Bangladesh coach, Chandika Hathurusingha, had tweeted “Rock n hard place!! Give in to emotion of a nation or go with b combo…! #sleeplessnights” – at around 4am on 26th, a day before the first Test against Australia.
The tweet created a lot of buzz in Bangladesh cricket fraternity as it was evident that the coach was going through a bucket load of pressure from critics, media and fans.
Rock n hard place!! Give in to emotion of a nation or go with b combo…! #sleeplessnights
— Chandika Hathu (@CHathurusinghe) August 25, 2017
When the Bangladesh squad for the first Test against Australia was announced, a prominent name was missing – that of Mominul Haque. The youngster had quite a decent record in Test matches and was thought to be an integral part of the squad in the longest format. But his recent form had waned and Hathurusingha and the selection panel wanted to put emphasis on consistency and this prompted them to take a huge step that raised quite an uproar in Bangladesh and social media.
“Bangladesh is not about Mominul alone. It’s about 11 players trying to win a game. We are not marginalising any player. I said before that everyone has been treated fairly. But you are concerned about one or two players. We have given everybody a fair chance, and it will happen in future”, Hathurusingha had gone to depths to explain why Mominul was kept out.
Hours later though, an injury to Mossadek Hossain meant that Mominul was recalled although he did not figure in the plans for the first Test. The message from Hathurusingha was crystal clear. Howmuchever talented you are, performances determine your place in the side. He did not want anyone, be it the most talented or the most senior player, to take his place for granted.
The move may not have paid immediate returns. Imrul Kayes struggled at 3 but he had a pretty good run in recent times and dropping him for Mominul would have sent wrong signals.
“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 it 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 in which they get challenged”, Hathurusingha had told after Bangladesh’s win against England last year.
He was right. He had groomed them so well that when they got into a position from which victory was possible against the Aussies, they grabbed it both hands. Not for once did Bangladesh stop believing. At stumps on day 3, it looked like Australia’s game to lose. They had two of their best batsmen, David Warner and Steven Smith, at the crease and needed just 156 to win with 8 wickets remaining.
Yet the hosts never lost hope. Shakib-al-Hasan, staking his claims as World’s best all-rounder, had Warner and Smith in close succession before Taijul got rid of Handscomb and Agar. Shakib had ripped apart Matthew Wade as well by then. Aussies headed into the lunch break needing 66 to win with just three wickets remaining and the onus resting on Glenn Maxwell.
Whatever Hathurusingha injected into the Bangladesh boys at the lunch break, paid off. The first ball after lunch, Shakib had Maxwell’s stumps (read Australia’s hopes) in complete disarray. But this was Australia. They fight till their last breath. Pat Cummins and Nathan Lyon took Australia closer.
The Bangladesh of 2006, when Australia last toured them, would have folded. Not this unit. They had been nurtured and built up to survive the pressure by none other than Chandika Hathurusingha.
They romped home by 20 runs to create history at Dhaka. Seventeen years ago, when they made their Test debut, they wouldn’t have dreamt of beating Australia. Today, they had rewritten the script and Hathurusingha’s role in this victory is not one to be written off.
When the pressure mounted on him with local media and fans criticising vehemently about national team selections, Hathurusingha stood his ground. He knew what he was doing. He had his own way of doing things too which irritated quite a few people in the country. The Sri Lankan yearned for complete freedom in his work and went about his job with meticulous attention and passion.
In modern day cricket where coaches are selected on the basis of their reputation as a cricketer alone, Hathurusingha is different. He had a good First-class career alright but was by no means well known.
He has the England and Wales Cricket Board’s (ECB) Level 3 coaching status, among the most advanced coaching qualifications in the World alongside a Level II and Level III qualification with CA (Cricket Australia).
Under him, several young Bangladeshi players like Soumya Sarkar, Shuvagata Hom, Mustafizur Rehman, Taskin Ahmed, Mehidy Hasan, Litton Das and Sabbir Rahman have grown. Bangladesh, as a team, has grown quite well under him. Critics had no right to question his methods which had given Bangladesh most of their Test victories.
It wasn’t that Bangladesh did not ooze potential before. They did. But they needed a strong coach, a father figure, to guide and nurture them. Someone who could pull out the best in them. Hathurusingha provided just that.
Bangladeshi media had always been against Hathurusingha. They scorned him when he backed Soumya Sarkar. They chided him when Rubel Hossain was left out and he reacted equally aggressive. Something similar happened when Mominul was dropped too. But during all of these instances, Hathurusingha was super confident about his methods and decisions. And they have paid off, every single time. As his statements in an interview go, “The more people criticise you, it means you are challenging what is happening. Results on top of that give you a positive sign”.
With him as coach Bangladesh have won six of their ten Test victories. They even reached the semi-finals of the Champions Trophy this year in England. In 18 Tests, they have won six and drawn four. Those are dream stats for Bangladesh.
What the Sri Lankan brought in was a professional approach in Bangladesh cricket which was completely muddled at the time.
“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”, he had revealed in an interview.
They have rightfully kept him on till 2019 with Bangladesh cricket riding the crest at the moment as proved by the sensational win over Australia in Dhaka. This victory is as much Bangladesh’s as Hathurusingha’s and would at least guarantee the coach some peaceful sleep after a week of chaos.