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Feature

The Domingo Effect: Bangladesh reap the rewards of continuity and camaraderie

Speaking to ESPNcricinfo, the head coach reflects on the back-to-back series wins over Australia and New Zealand

Mohammad Isam
Mohammad Isam
10-Sep-2021
'You want a team to go out there without any egos, those who enjoy playing for their country'  •  AFP/Getty Images

'You want a team to go out there without any egos, those who enjoy playing for their country'  •  AFP/Getty Images

It might appear that Bangladesh's winning formula against non-Asian teams is just an unplayable pitch in their backyard. But it might be a bit more than that - it's also about clinching big moments while being consistent with their selection, not things they have always been known for.
Back-to-back series wins over Australia and New Zealand, in a summer in which they have won nine out of 12 T20Is, have given Bangladesh a new outlook in the format, and coach Russell Domingo has been a central figure in that success.
They have often viewed T20Is with trepidation, even as most other teams have worked out what works best for them. Bangladesh are competitive in ODIs and improving in Tests, but they have been quite poor in T20Is. Which explains why they have to go through the first round of the upcoming T20 World Cup, to try and qualify for the main competition, the Super 12s.
The series wins over Australia and New Zealand, however, have put Bangladesh in a positive frame of mind going into the tournament, and one sign of the progress they've made, according to Domingo, is how they seized the big moments against those two opponents.
"In a lot of these tight games, when winning and losing were down to small margins, we won the big moments," Domingo told ESPNcricinfo. "We held our nerve with the ball under pressure against Australia. In one or two chases we were under pressure, we held our nerve with the bat. I think we played the big pressure moments really well in both series, and that's what caught my eye.
"These are two sides we never beat in T20Is before, so I am very happy with the composure the boys have shown."
Domingo's consistency in selection has helped. His desire to give players longer runs in the side can come across as rigidity, but Domingo truly believes in the 'if it ain't broke, don't fix it' mantra. Against New Zealand, Bangladesh had the same playing XI for four consecutive matches in a series, which was a first. The side changed only after the series was clinched.
"I am not a guy who likes chopping and changing, especially after we lose," Domingo said. "I don't want to make too many changes. I want to give guys confidence in their roles. An extended run is something that I always try to do.
"Sometimes you have to make changes depending on conditions and tactics. When conditions are similar the whole time, if it is your best team for the first game, it is the best team for your second and third game. I try to have the least disruptions in the starting line-up as possible."
No coach can do it on his own. Mahmudullah is a calm and unifying figure in a dressing room not always pulling in the same direction. He is one of the top performers in T20Is too, having made match-winning contributions in several matches, including the only half-century for Bangladesh on the difficult pitches in Dhaka in the last two months.
"Riyad has been fantastic as captain. He has shown great hunger and passion leading his country," Domingo said. "He has been tactically very good. He made the right bowling changes at the right time. He backs his players to the hilt. I think he has captained really well in the last year.
"A lot of credit must go to him. He has a really good energy within the group. He has got the backing of all the players. It is a big thing for any captain to have the players giving everything for him."
"I think the wickets might be a little bit worn by the time the World Cup starts. We might play on wickets close to what we played in the last few weeks. So at least we have played in these tough conditions leading into the World Cup"
Russell Domingo on the T20 World Cup
Mahmudullah, who recently became the first Bangladesh cricketer to play 100 T20Is, is among a group of three senior cricketers in the side, alongside Mushfiqur Rahim and Shakib Al Hasan, after Tamim Iqbal skipped the last three series and then pulled out of the T20 World Cup.
"Mushfiq and Shakib are two experienced top-order batsmen who are match-winners," Domingo said. "Mushy can hold the innings together while Shakib can play both roles - he can play positively in the powerplay, and he can also knock it around in the middle overs.
"Their experience and calmness is going to be very important for us. I expect them to have a big impact for us in the World Cup."
Mustafizur Rahman, who appears to have rediscovered his mojo in recent times, has been another key performer, regularly bowling well at the death and picking up wickets. "Fizz has been excellent for us in this series," Domingo said. "He showed why he is our banker in white-ball cricket. He has led the attack really well. He bowls the pressure overs in the back-end with his skills. We know he is a guy we can rely on, under all conditions.
"He is a unique bowler with the flexibility of his wrists. He knows exactly where he needs to bowl, and when he needs to bowl certain deliveries. His experience is definitely showing, and helping some of the younger boys in the side."
The South African coach has also been impressed with the likes of Nurul Hasan and Afif Hossain, who have been given central roles in the team. The two were involved in a crucial partnership against Australia, while Nasum Ahmed has taken two four-wicket hauls. And the pitches in Oman and the UAE, Domingo believes, could be similar to Dhaka, so the formula could well continue to work.
"Looking at scores there and quite a few of the other squads, they have gone with a lot of spinners," he said. "I think the wickets might be a little bit worn by the time the World Cup starts [because of the IPL games before that]. We might play on wickets close to what we played in the last few weeks. So at least we have played in these tough conditions leading into the World Cup.
"I think time away from the game will be good for them [the batters, who have struggled like their opponents, and will have time off after the New Zealand series till the World Cup]. I don't think the batters will carry any scars going into that event," Domingo said. "I think it is always easier to go from poor pitches to good pitches, than the other way around.
"We had a tough couple of weeks here but a lot of positives have come out of it. Once we get into better surfaces in the World Cup, it won't be long before the boys get back to their best."
Above everything, Domingo wants to continue leading a cohesive group of players who work for each other, and enjoy each other's success. "As a coach, all you want is a unified team. You want a team to go out there without any egos, those who enjoy playing for their country," he said. "Of course, you want the team to win but there also has to be a sense of purpose and camaraderie.
"When you know everyone is playing for each other, it is what coaches want. They want the whole team to play for each other. Once you have that culture in the team, I think that's very satisfying as a coach."

Mohammad Isam is ESPNcricinfo's Bangladesh correspondent. @isam84