We are not just about Ashraful anymore - Jamie Siddons
Khondaker Mirazur Rahman: Are you happy with the progress Bangladesh have made over the last two years under your guidance? Where does the team stand in the international circuit?
Jamie Siddons: I am extremely happy with our progress. We had two significant changes in personnel in the last two years. The first set of changes took place after my initial assessment of the squad. The decision was based on my judgements on who I felt could improve and play a part in our World Cup campaign. The second was when seven players from my squad left for ICL just 12 months ago. The new players who replaced them were up to the task and won matches against teams like New Zealand, Sri Lanka and West Indies.
We are still developing into a competitive team. I believe we are still maybe two years from reaching our potential with this group but are capable of troubling most sides at the moment. We currently have two or three match-winners in our side, and have others who can hold their own in world cricket.
KMR: Where do you want to see Bangladesh at the end of your recently renewed two-year contract? What is your realistic aim for the 2011 World Cup?
JS: My philosophy is to improve my players on a daily basis and to provide them with the environment and structure that will allow them to reach their full potential. If I do this then we will be as good as anyone could have hoped for. How good that is, we will have to wait and see. I believe you will see a far better Bangladesh team in the 2011 World Cup. Let's leave it at that. I'm not into predictions.
KMR: Does this group of players have what it takes to be world-beaters? Or, will Bangladesh have to wait for the next generation of players to get a team capable of being ranked in the top five?
JS: This group has the ability to beat any team in a year or two. We are gaining confidence and skills all the time. I am confident the current crop can take Bangladesh to the top tier of international cricket. They are finding their groove and the transformation will be much quicker than most people expect.
KMR: Shakib Al Hasan's rise to the top has been phenomenal over the last 12 months. How do you rate him?
JS: Shakib was out of our team (taking a break to sit for the higher secondary examination) when I arrived in Bangladesh. I saw him as a player of huge potential with the ball. He could put more spin on a ball than any offspinner I had seen, and had control and confidence. I have given him opportunity and advice, and his talent has done the rest. His batting is fearless and when you combine this with his unique hitting ability and talent, you have a match-winner and a world-class player on your hands.
KMR: What is your view on the recently introduced UDRS?
JS: We haven't experienced the system yet. It will be premature to comment on it. Anything which makes umpiring decisions fairer should be good for our young team.
KMR: Why are Bangladesh struggling in Twenty20 cricket? Do you take Twenty20 as seriously as Tests and ODIs?
JS: I think the statistics are a little unfair as we have only played four or five matches in two years. We will start to shine in the near future. We are just developing the necessary skills and will unveil them soon. It all takes time. We treat every international game equally.
KMR: Recently Bangladesh have shown signs of improvement in batting and spin bowling, but pace bowling has deteriorated significantly. What is your view on the strength and depth of Bangladesh pace attack?
JS: We have never been blessed with a great pace attack but have had some handy medium-pacers who are useful on slower wickets. We have Shahadat Hossain and Mashrafe Mortaza, and also a couple of young quicks who may be okay in time. Our problem is that someone forgot to teach them the skills of variations and control during their development years, and now we are trying to play catch up.
KMR: Bangladesh have plenty of spin-bowling allrounders. Do you think Bangladesh lack variety, and would a fast-bowling allrounder give the team more balance?
JS: No team has as many allrounders as us. We have a left-arm orthodox allrounder in Shakib, a wicketkeeper [Mushfiqur Rahim] who can bat at any position from No.1 to 6, and two developing offspinners batting at No.7 and 8. You can't get much more variety than that from allrounders. We don't need a fast-bowling allrounder, we just need genuine quicks who can do the job. Spin will win you matches as well. I am very confident our balance is perfect at the moment.
KMR: What can be done to improve the level of domestic cricket in Bangladesh, so that the players who come fresh into the national team are ready for international cricket? Have you advised Bangladesh Cricket Board (BCB) on this, and how are they supporting you?
JS: This is a very complex question and requires an in-depth answer from the people in control of this area. I have given my views to the BCB, but I believe it is a matter of getting our infrastructure right. We must provide the opportunity for all players to play cricket, not just to the top 60 in the country. We need to improve our development structure and implement a pathway that works. We must set up a great academy with very good coaches and structure, and only then we can dream to be a power in world cricket.
KMR: How frustrated are you because of the lack of maturity shown by some talented players like Mohammad Ashraful, who has the potential to be a world-class batsman? Why have talented players like Ashraful, Shahadat and Aftab Ahmed failed to live up to their potential?
JS: Not long after I arrived I realised the team and the country were relying on Ashraful to perform miracles for us. I was determined to put most of my energy into developing others so that Ashraful would not feel all that pressure, and so we could win matches even if he did not fire. I can tell you very confidently that we are not just about Ashraful anymore. Keep an eye on Shakib, Raqibul Hasan, Mushfiqur Rahim, Mahmudullah, and Tamim Iqbal. They are the future. I hope Ashraful will get it right soon, he is a diamond in the rough for us.
We all have to accept that sometimes talented players just don't succeed. The reason they find it so hard at the international level is they lack some of the basic skills that are developed in a well-structured cricket development system.
KMR: How do you rate Bangladesh's recent overseas Test and ODI series win against West Indies?
JS: No one involved in our team has been carried away with the results in West Indies, we know it was a second XI at best. They were competitive and they expected to beat us.
We are very proud of the way we played there though, we won both Tests and all three ODIs. I am always concerned with the way we play and the particular improvements in individuals rather than any specific results. The way we played Kemar Roach was exciting for me. He bowled very fast and our top order played him really well. This is how I judge my team's progression, not by a win here or there.
KMR: What is your proudest moment as coach? Which is your favourite win?
JS: Again, it is some particular moments or efforts that give me the most pleasure with the team. Every win is special for our players, as we have seen defeat so often over the years. I am looking forward to the next five months as we play many teams above us in terms of rankings, and so we now have a great opportunity to see where we are at.
KMR: Bangladesh have tried 26 opening combinations in the last five years without much success. The top-order performance has been, by and large, poor. Where does the problem lie?
JS: Tamim has the makings of a world-class opener, this is something Bangladesh have never had. Habibul Bashar was okay as a Test batsman, but not world class. Junaid (Siddique) is also very good but is still young in terms of international cricket. The step up from our first-class cricket to international cricket is bigger than anywhere lese, and so we have to give our players much more time to adapt and learn the skills and the tempo of this level.
Our No.3 position in the batting order is also a major concern, these are tough roles to fill at this level and we are working on it. I have stuck with the same three or four players and, as such, these players are getting more comfortable in these positions.
KMR: Zimbabwe is one opponent against whom Bangladesh are quite comfortable in both Tests and ODIs. After playing Zimbabwe 14 times last year, do you feel they are on the right track to regain their Test status?
JS: I felt Zimbabwe were a very good outfit and can see them going from strength to strength. Like us, it will take them time to acclimatise to the pace and pressure from the best teams in world cricket. It's not easy.
KMR: Australia have recently cancelled their Test series against Bangladesh. New Zealand have reduced the two-match Test series into a solitary Test. Are you concerned over these developments?
JS: The international calendar is so busy now, I guess some teams are finding it tough to fit it all in, and our tours are the ones they find easiest to drop. They must all remember that we are in the competition and are developing. Every team has started at the bottom and gradually worked their way up. It takes time. They should be careful when criticising us in the future, as it may embarrass them sooner than they think.
KMR: What are your expectations from the upcoming tri-nation tournament and Test series against India?
JS: I am concerned we have not played a team ranked above us since January/February last year, and so we may not be as well prepared as we could be. The jump from playing Zimbabwe to playing India will be a big one. Having said that, I have not seen our team play as well as it has now. We are confident, and I expect us to compete and make them fight to beat us. If they slip up a little, we will pounce on them and we can win games.
Khondaker Mirazur Rahman is the editor of Banglacricket.com