Jurgensen's rise debunks old theories
Shane Jurgensen's quiet efforts at building a hard-working environment in the Bangladesh team have been recognised, with the Bangladesh Cricket Board (BCB) extending his tenure as a head coach till 2015. The period is long enough for Jurgensen to reach two key goals: climbing higher in rankings and establishing a culture of hard work in the side.
The confidence he needs to achieve these targets should come from his understanding of the team over the last two years. During this time, his rise has proved a few theories wrong in Bangladesh cricket. First, he has risen to the position of head coach after working as a member of the support staff, a career path never considered seriously by the BCB. Second, he has broken a myth that only big-name coaches are suitable for Bangladesh.
Finally, he also disproved an odd belief that many in the BCB held (and still do) that a coach who played the game as a bowler isn't right for the team's batsmen and for the team, as a whole. Given Bangladesh's ebb and flow, however, Jurgensen's appointment is as appropriate as Dav Whatmore's in 2003.
When Whatmore joined the team after the 2003 World Cup, Bangladesh desperately needed a leader, someone who could guide them out of a five-year losing streak. Whatmore, with the experience of having coached Sri Lanka's World Cup-winning side, provided that leadership for four years.
In the current scenario, as the team grows into a winning unit, Jurgsensen has become a sounding board for the senior players, who are turning into match-winners, and a strict task-master for the younger group of players who are still coming to terms with international cricket.
The lack of off-field drama has also translated into a more stable side. Jurgensen and Mushfiqur Rahim have stressed on personal discipline, although the captain was responsible for the only dramatic incident of the season and later admitted his mistake.
After Richard Pybus' sudden exit last year, Bangladesh have completed a season of progress. They won their fourth Test in 13 years in April, and have also drawn a Test against Sri Lanka in their backyard. They pushed West Indies in Dhaka late last year. But Jurgensen knows that perceptible improvement in the next two years is mostly possible in ODIs. The ODI series win over West Indies at home and the drawn series against Sri Lanka has encouraged him.
"As long as the team improves in Test cricket, it will flow into the limited-over formats," Jurgensen told ESPNcricinfo. "We are a decent one-day side, so my goal is to see the team climb up the rankings. It would be nice to see them move up a spot or two in the limited-over formats.
"We have improved as a Test team, especially since our last game was a hard-fought win against Zimbabwe. The batting has been good, setting a few records in our first innings this season. The bowling has a new face now in Robiul Islam, but spin remains our strength." Bangladesh have been world cricket's bottom-placed scrappers for more than a decade now, but they have touched the No. 8 spot a few times in ODIs in the last two years, which explains the confidence of the side compared to even five years ago. The BCB has also appreciated the team's worth by putting a quiet man in charge, instead of remaining star-struck and seeking out the next Whatmore.
Before they became a Test team, Bangladesh needed the likes of Mohinder Amarnath, Gordon Greenidge and Eddie Barlow as much for their star power as their vast experience. It was also the reason why they appointed Whatmore, Stuart Law and Pybus later on. In between, however, Trevor Chappell expected too much from Bangladesh cricket and Mohsin Kamal's tenure was a misadventure. Jamie Siddons' hands-on approach wasn't appreciated by some players, but those who did improved themselves and their average.
Jurgensen has risen from within the ranks of the Bangladesh dressing-room - he was appointed bowling coach in October 2011 and became the interim head coach exactly a year later. That arrangement has now developed into a more central role and ensures that the person in charge has the experience of working with the team, and is familiar with the players' skills, needs and culture.
"My style as a person is not to be loud, because it is about the players. I may not be a highly regarded coach, but I am decisive, and I want to develop international cricketers. I like to get personal with the players, try to have a relationship," Jurgensen said. "My other goal is to create an environment of hard work, but keep it relaxed and enjoyable. This is the youngest team in the world, so I don't need to put them under pressure, because there is enough pressure on them."
One of his goals is to see the seam bowlers taking the lead, but his immediate goal is the home series against New Zealand in October. He would want to remind the team of the successful 2010 ODI series, where they beat New Zealand 4-0. "I want to have fully fit fast bowlers, and we will try to give the batsmen a feel of longer-version cricket in the next three months.
"If the seamers take more responsibility, we can take more wickets with the new ball. It makes it easier for our spinners. I want a complete bowling team, with the batsmen backing up with the runs," he said.
Jurgensen believes Bangladesh need to make an impact in the World Twenty20 to earn their stripes in international cricket.
"People respect Bangladesh, but with it comes expectations. We have to keep working hard, and improve ourselves in the next six to twelve months. To have people hold us in high regard, we have to do well in the next big event - the World Twenty20."
Jurgensen is currently the youngest Test coach in the game and one of three Test coaches under the age of 40, alongside New Zealand's Mike Hesson and South Africa's Russell Domingo. At this stage of his career, Jurgensen feels his coaching assignment is a privilege, given the company he is keeping among international coaches.
Among Bangladesh coaches, he has a lot in common with Stuart Law, who was the head coach between July 2011 and June 2012. Like Law, Jurgensen will also be expected to produce results because a coach's progress is no longer measured in how many players he can develop into international stars. He will also have to ensure results remain positive, and slip-ups, like the one in Zimbabwe, do not turn into a slide in form.
A two-year contract is a good place to start and his challenge will be to hold the team together and find more match-winners. His two years of experience with the team, unlike his predecessors, should work in his favour. But, like all previous Bangladesh coaches, he will face major challenges and see people treat him differently as soon as he becomes the permanent man.
Mohammad Isam is ESPNcricinfo's Bangladesh correspondent. He tweets here