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Chandika Hathurusingha's return draws mixed reactions from Bangladesh cricket fraternity

"A huge question mark remains on how the dressing room will take him," Mashrafe Mortaza says

Mohammad Isam
Mohammad Isam
Sri Lanka coach Chandika Hathurusingha speaks on the phone during a training session, Sri Lanka v South Africa, 1st Test, Galle, July 11, 2018

Are you coming? Chandika Hathurusingha is expected to arrive in Dhaka between February 18 and 20  •  Getty Images

Chandika Hathurusingha's appointment as Bangladesh coach has drawn diverse reactions from the country's cricket fraternity. The new two-year deal will be Hathurusingha's second stint in this position after he spent three years, from 2014 to 2017, before leaving abruptly for the Sri Lanka role. According to the BCB president Nazmul Hassan, he has now returned as the all-format coach, which all but rules out S Sriram as the T20I coach of the team.
The BCB announced Hathurusingha as their new coach on Tuesday, four weeks after Russell Domingo resigned following suggestions from the board that they were looking for a new coach. Hathurusingha was on BCB's wishlist for a long time even after he had resigned from the post in October 2017.
This, despite his successors Steve Rhodes (2018-19) and Domingo (2019-22) having a better win percentage than Hathurusingha. Rhodes had a 51.11 win percentage in 45 matches while Domingo had a 42.34 win percentage in all formats. Both had a much better record in ODIs and T20Is than Hathurusingha, who had a better Test record, having won six out of 21 matches during his reign.
Many felt that the BCB was hasty to dispose off Rhodes after the 2019 World Cup while Domingo resigned after being put in an untenable position due to the board's criticism of his coaching style. But the timing remained questionable. The criticism followed the team's 2-1 ODI home series win against India in December.
Former captain Mashrafe Mortaza said that the way Hathurusingha left the Bangladesh job in 2017 left a bad taste in the mouth.
"Considering our Test-playing nation's stature, this is certainly not a good example," Mashrafe told Prothom Alo. "Jamie Siddons was also brought back. They are two of the best coaches in terms of technical and tactical aspects that I have seen. Maybe that's why the board thought it best to bring him back. There's also a coaching crisis. It is hard to find coaches since there are so many franchise tournaments. BCB took the right decision in that regard.
"There wouldn't have been a problem had he [Hathurusingha] left properly like Siddons, who wanted to stay back as Bangladesh's batting coach. Hathurusingha left in the middle of his contracted period. He didn't pick up the phone of our board president, neither did he reply to his SMS. He left suddenly. There's always the question of respect."
Jalal Yunus, the BCB's cricket operations chairman, said that Hathurusingha will be familiar with Bangladesh's team culture and players, and has already committed to the board for two years.
"We are happy," Yunus told ESPNcricinfo. "He has worked here before so he won't need a lot of time to adjust here. He knows the players and the environment. He is a good coach. He has the quality that's needed for the players. He has always shown interest in Bangladesh cricket. I hope this time he will stay long and keep the contractual commitment. Judging by what he has told us, we expect him to work dedicatedly for the two years."
Mashrafe, who captained 69 of the 102 matches during Hathurusingha's first stint as Bangladesh coach, said that the players' response to Hathurusingha returning to the dressing room is his main concern. Towards the second half of his time as Bangladesh coach, there were murmurs about how he was treating the players.
"A huge question mark remains on how the dressing room will take him," Mashrafe said. "The most important thing is, how he and the dressing room is comfortable with each other. Apart from two or four new faces, most of the players are the same [from his first stint].
"We have to see whether he forgets the past, or he behaves the same as before and how the players react to these things. Hathurusingha is an international coach, so I am sure he will manage everything. The sooner that happens, the better.
Yunus said that the criticism was unnecessary as the BCB was looking for a father figure as a coach. "Headmasterly is not a proper term," he said. "We need a coach who has to act like a guardian. Someone who can explain to the players, and then get the best out of him. He has that quality.
"We have an important series coming up against England. It is part of the ICC Super League. Mainly, he is focused on the World Cup later this year. We have eight to nine months in our hands."
Mashrafe said that the two current captains Tamim Iqbal (ODI) and Shakib Al Hasan (Tests and T20Is) know Hathurusingha well enough to work properly with him. But he said that a lot depends on how the BCB handles Hathurusingha. In the past, he has had public run-ins with two BCB cricket operations committee chairpersons and former chief selector Faruque Ahmed.
"Shakib and Tamim are going to coordinate well with Hathurusingha," Mashrafe said. "They generally have good relations with Hathurusingha, although there were one or two incidents with Shakib. At the end of the day, he is the best player of the team. Hathurusingha also knows the Bangladesh culture, so I feel that he will do well from his end.
"His influence will depend on the discussion between Papon [Nazmul Hassan] bhai and Hathurusingha. I believe that Hathurusingha will have a more powerful position this time. [Whether it will be good for Bangladesh cricket or not] depends on how much the board can keep him in check."
"From what I know of him, Hathurusingha wants to do everything on his own. But still, I hope that he will work together [with everyone]"
Former chief selector Faruque Ahmed
Two days before Hathurusingha was named the next coach, BCB director Khaled Mahmud said that he felt it was going to be a timely appointment.
"It would be good if Hathurusingha comes," said Mahmud, who had worked as team manager during Hathurusingha's first stint. "He has worked in Bangladesh before. There were a lot of good performances during his time. He is more mature [now], which is good for the team. I think it is a positive thing that he is coming for a second time. He understands us well, as he is also from the subcontinent."
Ahmed, who was the chief selector before falling out with Hathurusingha and resigning from the post in 2016, was, however, a bit skeptical.
"I think the BCB has brought back Chandika Hathurusingha with a lot of great expectations in mind," Ahmed told Prothom Alo on February 1. "But the board probably forgot how he left the job last time. Usually, those who leave in that manner aren't able to give back anything good. Subconsciously, both parties remember the previous incidents. When the team will not do well, the BCB will feel why did we get him back. The coach will not be able to say anything boldly. He will also have his last exit in the back of his mind. If his exit were a normal one, there wouldn't be any questions about his return.
"I am doubtful how wise a decision this is. The BCB bringing him back after such a departure will make Hathurusingha's accountability low. He will dictate to us. I think it is important to work together. From what I know of him, Hathurusingha wants to do everything on his own. But still, I hope that he will work together [with everyone]."
Hathurusingha is expected to arrive in Dhaka between February 18 and 20, a week before Bangladesh play England in a three-match ODI series from March 1.

Mohammad Isam is ESPNcricinfo's Bangladesh correspondent. @isam84