Hathurasinghe on Bangladesh Cricket in Q and A with Mohamed Isam


 Mohamed Isam, courtesy of ESPNcricinfo, 25 April 2017, where the title is Whatever Bangladesh achieves in Champions Trophy will be big’
In your stint as Bangladesh coach since 2014, where would you rate Bangladesh’s recent tour to Sri Lanka?
I think it is up there as one of the best tours we’ve had in my time, in terms of results and performance. It is on par with the 2015 World Cup, which was a bit of a challenge to play in those conditions. Winning a Test in Sri Lanka is really tough. I am a bit disappointed that we didn’t win the ODI series. I was expecting to win the ODI series in Sri Lanka. In terms of attitude, it is also up there, after the first game
I.“Always as coaches, we want them to take their own decisions in the middle” © AFP

What is Bangladesh’s target going to be in the Champions Trophy? You face England, Australia and New Zealand in the group stages.
It is going to be a bit unknown for us. We haven’t played in England for a long time. It is going to be a big challenge for us. A lot of it will depend on the English summer. If it is going to be a dry summer, it will help us. Even if it is not, we are going early to prepare so we have equal chance with others. Having said that, we are playing against three of the best sides in the world. I can’t predict what we are going to do, but whatever we achieve in any of those games is going to be a big achievement.You and many of the players talked about a team meeting after the Galle Test. Do you think bouncing back to win in Colombo was because the team was able to put emotion aside and play?
I won’t say that there was a lack of emotion, but certainly after the meeting, they were all prepared not to put themselves down in the middle. It was what they decided.After the first Test, I was a bit frustrated with the closeness. We performed well but, from a winning position, we gave it away in New Zealand, especially in the Test matches. It continued to happen in Galle, so I was a bit disappointed. I asked the boys the questions and they came up with something. Always as coaches, we want them to take their own decisions in the middle. As long as they are responsible for their actions, that’s all we can ask for. That’s what they decided to do.

Bangladesh started well in the ODI series but couldn’t close it out. What do you put that down to? Was it just one bad day?
We played a very good game in the first game. They got 300-plus in the second, but unfortunately the weather intervened. We were confident that the pitch was very good. If the game was reduced, it would have played into our hands as well.

We had an advantage winning the toss in the third game. I am very disappointed with the way we bowled. It was not a bad day. We didn’t actually perform to our ability with the bat and the ball. We didn’t bowl well in the first 15 overs when there was something in it for the bowlers. They got off to a start. And when we were batting well in not-so-helpful conditions, we lost three wickets. So it can be put down to poor performance.

“I think I have strong views of how I want to do my job and bring the best out of the Bangladesh team. I want to push the players to find their best form or potential in international cricket” © Raton Gomes/BCB

As the head coach, how do you see Mashrafe Mortaza’s retirement from T20Is? Were you surprised, or had he already informed you of his intentions?
I am not surprised by his retirement. All good players know when to quit. Mashrafe has a lot of respect from the playing and coaching group. He earns it. Players like him know when to quit. I think that’s what happened. Mashrafe thought that there was not much challenge in front of him in T20s. He thought that this is the best series in which to announce his retirement.

I never expected him to make the announcement at the toss. But I think he timed it well, because good players know when to go – either when their performance is not good or they don’t have anything to look forward to.

What is the role of senior players like Shakib Al Hasan, Tamim Iqbal, Mushfiqur Rahim and Mahmudullah? Do you feel they should have greater roles in all three formats, or do you want to see them become format specialists?
I think they are all good players. They can play for more than ten years in international cricket. They all warrant their places in their own right. Of course, form goes up and down, but that can happen to any player. I can’t say that they should become specialists but, as I said before about Mashrafe, it is up to them to understand what they want to achieve in their career and how they want to contribute to the team. I think they still have the drive to play all three formats.

How would you rate the progress of the youngsters Soumya Sarkar, Sabbir Rahman and Mustafizur Rahman over the last three tours?
All three players have contributed significantly in our overall performance in the last three tours. I think they are the future. They are holding their own in the international level, competing with other players.

Are you planning use the T20Is to conduct your experiments, like bringing in rookie fast bowler Mohammad Saifuddin to play Sri Lanka recently? Do you want players to prove themselves in this format before being selected for Tests and ODIs? Is it like a replacement for the Bangladesh A team?
I wouldn’t say that it is an experimental ground. Because we don’t have a World T20 in the near future, it is where we can look at our combination. Our record says we are not a very good T20 team.

We discussed one thing before the second T20I against Sri Lanka. We had a good team meeting again. The boys took the responsibility when we prompted questions about how we wanted to get better in T20s. They came up with how they wanted to play. We are going into unknown areas. We can’t do what we have been doing, because we are not being good enough to win T20s.

It is not experimenting, but a way to find out our best combination in T20s. In terms of that, we will try to find the best way to play. Probably we will play a more expansive game depending on the conditions and the team we are playing against.

“Mashrafe has a lot of respect from the playing and coaching group. He earns it. Players like him know when to quit” © Getty Images

How do you respond to criticism about being too powerful and authoritative? Does it bother you, or do you believe that a coach requires more power under his jurisdiction to operate better?
(Laughs) I don’t feel powerful or authoritative. I don’t know how people are saying… I find Bangladesh people very warm and friendly. I sometimes may sound authoritative, but it comes with my job. I have to make decisions and I have to be responsible for my decisions. But if you find me outside cricket, I am just another person.

I think I have strong views of how I want to do my job and bring the best out of the Bangladesh team. I want to give something back to the passionate Bangladesh fans and push the players to find their best form or potential in international cricket. Going about doing this kind of thing, if I come across as authoritative, I am not half-bothered because I am doing my job.

I don’t see myself as powerful. I am just the head coach, but with that comes certain power and I use it for the best of the team.

Do you feel that the new selection system is working in the team’s favour now?
The selectors had to make some tough decisions in the last few tours, especially after the injuries in New Zealand and India, and then in Sri Lanka after losing four Tests in a row. We had to make four changes because of injuries and lack of form. So making these four changes and winning a Test is a credit to the selection, isn’t it? I don’t think, in history, there are many instances of a team making four changes after losing a Test to then win matches.

At the same time, we have been consistent in giving opportunities to players like Saifuddin and bringing them up. We have been specific with what we want. The selection committee looked ahead to the future and has not been emotional and afraid to make judgement calls on form and what is needed for a particular game.

What would be your target in the preparation camp in Sussex and in the tri-series featuring Bangladesh, Ireland and New Zealand?
The Sussex camp is all about getting used to the conditions. I mentioned earlier, we really want to get hold of our game, how we approach. We want to go and see how we want to play in the English summer. We know that it can be different every year. We want to find our best game plan, one that is suited to our ability and skill set.

In Ireland, we want to win the series. We want to improve our ODI position in the rankings and, of course, it is a big challenge. It is not going to be easy. And we want to be prepared for the Champions Trophy in the best possible way.

Mohammad Isam is ESPNcricinfo’s Bangladesh correspondent. @isam84

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