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Hathurusingha wants to give Bangladesh's players 'psychological safety'

He says he is trying to create an environment "where the players can do their best without worrying about outcome"

Mohammad Isam
Mohammad Isam
Shakib Al Hasan and Chandika Hathurusingha chat during training, Mirpur, February 27, 2023

This is Chandika Hathurusingha's second stint as Bangladesh coach  •  BCB

Bangladesh head coach Chandika Hathurusingha has said he has tried to give his players "psychological safety" and ensure that the dressing room remains a place where they can freely open up and have conversations. He believes that this environment, where players feel encouraged even if they have failed once or twice, is going to help bring the best out of the team.
Hathurusingha said he is trying to create an atmosphere where players aren't worried about what their team-mates, coaches and selectors would be thinking about them. He is trying to build trust within this bubble that is often fraught with undue pressure.
"If you can create the environment where the players can do their best without worrying about outcome, [and] repercussions - not only from coaches or selectors, even from their peers," Hathurusingha said. "If they can be free to try things; if they fail, they are still okay. They are the same players, and we trust them.
"I think that's the biggest change that [has] happened recently. The other coaches also mentioned to me that's the biggest change. That's what I am trying to create as well. I know that if you create an environment like that, the only way forward is if they can do their best. If their best is not good enough on some days, we will lose. That's the game."
In his second stint as head coach, Hathurusingha has overseen two wins in his first three series. Bangladesh beat England 3-0 in a T20I series before trouncing Ireland 2-0 in ODIs, with one game washed out.
Hathurusingha said nothing except the environment around the Bangladesh dressing room seems to have changed since his return to the post, and that the players' "value doesn't diminish" even if results don't go in their favour.
"Only the environment [has] changed a little bit inside the dressing room, and in the way we speak and what we talk about," he said. "I try to bring some psychological safety around the group. I make sure to tell them that just because of the results - whether they do well or fail - their value doesn't diminish.
"We look at them with the same mindset. They are valuable. We select them for their skillset. Other than that, I don't think anything has changed. I don't know what happened before, but their skills are the same."
Hathurusingha stressed on aggression in every aspect on the field as well as in selection, without worrying about results. That was testified by Bangladesh posting their highest ODI total in the first match against Ireland, only to surpass that score two days later.
"I don't know if this is the new era, but we want to play aggressive cricket," Hathurusingha said. "It doesn't mean hitting the ball the farthest we can. [Rather] aggressive in every sense of the word: selection, field placing, body language, fielding, batting, [and] tactics.
"We don't worry about the outcome. We want to play the best way we can. When we play with aggression and freedom, Bangladesh team has always done well. That's the way forward for us."
Another aggressive move was the selection of uncapped legspinner Rishad Hossain for the T20Is against Ireland despite his having bowled just 5.1 overs in competitive cricket this season before taking two wickets in seven overs in a 50-over warm-up against Ireland.
Rishad hasn't played a single BPL match, but has recently spent a lot of time bowling in the Bangladesh nets. During Hathurusingha's first stint in 2014, he had backed legspinner Jubair Hossain's inclusion in the senior team; he is doing the same with Rishad now, as he firmly believes that legspin is an aggressive option in T20s.
"It is a new beginning for him. We think that his skillset is good enough," Hathurusingha said. "There's something special that we can develop in the long run. That's the main idea behind [his selection]. Whatever happens - whether he does well or not - we are trying to find some attacking spinners going forward."
However, there was no place for batter Afif Hossain in the T20I squad for the first time in three years. After amassing 344 runs in the BPL this year - the most by a batter from his side - he was dropped for the third T20I against England last week, and now finds himself out of both white-ball squads. His last six ODI innings include four single-digit scores, and innings of only 23 and 15 in the other two outings. Hathurusingha said Afif needs runs under his belt to return to the team.
"He has to what everyone else does: go and score runs. I have told him which areas to improve," he said. "If he does that, [and] if there's a place available, he will be treated as anyone else. Of course [he was dropped because of his performance], not because of his face. Anyone is in or out because of his performance, as well as sometimes tactically if we want to do something different."

Mohammad Isam is ESPNcricinfo's Bangladesh correspondent. @isam84