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August 10, 2014
Heading into a tour of the West Indies, Bangladesh coach Chandika Hathurusingha is in charge of a team that is short of wins, confidence and its best cricketer, but he has zeroed in on a few important aspects that he is trying urgently to tackle.
After a decent run last year, which included a crushing ODI series win against New Zealand at home, plummeting confidence has been Bangladesh's theme of 2014. Young batsmen have batted like millionaires and bowlers have lost their bite far too quickly into their spells. A sense of brashness is inevitable for a group of players hailed as the most talked-about sportsmen in the country, but there have been times when the issue has threatened to get out of hand.
Even during the last few weeks of training, a few issues have been reported (aside from Shakib Al Hasan's suspension) in which Hathurusingha has had to take a deeper look into the psyche of the players. One young player, who was asked to bat for 20 minutes, didn't turn up at the nets. The new coach was left dumbfounded and had to remind him of his responsibilities. A couple of months ago, there was another incident of a senior player not taking the field during Bangladesh A's tour game in the West Indies. While Shakib's punishment has served a broader issue, these incidents of missing training or skipping sessions due to other engagements have been cropping up for quite some time but have been swept under the carpet.
Hathurusingha has not directly addressed individual players, but he has let many of them know what is expected of star performers and cricketers.
"It is for me to educate them in that sense, make them understand what their responsibility is," Hathurusingha told ESPNcricinfo. "If you play well that's how you become stars. I haven't done it individually, but I have talked to them in a group. What makes us special, why do people want to look at you or follow you?
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"I have actually spoken as a senior group, talking about legacy once they finish their careers, talked along those lines. How to behave; If you play well, all these things follow, so one must not forget that. We have addressed that in a way."
But there is always a flip side, and for Hathurusingha it comes in the form of Mominul Haque. The left-handed batsman has made an impressive start in Test cricket, averaging more than 75 with three centuries. To add to the tangibles, his mental strength has been recognised as an asset.
While Hathurusingha reminds it is only a start, he has told Mominul that his real challenge will be to play against opponents who knows more about him now.
"Mominul has had a very good start, but it is just a start," Hathurusingha said. "He needs to understand and that's what I have been trying to tell him. He is different, hits unusual areas and his technique is not conventional, which makes him special.
"The challenge for him going forward in international cricket begins when people starts to understand his game. We are still working on that. He has tough time coming ahead, but he is preparing well. He is mentally very strong, he has appetite for runs."
Anamul Haque, at least in the ODI side, is another who excites Hathurusingha. Although the young batsman has struggled in Test cricket and needs work in that format, he has been in good form since February, hitting a hundred against Pakistan and regularly giving Bangladesh runs from the top-order.
"He is a good one-day player, but I think he needs to better his technique and tactics in the longer format," Hathurusingha said. "I am starting to work with him. I can see that he is ticking some of the boxes."
He has backed the rest of the batsmen and spinners, calling them the team's main strengths. "To be honest, until we play certain areas of the game we really don't know but I think our strength is our batting, spin bowling and playing against spin at this stage.
"The spinners are working really hard. We haven't played competitive matches but I think mentally and physically they have done good work. I think Dr Phil Jauncey (performance psychologist who held a two-day programme for the team) helped them focus on their own game and even skill-wise they worked hard so I think we are in a good place."
Mohammad Isam is ESPNcricinfo's Bangladesh correspondent. @isam84Feeds: Mohammad Isam
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