Nurul Hasan: 'It's a team-first game; if you think otherwise, it won't work'

"When we don't play well, we should be ready for criticism; but we have to start talking about success, we have to believe"

Mohammad Isam
Mohammad Isam
05-Oct-2022 • Updated on 07-Oct-2022
"I don't think there was a lot of thrill [when I became the captain], but I had a duty towards fulfilling the responsibility"  •  AFP/Getty Images

"I don't think there was a lot of thrill [when I became the captain], but I had a duty towards fulfilling the responsibility"  •  AFP/Getty Images

There is something refreshing about Nurul Hasan. Whether it's his flat-bat shots down the ground, or the way he handled himself, and the Bangladesh team, after being thrust into the T20I captaincy in July this year.
It was a stop-gap arrangement; he was keeping the seat warm for Shakib Al Hasan at the time. *He was expected to do the same in New Zealand, now, for the triangular series, but Shakib has been cleared to make the trip and join the team the day before their first game. Not where he expected to be when, for a long time, he was a giant in the Bangladesh domestic circuit struggling to move up to the next level.
That could have pulled Nurul down, but he reinvented himself, and his game, to cater to the needs of top-level cricket. It's the sort of attitude that's often lacking in Bangladesh cricket, and exactly what they need after having started the year well but declined quite dramatically since.
Nurul agrees; he feels the right attitude is what the current team as well as future teams need.
"Our culture is such that we don't want to talk about our goals or ambitions, fearing failure," Nurul told ESPNcricinfo. "If I say today that we want to win the World Cup, we don't necessarily have to win it right away. But by saying such a thing repeatedly, maybe our next batch will feel more confident about winning the World Cup. Maybe I won't be around then, but the belief will be there.
"We have to create this culture, notwithstanding the negative reactions. When we don't play well, we should be ready for criticism. But we have to start talking about success; we have to believe it. If three or four of us start getting into form, it could get Bangladesh good results."
When Nurul was made T20I captain after Mahmudullah was sacked, it was a toss-up between him and Litton Das. What worked in Nurul's favour were firstly the perception, from domestic cricket where he has led Sheikh Jamal Dhanmondi, that he was a good captain, and secondly, that he was a team man through and through.
"I don't think there was a lot of joy [when I became the captain], but I had a duty towards fulfilling the responsibility," he said. "I like taking on challenges. I didn't think too much about it, which meant I was not emotional. I think I was mainly thinking about the challenge at hand. I try to enjoy whatever challenge I am facing."
"Only six-hitting doesn't bring runs on the board. If I hit a six but play three dot balls, it doesn't help the team. We have to find our area of strength"
Nurul Hasan
Sentiments such as these are unusual in Bangladesh cricket, where players and administrators try not to raise expectations for being ridiculed when results don't go their way.
Nurul's positive attitude comes from own experiences in the last few years. He impressed in the Dhaka Premier League T20 last year to earn a recall to the T20I squad after close to four years. But despite the early promise, he couldn't find form at the T20 World Cup in the UAE. An ill-timed shot in the Chattogram Test against Pakistan meant another long pause. But he fought back through another tremendous showing in the Dhaka Premier League, which led to his side Sheikh Jamal winning their first title in the competition.
"I have emotions, but I don't get as excited as I used to," he said. "Maybe I was different earlier, but now I take it match by match. I am used to a mindset of moving on from one performance to the next. I feel bad when I don't do well, but it is important to recover well from it."
Part of his secret is his adaptability. Nurul isn't too bothered by how he looks when playing a shot, as long as he gets the right result. Among Bangladesh batters who have batted at least thrice in the last five overs in T20Is in 2022, Nurul's strike rate of 160.97 is the best. Since last year, he has also batted at five different positions, a factor that needs to be looked at.
"To be honest, I don't think it does any good for the team if my mindset is fixed on a batting position," he said. "In that case, you are carrying individuals. Situations keep changing, so you have to keep adapting. I believe 200% that it is a team-first game. If you think otherwise, the results won't come. If [me] batting at No. 11 benefits the team, so be it. The team comes first.
"Considering where I bat in white-ball cricket, I think it is important to have more impact rather than just scoring runs. I think it is better to contribute for the team's win, rather than scoring runs when they lose. I want to work harder at it. I don't listen to what's being said or what's happening outside. Contributing for the team is foremost in my mind."
When the thorny topic of six-hitting is broached - Bangladesh have hit fewer sixes this year than Suryakumar Yadav - Nurul is unfazed.
"Only six-hitting doesn't bring runs on the board," he said. "I can hit a four, and then rotate the strike. If I hit a six but play three dot balls, it doesn't help the team. We have to find our area of strength. Other teams are doing it, we should too.
"I also don't believe in the fuss about big-hitters. Big-hitting doesn't solely win you games. If you bat according to the match situation, if you can find the gaps and hit boundaries, it will get you close to the target. Six-hitting is easy when you have the right ball in front of you."
There has been a marked shift in Nurul's stroke-making in the last two years, particularly down the ground and behind the wicket. He uses the pace of the ball more, even though there have been times when he has bludgeoned the ball - more long-on than midwicket.
"There was a time when I used to work on my areas of strength in the past, but during a match, a bowler will not allow me to play those shots. I have to be aware of the match situation, what it demands from me," he said. "Scoring runs and understanding the match situation is more important than playing a nice shot that has no runs or impact from it. My focus is to find runs in the middle."
The bottom line for Nurul is to make the most of his opportunities. Once Shakib returns, Nurul will go back to being the wicketkeeper-batter who has to get Bangladesh big runs in the last five overs.
"At this moment, I don't want to leave anything to chance," Nurul said. "I don't want to regret later that I could have worked harder or improved a little bit more through the training that I am doing now. I want to prepare very well. Allah decides all, I will get exactly what I deserve. I want to achieve the team's goals, and I hope that as long as I play cricket, that's how I want to play."
* This was updated at 12.30pm GMT on October 5 after the BCB provided details of Shakib Al Hasan's travel plans.

Mohammad Isam is ESPNcricinfo's Bangladesh correspondent. @isam84