless of the result.
Do you think that Mashrafe bin Mortaza has a strong case to return to Tests?
I am not here to discuss selection. If I give a wicket like this, I don’t expect my fast bowlers to bowl 15 overs. So you can wait and see how we go. We prepare players beforehand, and identify them for certain jobs. Another bigger change is that we have got the succession planning in place.
What do you make of the Test specialists? Do you think there can be a way to keep them in touch with international cricket?
Yes. A team tours. If I have failed to highlight that, I don’t think I am doing my job.
Everyone is talking about the tea-time talk and how Tamim Iqbal was taking charge of the field after the tea break…..
The best thing I can tell you is that the big players stood up. I was disappointed and upset that we are nearly wasting another opportunity which we had in our hands. I had a chat with the boys. I challenged them to stand up. I told them that this opportunity will never come again. I am glad that few people stood up and decided to do something different. Tamim, Shakib and Mehedi stood up.
What does Hathurusingha do when he gets pissed off?
I think I have kicked only two things in the two and a half years [laughs]. I am just joking. I can’t get angry as a head coach. I have to be the filter between the players and the ideas. At the same time we have to get the message across.