Bangladesh head cricket coach Chandika Hathurusingha's team has been strengthened with the addition of another member to the coaching staff, but yesterday's appointment of Richard Halsall as national fielding consultant for the series against West Indies has raised many questions. Perhaps the most intriguing of those surrounds Ruwan Kalpage's exact role in the team management, in light of the numerous changes to his job description.
The 46-year-old Halsall, who performed the role of assistant coach of England from 2011 to 2014, already reached the West Indies to join the Bangladesh team, scheduled to reach Grenada in the early hours today to play the first two ODIs of the three-match series on August 20 and 22.
Halsall was England's fielding coach from 2008 to 2010 and he was the first choice of the search committee of the Bangladesh Cricket Board (BCB) for the fielding coach's job. Halsall's contract with the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) will expire on October 3 this year and after that he may join Bangladesh long-term.
But the board initially had to forego their choice to fulfil the desire of the new head coach and accordingly confirmed former Sri Lanka all-rounder Kalpage, known as a good friend of Hathurusingha, for the position of fielding coach.
Kalpage, who had spent two years between March 2008 and April 2010 as head coach of the National Cricket Academy, was suddenly appointed as an assistant coach to teach spin bowling after another Sri Lankan, Piyal Wijetunge, declined the role.
All told, it seems a flawed decision. Kalpage never had much favour with the BCB, but they bowed to the wishes of the coach. What is more alarming is the fact that they have long been saying that the assistant coach's position will be filled by a local.
BCB could have waited for a good spin-bowling coach instead of making a makeshift arrangement that basically makes a mockery of the post. One may justifiably question the value of the roles of a spin-bowling coach or that of a fielding coach if these two vastly different disciplines are interchangeable or if a fielding coach, because he was a spinner in his playing days, could take over the spin role on a whim. On the other hand, if he is indeed good enough to tackle both these departments competently, then one may question the wisdom of taking on the expense of a separate fielding coach.
"Actually Halsall was our initial choice because he had a good reputation and when we didn't get our expected spin-bowling coach, we changed our minds and changed the role of Kalpage, who was basically a spinner. Let's see how things go," said BCB's media committee chairman Jalal Yunus, who is also a member of the search committee, when asked about the logic of changing the role of Kalpage and apparently appointing two fielding coaches in the team.
"Yes there was an issue of the head coach's choice and we thought that it's always good if the head coach picks as per his choice. You know there is a crisis of finding a competent coach. We will evaluate Kalpage's work as a spin-bowling coach in the next six months and then take the final decision on a long-term arrangement," said Akram Khan, BCB's cricket operations committee chairman.
There is nothing inherently wrong with the BCB accommodating personnel that the new head coach feels comfortable with. But to do it by sacrificing their vision and, more culpably, compromising on proven expertise -- the initial decision to abandon Halsall's pursuit -- is counterproductive and a sign of weakness.
It is nothing new; questions about the BCB's ability to follow through on vision and govern the country's cricket with commonsense are as old as the board itself -- Shakib Al Hasan's mishandling and subsequent disciplinary issues are a prime example of the BCB's lack of good management.
As it has done with Shakib, the BCB has a tendency to go from one extreme to another. With Hathurusingha too, it has gone from being dictatorial with previous coach Shane Jurgensen to bending over backwards for the incumbent. As the board keeps chopping and changing roles within the team management, it would do well to change tack and settle on a middle ground that allows for their vision to coexist with the coach's.