I took the position as it was an amazing opportunity to coach an international cricket team, and it was a natural progression from my position as assistant coach of Australia, where we had won the World Cup, The Champions Trophy, and regained the Ashes. I wanted to bring my knowledge and experience to Bangladesh and take them forward.
It is not a question of cricket ability but a question of cricket schooling. Our coaches, competition, and facilities are just not preparing our players for the tough world of international cricket. Our players are as skillful as any, but we are lacking in depth when it comes to consistent performers at the highest level of cricket.
At present, and before I came on board, we had no players in our side that you could say are truly successful international cricketers. We love them and they are our heroes but they do not have the results or statistics that their oppositions have. Our batsmen average 20 and the opposition batsmen average 45-50. Our bowlers average 45 and the opposition average 25. This suggested to me that things - and team culture is one of them - needed to change. I have taken a long-term approach and may never see the results of my work. The players are learning to train and prepare in a more professional and responsible manner, where we are trying to improve so that we can be consistently competitive, not just when all the stars are aligned and we have a "good day". We have several players in the team at the moment who I believe have the ability to lead from the front and be world-class players that we can count on each time we play. This is what I am excited about for Bangladesh Cricket and our supporters.
There is such a misconception about how I want my players to play. I will just say that the batsmen are instructed to think of every ball as an opportunity to hit a four or a six, but if the ball is too good and the risk or percentage for success is not good, then we must do something else. The game is about making runs and I encourage my players to look to score at every opportunity. Our supporters cannot have a team that entertains from ball one by hitting the ball in the air, and expect them to also score a lot of runs at international level. It won't happen. We will lose wickets and fail nine times out of ten as we have done in the past. There needs to be a balance of responsibility and structure to our batting. We are a team that in the past used to pass 200 in our innings just one time in four at the crease. We now do this every second time we play. I look for success in lots of ways. Winning is a result of a lot of successes in the process.
In Australia there is an amazing domestic infrastructure, which culminates in the best first-class competition in the world. The international players, when not playing for the country, simply go back to their state cricket system and train with their state team-mates and coaches, fitness trainers, physios, doctors and so on. In Bangladesh our players must stay in Dhaka to train and get any coaching they need. There are just no real facilities for them in the home areas, but the cricket board and I have identified this and are planning to improve in this area.
|With Australia you are talking tactics and teaching new shots and small aspects of the game; with our team you spend every day just teaching them the basics of the game, things that they should know when they are 15 or 16|
International cricket is as competitive as it has ever been. We have seen India beat Australia in Australia in a one-day series. Then Pakistan won the tri-series in Bangladesh. This was followed by Sri Lanka beating us all to win the Asia Cup in Pakistan. All three of these teams are at the top of their games and are capable of pushing the world No. 1. We are still a young cricket country and are still to get our facilities and infrastructure to where they need to be to produce world-class success stories. We are aware of our deficiencies in this area and know that it will take time to develop them to the high standard required.
It is fantastic to have Ramanayeke in our system at the moment. He was a regular at our training before the Australian tour, so we have access to his assistance when we need or want him. His bowling squad regularly attends our training sessions as well.
I have the utmost respect for Dav. He is a personal friend and we speak from time to time. Success is measured in many ways, and I would love the team to grab a couple of wins here and there - as Dav and the boys did in his time. However, I am not here just to have the team win a game or two. I am trying to develop this squad and the future of Bangladesh cricket to a point where they can compete regularly against the top-ranked teams. This will take time as the players have so many lessons to learn and skills to develop. There are no easy wins out there at the moment. All the teams we have played recently are very strong and on the move forward.
The problem is, people have no idea how I talk to my team on a daily basis. The players are aware that our vision is to always improve. I would love to know what "on their day" means. I am not interested in coaching a team that relies on luck or it being their day. I am concerned with improving skills and confidence, so that we believe in ourselves every time we compete. We do believe that if we play to the best of our ability then we can win.
As I have said previously there are so many examples of success within our team lately. The elusiveness of victory is not helping the public see this, though. We have scored our highest scores ever against India and Pakistan in the last three months. We have had five players make their first or second ODI centuries. We have a 19-year-old, Raqibul Hasan, who is shaping to be an international player of the future.
I can say that the results were very disappointing and the lessons learnt were hard ones. The players were simply overwhelmed by the world No. 1 team. They know they are better than they showed us in this series and are determined to gain some credibility back in the near future. We should have won the third match in Darwin. Our bowlers, and in particular our fielders, were superb in keeping Australia to 198 in their 50 overs.
I am always talking to Ash about his performances, both good and bad. We are trying to get him to be more consistent and contribute to the score more often. Ash has made maybe just four or five half-centuries in his last 50 innings and I felt it was worth a try to say that we need more from him as captain and a key batsman in our line-up. Ash was sitting beside me and I only stated the obvious. You might consider it as an honest attempt to make him aware of his responsibilities.
Yes, we lack experienced players, but you cannot have experienced players in your side who are failing all the time - they will not offer guidance when they are not performing themselves. We have no experienced players out of the team at the moment who demand selection because they are performing, or have performed recently in international cricket. If we had an experienced player who was demanding to be picked because of performances then I would be asking the selectors to pick him.
|I do not base success on win-loss figures, as this is demoralising to a developing side - they would see every loss as a failure, irrespective of whether they have made a century or taken five wickets|
Habibul is one of our centrally contracted players. He is not currently in our team but is a helpful and welcome addition at training. He understands better than most just how hard it is to be successful at international level. I would love to have a performing Habibul in our team. However, he is not at the top of his game and was omitted some time ago after many opportunities. A non-performing senior can't really influence the game of his team-mates. We would not leave a senior player out of our young team if they had the potential to be a match-winner or be in our team come the next World Cup.
I do not base success on win-loss figures, as this is demoralising to a developing side - they would see every loss as a failure, irrespective of whether they have made a century or taken five wickets. Our young team, whether we like it or not, will lose a few games before they start to win consistently. I want to be realistic here; we have to raise our game to beat teams like New Zealand. The series is on our home soil, the conditions should favor us. If we can play up to our potential, there is no reason why we can't compete and produce some good results.
We will still be ranked ninth in the world when my two years are up. What I have embarked on is not going to bear much fruit inside two years. What I want to see is that we have started to compete and are consistent in the plans and the processes we need to follow in order to push and beat teams regularly. My intentions have always been to produce some world-class performers who can carry the team to new heights on a consistent basis. And the exciting thing is, there are three or four players who may just do that.
Khondaker Mirazur Rahman is editor of www.banglacricket.com