How Hathuru changed the Bangladeshi Fortunes

Mohammad Isam, in, 3 August 2015, where the title is  “Biggest thing for me is the change in players’ mindset – Hathurusingha”

With ODI series wins against Pakistan, India and South Africa in 2015, Bangladesh coach Chandika Hathurusingha looks at the changes that are helping the side move forward. Following his appointment in May 2014, Bangladesh coach Chandika Hathurusingha had a crucial role overseeing the side’s World Cup campaign and three successful home series thereafter. On the final day of the second Test against South Africa, which was abandoned due to a wet outfield, Hathurusingha spoke to ESPNcricinfo about the side’s results in the last seven months, the change in the team’s mindset, how he spotted Soumya Sarkar and his future plans for the team.

The last few months have been great for you. How do you feel having coached this side since last year? It gives me great satisfaction at the way the boys responded to the challenges that we had before with us, and then changed the culture we had before, believing in themselves mainly. I was very satisfied as coach.

Hathuru and bangla

The ODI series win against South Africa is one of the biggest in Bangladesh’s history. From being 0-1 down, how did you turn around to win the series 2-1? It is not me, it is the boys who did the turnaround. We had two losses [in the T20 series] and then we lost the first ODI. We had a good chat inside the dressing-room and we always talked about how we can complement each other’s roles, which we didn’t do before. Everyone has a role in the team, which makes us very competitive, so that’s what we spoke about. To bring those [roles] to attention. The boys responded really well to that challenge. It makes things easier if you stick to individual strengths.

What was your message to Mashrafe and the team? Did you tell them to do something differently? One thing we talked about is, they all have roles and they have to stick to their roles. They are accountable. I am accountable for certain things as a coach and my staff too is accountable for their roles in the team.

At the same time, the players have responsibilities. They don’t just have to do certain things. According to their strength and position, they have to do their role. In a team out of eleven players, if seven players do their bit I think you are in a winning position every game regardless of opposition. If you see some of the matches that we won, they were not close wins. It was either eight-wicket win or a 70-run win. That’s because we do our bit. When we don’t do that, it is the other way around.

These are the consequences that sometimes you have to face when you play high-tempo, high-intensity cricket. We are not afraid to do that and the boys are now believing in themselves that they can do it. The biggest thing for me in the turnaround is the mindset change in this group of players, that they now know they can come back from any situation.

I will give you an example. In the first Test against South Africa [on the first day], we were disappointed at lunch. I was not happy, so we had a good chat and I said this is how we go about doing things and that’s the result. The good thing is, this team has the capacity to do it. Will we come back every session like that? No. It is not going to happen in cricket because the opposition also react to it. But again, the biggest change is our mindset.

Which result this year have you enjoyed the most? For me as a coach, and my coaching staff will say the same thing, coaching a team like this gives you most satisfaction. There’s a lot of potential and they have never achieved this potential before. All of these victories, whatever comes our way, we cherish very well. That’s what I tell the players also. Enjoy your success. I told them after this series as well in the meeting also: go and enjoy your success. Go and celebrate with your loved ones, the people who helped you in your careers.

Probably the England one, beating them and qualifying for the quarter-final. It was a big challenge for us. Of course beating India is always a good sign for us, a good challenge. I am not saying Pakistan is a lesser team but we really beat them fair and square. Coming back against South Africa was a big turning point going forward.

After the World Cup, you said the players were believing in you. How do you get them to believe in you? The belief, in any walk of life, comes from how you behave over a period of time. If you are very consistent in the way you do things in life, I think people start to trust you. They know what they get from you. If you are inconsistent depending on the situation of the game and what environment is thrown at you, if you are not being consistent, people don’t believe you. This is my principle in life. I think this is one reason that they started to trust me.

It is not fair for people to tell us to prove ourselves by winning overseas. Tell me which team is consistently winning overseas?

There is a new wave of players in the Bangladesh team. Tell us what you saw in someone like Soumya Sarkar before his international debut. He has been a match-winner for us, isn’t it? He is world-class. I saw him once scoring just 13 runs one day, here at this ground. I just came here for a practice game. They were playing an organised game and I was just walking around the ground when I saw him batting. There were two shots that gave me some idea.

Bangladesh cricketer Soumya Sarkar plays a shot during the third ODI (One Day International) cricket match between Bangladesh and India at the Sher-e-Bangla National Cricket Stadium in Dhaka on June 24, 2015. AFP PHOTO/Munir uz ZAMAN        (Photo credit should read MUNIR UZ ZAMAN/AFP/Getty Images)

Bangladesh cricketer Soumya Sarkar plays a shot during the third ODI (One Day International) cricket match between Bangladesh and India at the Sher-e-Bangla National Cricket Stadium in Dhaka on June 24, 2015. AFP PHOTO/Munir uz ZAMAN (Photo credit should read MUNIR UZ ZAMAN/AFP/Getty Images)

I think he just played one dab between point and gully. It was just a tap against a fast bowler, I think it was Rubel, for four runs. In the same match, he took a catch at slip. I mean, that’s enough for me to understand how high his ceiling is compared to some of the other players I have seen. From that day onwards I have been telling selectors. I actually asked them to pick him for the whole Zimbabwe series [in December 2014]. He only played the last game.

One of my strengths is to spot talent. I see a role for him. I will probably go and get it. I know he can make a difference in the team.

It was a tough role that you assigned him. No batsman had ever mastered batting at No 3 in ODIs for Bangladesh. During the World Cup, our strategy was to have three openers in our top-three batting slots because of the two new balls and pitches. I think it worked for us. If you remember the New Zealand game, it was one of the toughest spells of bowling in the World Cup. I thought whoever scored against New Zealand at the World Cup was at their best. We got 260-something; after seven overs we were eight runs for one or two wickets. There the way Soumya attacked and how Mahmudullah batted, it was exceptional.

In the case of Mustafizur Rahman, Mashrafe and you backed him heavily. Do you support natural talent more than say, a player who has scored a lot of runs in domestic cricket? It is not a conscious decision but when I see that someone can add value to the team, then I am not looking at how many matches he has played. I only see the future. Before the Pakistan series, we asked for all the left-arm pace bowlers from across the country to bowl to us because they had three left-arm bowlers in their attack.

Mustafizur came like that. We played one match-scenario game during preparation for the Pakistan series. He bowled two match-scenarios and the batters couldn’t win, he won. There we decided this kid can play and that we need him.

The new brigade hasn’t seen many losses unlike the previous generations of Bangladesh players. Do you think this makes a difference? I think to some extent. I was talking to the boys during the West Indies series and now, I can see the change in mentality. When you put a challenge like asking them to do things, whether we will do this or that after winning the toss, they used to be little bit reluctant. Like, they would say this is the way we used to do and tell me about what happened in the past. Now it has changed. Whenever we tell them to do something, they say yep, we are doing it. There are certain things that even those who have been playing for a long time, are believing in now.

As a coach you have been quite successful with Bangladesh. Where does this take you as a coach? What have you learned from the Bangladesh job? Every coaching opportunity is an experience. It gives you different challenges. I started coaching in UAE, Sri Lanka and then I went to Canada during the 2011 World Cup. I was a consultant. Then I went to New South Wales and Australia A. As a coach you have to bring different attributes to the job. It gives you all-round satisfaction when things are working for you. In most of the places I worked, I suppose I can go back because I made a mark. That gives you a lot of confidence in what you are doing. I love this job because these players have so much talent and they respond to the challenges that we are putting up. And again, I learn a lot from the staff that I have. Lot of experience from different parts: Sri Lanka, Zimbabwe, England. I make sure that I direct their knowledge in the right way. It is another experience. Knowing the sub-continent culture is also another challenge than what I was used to in New South Wales.

There is a lot of talk about Test cricket struggling worldwide. Do you see it struggling in Bangladesh? I don’t see it struggling particularly in Bangladesh. If you see in the last 2-3 years, Test matches are finishing in four days. So it means exciting cricket. More results are coming up. I don’t think Test cricket is struggling. People’s lifestyles are changing, so that’s the only thing.

People are already talking about how Bangladesh’s next challenge is to win abroad. What is your next challenge as a team and as individuals? It is not fair for people to tell us to prove ourselves by winning overseas. Tell me which team is consistently winning overseas?

None. Maybe South Africa. So it is not fair to say OK, now Bangladesh you have to prove. It is not proving anything. We have to prove to ourselves we are good enough to compete against any team given any conditions. That’s our challenge, and for the players to enhance their skills in different conditions. It will take time because we don’t get exposed to certain conditions.

Cricket is all about getting better in your environment. Even Australia struggled in certain conditions in England. You can’t look down or undermine their ability as players. Our challenge is to be prepared for the challenges we have next. If we are going to England for the Champions Trophy, we are planning to prepare in a certain way. Ideally we can go and play some cricket there [before the tournament]. We are thinking of that. If that happens, it gives us a better opportunity to be successful.

It happened before the World Cup when we created something. So we will do something like that again.

Mohammad Isam is ESPNcricinfo’s Bangladesh correspondent. @isam84

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