When Chandika Hathurusingha signed up to be head coach of Bangladesh in 2014, he was joining a side that had only won one Test this decade and had lost nearly two thirds of its one-day internationals.
Since then, the Tigers have won as many Tests as they have lost (four wins, four losses, four draws) and 21 of their 35 ODIs, reports foxsports.com.au
That’s the fourth best win-loss ratio (1.62) of any ODI side in the world in this period, bettered by only India (1.88), South Africa (1.90) and Australia (2.28).
In October the team beat England to seal a 1-1 Test series draw, and has enjoyed tied series against both India and South Africa.
Something special is happening in Bangladesh, and Hathurusingha is hopeful that this is only the beginning.
Currently ninth on the International Cricket Council’s Test rankings and seventh in ODIs, Bangladesh aims to be in the top five for both formats by 2019.
It’s a lofty ambition but one the former Sri Lankan Test batsman and Sydney resident maintains is realistic.
Having enjoyed coaching stints with Sri Lanka, New South Wales and Sydney Thunder, Hathurusingha is adamant the players coming through the Bangladeshi system are as good as any in the world.
When he first joined the side he spent he spent the first few months on the peripheral, observing the way the side trained and played.
“The way they trained, it was very low intensity, with long drawn practice sessions without purpose,” Hathurusingha told foxsports.com.au ahead of Twenty20s between his side and the Sydney Sixers (Wednesday, North Sydney Oval) and Sydney Thunder (Saturday, Spotless Stadium).
“The other thing I saw was they needed to try to collectively play as a team with one purpose of winning the game.
“Our training changed very, very quickly from there. We trained with purpose straight away, being really specific with what we want to take out form each session.
“They were really open at that time I took over because they were not doing too well.”
There’s more to Bangladesh’s rapid rise than just a shift in the way the team trained. As Hathurusingha pointed out, the side was not equipped to play as team. They were a group of individuals all trying to do what they saw as best for the side but pulling in different directions.
Helping the players understand their roles within the collective helped, but just as importantly Hathurusingha brought the group together, asking them where they wanted the team to go.
Questions like this have always been at the centre of Hathurusingha’s coaching philosophy.
“I believe it is human nature if you don’t challenge yourself you won’t get better. So either you have to challenge yourself or someone has to come in and ask questions to challenge you to get better.
“We got them to come up with what they want to achieve in their cricket careers. As a group they came up with what they wanted to achieve and where they wanted to be in two to three years as a team.
“We actually had something written in our dressing room of what they came up with.”
Earlier this year, the team revisited that manifesto and to the players’ delight they had accomplished most of what they wanted to achieve, including establishing themselves as a powerhouse on their own soil — the Tigers won six straight ODI series’ at home before losing to England in October, beating the likes of India, South Africa and Pakistan.
That called for a new a set of targets and that’s where the notion of being in the top five for both Test and one-day cricket first came up.
The Tigers are already in touching distance of fifth-placed England on the ODI rankings, sitting at seventh, 12 points behind. But they’ve got a long way to go in the Test arena. Right now, Bangladesh sits ninth on the Test rankings, ahead of only Zimbabwe, and 37 points behind fifth-placed South Africa (102).
It’s a sizeable task and Hathurusingha knows that. But there is hope.
In October, the Bangladeshis secured their first ever Test victory over a side other than Zimbabwe or the West Indies, beating England by 108 runs at Dhaka.
It’s a victory Hathurusingha hopes will spur on his side in Test cricket the same way making the quarter-finals of the 2015 World Cup lifted the side in the one-day arena — Bangladesh has won 13 of its 18 ODIs since the tournament.
As he sees it, there’s more to winning a Test then pure ability. You need to know how to win and the more you win the easier it gets.
It’s a lesson Bangladesh learned across two Tests against England in October, bouncing back to win in Dhaka, having fallen 22 runs short in a heartbreaker in Chittagong a week earlier.
“The biggest thing is believing themselves that they can win. If you’ve not been in those kind of winning situations before you don’t know what the next steps are you have to take. You don’t know how to be calm and go towards the finishing line.
“We had never been in this position of winning against a big team. So that’s what I saw in that game (the first Test against England). Even in the second game when we were in a winning position, we didn’t know what to do. We were trying to get there too soon or doing so many things to allow the other team to get back in. That doubt is always there until you get over a few situations like that.”
After taking on the Thunder on Saturday, Bangladesh will cross the Tasman to New Zealand for ODIs, Twenty20s and a two-Test series.
And the Tigers will go there confident. This is a very different outfit to the one he inherited two and a half years ago.
“They have more belief in their own ability now,” he said.
“They believe in themselves that they can compete and win against any team. They don’t have any doubt.
“Before they were thinking, ‘okay, we can compete to a certain level, and they were limiting themselves.’ Now that’s not there anymore.”