Bangladesh’s former head coach for the 2014-17 season, Chandika Hathurusingha, has been reappointed as the team’s new head coach, sparking excitement and optimism. Hathurusingha, in his previous tenure, left the job in controversial circumstances. For which, his return has left many cricket fans and experts surprised.
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Hathurusingha is proving himself a worthy campaigner of the Bangladesh cricket team as the head coach just a month after his reappointment. After taking over as coach for the second time, the Bangladesh team won a T-20 match against the might of England and recently destroyed Ireland at the Sylhet international cricket ground. Now, seeing this kind of gesture from the head coach, it is becoming a topic of discussion: is Hathurusingha transforming his image as a hero instead of a villain?
Chandika Hathurusingha, the coach
Born in 1968, Upul Chandika Hathurusingha is a former Sri Lankan cricketer who mostly used to play in the opening side and bowl pace when needed. The former opening batsman of the Sri Lankan cricket team declared his last game in 2005 in order to concentrate on his coaching career. In the beginning, he was appointed coach of the United Arab Emirates on a one-year contract in 2005. After the completion of that one-year contract with UAE, Hathurusingha started his coaching career with Sri Lanka A, signing a three-year contract with the team. Then, in 2009, Chandika was appointed as the senior assistant to Sri Lanka’s national team coach, Trevor Bayliss. In reason of a disciplinary violation, Chandika was fired from his duty after just one year of his duty with the national team. After that, he was appointed as the head coach of the Canadian national cricket team for the 2011 world cup campaign.
From May 14, Chandika Hathurusingha joined the Bangladesh National Cricket Team as the head coach and remained the best ever coach of Bangladesh in statistics till 2017. After a shocking resignation from the Bangladesh Cricket Team’s coaching panel, Haturusingha was declared to become the Sri Lankan national cricket team’s head coach the following month. And now, in 2023, the coach has returned to his previous working place, Bangladesh, as the head coach and is on his way to making something special with the team again.
Recap from Hathurusingha’s previous tenure
During his previous stint as the coach, Bangladesh cricket achieved many notable successes under Hathurusingha’s supervision. The team reached the quarterfinals of the 2015 World Cup, won consecutive One-Day International (ODI) series against Pakistan, India, and South Africa, and played in the semi-finals of the 2017 ICC Champions Trophy. These achievements helped Bangladesh establish itself as a formidable force in ODI cricket during Hathurusingha’s tenure. Despite his controversial departure in 2017, many officials within the board still hold him in high regard for his contributions to the team’s success.
The remarkable achievements of Hathurusingha for Bangladesh cricket were not only in ODIs but also in Test matches. The team beat England and Australia in Mirpur and won its 100th Test against Sri Lanka, marking significant milestones in Bangladesh’s cricket history. These achievements were further topped off by Bangladesh’s historic victory against New Zealand in Mount Maunganui at the beginning of 2022.
In his previous tenure, Hathurusingha registered a 48% win in the men’s ODI format, and in tests, he was one of the most successful coaches Bangladesh have had so far, as Bangladesh got wins on 6 matches out of 21 during his reign, with 11 losses and 4 no results. Many believe that, though Domingo and Rhodes have a better win percentage than Hathurusingha in ODI format, this winning streak in ODI started in Hathurusingha’s period, meaning that he did a great job in transforming the team into a strong one from a below-average one.
Under Hathuriusingha’s first tenure, Bangladesh have won 25 ODIs out of 51 and lost 23, with no result for the remaining 3 matches. On the other hand, Bangladesh won 10 T-20 matches out of 29 and lost 19, with 2 having no result as well.
Despite his past achievements, Hathurusingha’s unprofessional departure from the team in 2017 raises questions about his ability to regain the trust of the players and the board. In the mid of Bangladesh’s tour in South Africa, Hathurusingha issued his resignation letter to BCB, which at that time angered BCB boss too much. Moreover, Hathurusingha was allegedly accused of having strained relationships with senior cricketers of the team like Mushfiqur, Mahmudullah, and so on. Even some of the board officials were said to have had bad relationships with Hathurusingha in his previous tenure.
A new era with new Hathura
Bangladesh’s team is again in the hands of this veteran coach. But in his first assignment, Bangladesh lost their ODI series against world champion England, and it happened on Bangladesh’s own soil, breaking the streak of consecutive series wins. Before this loss, Bangladesh had registered a total of 13 series wins since 2016, losing only two, and both of those two were against England.
After that, the team under Hathurasingha started to boom again, beating England 3-0 in the T-20 series with a whitewash. And then, the team just smashed Ireland totally out of the ground, setting some notable records, like a 10-wicket win, the highest ever ODI total, and Mushfiqur’s century in just 60 balls. Young guns like Tawhid Hridoy and Hasan Mahmud proved their worth in these matches as well.
At the same time, the other expert campaigners, Shakib, Litton, Shanto, Taskin, and Ebadat, have all proven their abilities once again, but this time under the coaching of Hathurusingha. Mushfiqur, who was suffering from poor form, got himself back in the groove once again and played two quick knocks at the Sylhet International Cricket Ground, helping the team hit the highest run milestone in an ODI twice in a row. And some credit here is due to Hathurusingha as well, as he is well known for bringing out the best in each player.
So far, it is now becoming a happy plot again for the Bangladesh head coach, as he is transforming the dismal situation of the Bangladesh cricket team once again. If things continue to happen like this in the future too and Bangladesh can gain some massive things in the World Cup, then it is sure that the name of Hathurusingha will be remembered as a winner. And he will be named a hero of Bangladesh’s cricket history, not a villain like his previous tenure’s retirement.
Hathurusingha to provide “psychological safety”
Hathurusingha has emphasised the importance of creating a psychologically safe environment for his players, where they can freely express themselves without fear of judgement or consequences. He believes that such an environment in the dressing room and on the field will bring out the best in his players and help the team succeed.
To this extent, Hathurusingha has tried to build trust among the players and coaches to create an atmosphere where they can freely experiment without worrying about the outcome or repercussions. He believes that this approach will encourage players to try new things and take risks, leading to better results in the long run.
Aggression is casting value under Hathurusingha’s coaching
Hathurusingha has a clear vision for his team’s approach on the field: to play aggressive cricket in every aspect without worrying about the results. According to him, this meant being aggressive not only in batting but also in field placement, body language, fielding, tactics, and even selection.
This approach paid dividends for Bangladesh, as they posted their highest ODI total in the first match against Ireland, only to surpass that score two days later. Hathurusingha believed that playing with aggression and freedom had always worked well for the Bangladesh team and that it was the way forward for them.
Though Bangladesh national cricketers were not used to utilising power play with full strength and showing some power hitting skills in the field all the time, the new coach is now building the mind-set of showing power hitting skills on the ground whenever it is needed. And some results we have already seen in the recent Ireland ODI series, where Bangladesh chased a 100+ target in just 13 overs and with full 10 wickets in hand too.
One of the examples of this aggressive approach was the selection of uncapped leg-spinner Rishad Hossain for the T20Is against Ireland, despite his limited experience in competitive cricket. Hathurusingha firmly believed that leg-spin was an aggressive option in T20s and that Rishad’s skillset was good enough for him to make an impact at the highest level.
Players will be valued on performance basis
Afif Hossain, a regular face of Bangladesh cricket team, has been dropped from the national team for the first time in three years. This decision comes after his poor performance in recent ODI matches, where he has scored only 23 and 15 runs in two innings and has had four single-digit scores in his last six innings. Despite being the highest scorer for his side in the Bangladesh Premier League this year, he was not selected for the third T20I against England last week and has been left out of both white-ball squads against Ireland.
According to Bangladesh’s head coach, Chandika Hathurusingha, Afif needs to focus on improving his performance to earn his spot back on the team. Hathurusingha emphasised that Afif’s exclusion was based solely on his performance and not because of any personal bias or favouritism. He also noted, “Players from now on will only be valued in terms of performance. If a player performs, he will get a chance in the team; otherwise, not.”
In turn, Hathurusingha is keen on giving the fringe players, including Yasir Ali, Towhid Hridoy, and Rony Talukdar in the batting department, and Nasum Ahmed and Shoriful Islam in the bowling department, an opportunity to showcase their skills. Hathurusingha’s aim is to provide these players with the necessary mental confidence to succeed at the international level. He explained that the players selected were picked based on their performances in local tournaments, their ability to bat against pace and spin, and their records. The head coach also wants to see who has the character to do the job at the international level. From the beginning, Chandika Hathurusingha has been looking to expand the team’s player pool ahead of the ODI World Cup later this year. Hathurusingha stressed that Mahmudullah, who has been rested for the first two ODIs against Ireland, is not at the end of the road.
All of these points are indicating the positive mind-set of the coach in changing the Bangladesh cricket team in a positive aspect, which is what Hathurusingha was saying. If the players continue to play like this and bring more records and wins for Bangladesh, then it will not be too much to say that Hathuruingha will be one of the best coaches in the history of the Bangladesh cricket team to change the team’s structure from average to excellent. The more the Bangladesh team gains success in these matches, the more Hathurusingha will be praised by the players, coaches, supportive bodies, and fans for sure. And so far, Hathurusingha is on the verge of achieving that praise.