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Feature

Hathurusingha 2.0: what's changed, and what hasn't?

This stint as Bangladesh coach comes with a firing pace attack and several familiar faces, but it also brings with it a heavy weight of expectations

Mohammad Isam
Mohammad Isam
06-Feb-2023
Chandika Hathurusingha - to Bangladesh, via New South Wales, Sri Lanka and ... Bangladesh  •  Getty Images

Chandika Hathurusingha - to Bangladesh, via New South Wales, Sri Lanka and ... Bangladesh  •  Getty Images

Chandika Hathurusingha's return as Bangladesh men's head coach, on a new two-year deal from February 20, has been the talk of the country's cricketing circles. He held the position from June 2014 to October 2017, a ground-breaking period for the team. But then he left in a huff, taking on the Sri Lanka job soon after and going on lead his new team to victory over Bangladesh. Hathurusingha, however, is a BCB favourite and now makes his return, taking charge across formats, as confirmed by board president Nazmul Hassan. What lies ahead of him? Here's a run-through.

What hasn't changed

The administration: The BCB set-up remains the same, which is the main reason why Hathurusingha is back. Hassan, who has been at the helm since 2013, said last week that he had been in touch with Hathurusingha about the Bangladesh job since the men's T20 World Cup in Australia in November last year. At the time, S Sriram was the technical consultant, effectively the T20 head coach, while Russell Domingo was the Test and ODI coach.
ESPNcricinfo understands that Hathurusingha had to give two months' notice to leave New South Wales - where he was batting coach - which means he had some sort of deal in place with the BCB as early as November 28 last year.
Meanwhile, Sriram was in discussion with the BCB for a long-term deal as T20 coach but the talks fell through mainly because the BCB wants a coach to be fully available and Sriram's IPL commitments worked against him. And so Hathurusingha takes charge across formats.
During his first stint, he had a strong relationship with the BCB, particularly Hassan, and the two have reportedly been in touch ever since Hathurusingha had resigned. The two had formulated a two-tier selection panel, which saw Faruque Ahmed leave as chief selector in protest in 2016. But, as Hathurusingha returns, two out of the three selectors during his reign also remain: chief selector Minhajul Abedin and Habibul Bashar.
The players (mostly): Usually a new coach takes a bit of time to understand the culture in Bangladeshi cricket, but that won't be too much of a problem with Hathurusingha as he already knows at least a third of the players who are still highly relevant to the senior team - they played under him in his first stint as well. For example, some of the players who debuted under Hathurusingha are Litton Das and Mehidy Hasan Miraz, who are now the men in form, key to the team's fortunes.
Where things might change is the exact role he plays as coach. The core group of senior players from his last stint has broken up somewhat. Mashrafe Mortaza, who captained two-thirds of all international matches during Hathurusingha's first stay, is no longer part of the senior side; Mahmudullah only plays ODIs now after retiring from Tests and being kept out of T20Is; Tamim Iqbal and Mushfiqur Rahim have retired from T20Is. Only Shakib Al Hasan still plays all three formats.
And with so much change in the experienced core, comes different demands of the coach. The Bangladesh team now has several players trying to find their feet at the highest level - young batters like Zakir Hasan, Afif Hossain and Yasir Ali. The likes of Najmul Hossain Shanto, Anamul Haque and Mosaddek Hossain, too, are at a complicated point in their career. Hathurusingha will likely have a lot more career-moulding to do in this stint.
The favoured format: Bangladesh remain an ODI-loving team, having won 70% of their 50-over matches during Domingo's reign from 2019 to 2022. In fact, performances in ODIs have steadily improved since Hathurusingha's last stint - they had won 48% of their ODIs under him from 2014-17, followed by 57% under Steve Rhodes, before Domingo took over.
The bigger challenge for Hathurusingha will lie in Tests and T20Is. He had formulated the plan to play on raging turners in home Tests, resulting in wins against England and Australia. But those pitches also helped Sri Lanka, Zimbabwe, Afghanistan, West Indies and India to beat Bangladesh at their own game. There remains plenty of work to be done if Hathurusingha is to slowly change Bangladesh's mind about which their favourite format is.

What has changed

The pace attack: Bangladesh now have a strong pace-bowling unit. During his first stint, Hathurusingha was more interested in spin, almost killing off fast bowling. He hardly picked a fast bowler in home Tests, which left them with a mountain to climb in overseas conditions, with little game-time under their belt to be consistent.
But now fast bowling is winning the team matches across formats. Taskin Ahmed, very consistent since his comeback in 2021, is the leader of the pack, having helped the team win an ODI series in South Africa last year. He is backed up well by Ebadot Hossain, whose 6 for 46 was the decisive blow on New Zealand in the Mount Maunganui Test. Khaled Ahmed is building himself up as a Test specialist, while Mustafizur Rahman is strong in white-ball cricket.
There's also Shoriful Islam, Hasan Mahmud, Rejaur Rahman Raja - who is long waiting in the wings for an international debut - and Mrittunjoy Chowdhury - who has done well in the last two BPL seasons. Fast-bowling coach Allan Donald recently held a clinic for the next batch of fast bowlers, where the likes of Musfik Hasan and Nahid Rana impressed him. All this progress in the pace department calls for a change in mind-set for Hathurusingha.
The expectations: The expectations will certainly be much higher than in 2014, when Hathurusingha first came to the job as a virtual unknown. He was recommended by Khaled Mahmud, but few others in the BCB set-up knew him well. Now, he is regarded as one of the key engineers of Bangladesh's road to greater consistency, and has a reputation in cricketing circles as a hard-talker. All this, added to the fact that the next ODI World Cup just eight months away.
Rhodes and Domingo were often matched up to him. Now, he will not only be matched up to them, but also to Hathurusingha 1.0.

Mohammad Isam is ESPNcricinfo's Bangladesh correspondent. @isam84