Bangladesh news April 29, 2014

A familiar tale of misunderstandings and flawed expectations

A build-up of misunderstandings, cultural differences and controversies pushed Shane Jurgensen to resign as Bangladesh head coach, but these same issues have also affected previous incumbents

When Shane Jurgensen, the Bangladesh head coach, sent in his resignation through email on Monday, it was met with surprise from the Bangladesh Cricket Board. However, given that some directors had openly discussed a possible replacement, it was only a matter of time before things came to a head.

The resignation also threw light on the BCB's expectations that a foreign coach should deliver instant results despite limitations within the team and the management. There was also a misplaced notion that the Australian head coach would treat the players like they are treated in Dhaka's club cricket circles.

This build-up of misunderstandings, controversies and cultural differences resulted in Jurgensen's decision, which should not seem hasty despite his first expression of frustration two days before his resignation.

A fundamental difference in the understanding and handling of cricketers in Bangladesh was responsible for creating a wide gap between Jurgensen and the BCB. While Jurgensen has often stressed on treating the players as grown-ups and international-level sportsmen, the general perception among cricket officials has been to treat them in a juvenile manner, like students.

This approach was needed six or seven years ago but players now are more prepared when they enter the senior team, having played for age-group teams, the academy and Bangladesh A. An average Bangladeshi cricketer now plays a lot more at home and abroad, which has resulted in more worldly-wise individuals than the previous generation.

Thus, when Bangladesh kept losing earlier this year, the BCB's reaction was to use the whiplash, even as Jurgensen continued to treat his players as he had done before. Some senior players have said that Jurgensen did deliver the odd broadside, but there was not one occasion when the coach didn't back his players, many of whom were out of runs, wickets, fitness and ideas. When the country, particularly those who run cricket, were blaming the players for the defeats, he stood by them publicly.

The string of controversies didn't help Jurgensen either; many emerged far too swiftly and there was little he could do to manage them. It started with the leaked ICC position paper which revealed the question mark over Bangladesh's Test status. The players were caught off guard and were duly crushed by Sri Lanka in the first Test days later.

Mominul Haque, Shamsur Rahman and Imrul Kayes ensured a recovery in the drawn Chittagong Test but the result could not be celebrated. Tamim Iqbal quit as vice-captain a day after Mashrafe Mortaza was named the T20 captain in Mushfiqur Rahim's absence. Tamim was suffering from a neck strain at the time and (as a source close to the batsman has revealed) in a haste to avoid more negative impressions, he played with the injury. That pushed him into a longer lay-off and ruled him out of the Asia Cup.

Close defeats in the T20 series, a loss in the first ODI after having Sri Lanka at 67 for 8 and then a ban on Shakib Al Hasan for obscene gestures on live TV further eroded the side's confidence, which had swelled only a few months ago after their 3-0 whitewash of New Zealand.

As batsmen and spinners struggled with form, the team was jolted by a defeat to Afghanistan in the Asia Cup, closely followed by a failure to defend 326 against Pakistan.

Jurgensen never flinched while keeping the spirits up, at least in public. His job was to keep the players on an even keel in difficult positions but his strength as an individual was tested, particularly with so many key players out of form.

After bouncing back to all but qualify for the second phase of the World T20, Jurgensen sat stunned in the Zahur Ahmed Chowdhury Stadium's dressing-room as Bangladesh were brought down by Hong Kong.

That result and the subsequent losses in the Super 10s of the World T20 irked the board and matters began escalating when BCB president Nazmul Hassan suggested that there were changes in the offing. It's the kind of comment an incumbent does not find endearing and the situation worsened when board directors began repeating it.

Jurgensen is now the second successive head coach to quit the job after being left aggrieved by the BCB's approach. Jamie Siddons quit after completing his tenure in April 2011. Stuart Law was appointed with much hope but he, too, resigned nine months later due to family reasons. Replacing Law was difficult but even after the board appointed Richard Pybus, there were differences within the BCB internally and between the board and the coach.

Incidentally, it was Bangladesh's early exit from the 2012 World T20 that pushed Pybus to quit, but the build-up was always there, as he had had disagreements with directors over long-term planning.

Including Jurgensen, Bangladesh has employed 12 foreign coaches, of which nine have been hired in the nation's Test-era. Mudassar Nazar was the first in the 1980s, after which Mohinder Amarnath was put in charge ahead of the 1994 ICC Trophy and Gordon Greenidge took over for the 1997 ICC Trophy. The former West Indies opener led the team to the 1999 World Cup, but he had running battles with then BCB chief, Saber Chowdhury.

If the BCB can convince Jurgensen to stay until the 2015 World Cup, the board will need to be more patient but the coach will also have to take charge in a more conspicuous way

The likes of Eddie Barlow, Trevor Chappell, Mohsin Kamal, Dav Whatmore and Shaun Williams have been Bangladesh coaches between 2000 and 2007 after which Siddons, Law, Pybus and Jurgensen were given the job.

Other subcontinent teams, too, have been reliant on foreign coaches for a number of reasons. Sri Lanka, for instance, brings in foreign coaches because of a perception that local coaches do not possess the required skills or experience yet. Developing good coaches, who understand the challenges of modern-day international cricket, has taken them a long time.

Foreign coaches are also expected to be more independent because they are detached from the administrative system. They are perceived to be less susceptible to political pressure, they don't have existing relationships with players or administrators that could compromise their work, and they bring ideas from outside.

In India, the biggest factor behind having a foreign coach since 2000 has been to reduce alleged favouritism in the team. Indian players have always talked about having a fair man in charge, someone they can open up to. Here, too, there is no local coach who has emerged as a contender for the role of head coach of the senior side yet.

If the BCB can convince Jurgensen to stay until the 2015 World Cup, the board will need to be more patient but the coach will also have to take charge in a more conspicuous way. If Jurgensen does not change his decision, the BCB will have to look for a new coach, a seemingly difficult task given the popularity of domestic T20 coaching gigs.

The demand for results is an exaggerated expectation from a team that is still at the bottom of Test and T20 rankings, and is only just making a name in ODIs. The 2015 World Cup was ultimately viewed with more importance than the World T20, because Jurgensen and Mushfiqur were both appointed with the former in mind. Perhaps the board directors should have taken that hint.

With inputs from Sidharth Monga and Andrew Fidel Fernando

Mohammad Isam is ESPNcricinfo's Bangladesh correspondent. @isam84

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