Bangladesh is on its way to New Zealand for a six-week tour, which begins with a long quarantine, followed by three ODIs and three T20Is. They just lost the home test series to the West Indies, which, as expected, attracted widespread criticism. Head coach Russell Domingo understands the situation and feels the need to rethink the testing culture, making players appreciate the importance of the format. For now, however, he hopes players ’love of limited-game cricket will help with what is an important task abroad.
Bangladesh has never won a match against New Zealand in New Zealand.
We know it’s going to be a tough tour; New Zealand is currently playing very good cricket. Since the year I’ve been here [with Bangladesh] now cricket is a 50 oversata format that many of our players enjoy and are proud of. We are looking forward to a very competitive series.
Fast bowlers will play a big role there – what improvements are you looking for from them on this white ball tour?
We didn’t play a lot of one-day cricket without Shakib (Al Hasan), so trying to discover that the team’s overall balance is crucial. (Mehidy Hasan) Miraz has shown that he can do this on tests, but we need to find some round people who will give us more opportunities. The second area is our ending of lower middle order games, trying to establish a power striker in the background, giving someone the responsibility to finish the games. This is something we want to develop in the next few months.
“If a player isn’t all about it, and there are other possibilities at this stage of his career, it’s very difficult to judge him for making those decisions.”
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When it comes to that, Mohammad Saifuddin is the first name that comes to your mind – he has been around for four years, what are your thoughts on his progress?
There’s still a lot of work to do, especially on punching. He’s still a bit at odds with the way he hits the ball. And he has quite an injury. We would like it to speed up the pace by an additional five or six km / h. I know it’s something that Ottis (Gibson, bowling coach) also feels. If he can consistently bowl at 132-134 km / h, we should be there. He’s a very good white ball cricket package for us, but as far as I’m concerned it’s still not a finished product.
What would be the challenges for Tamim Iqbal as captain? And does Bangladesh hope to win the series?
Absolutely. We definitely feel like we’re getting into good fast bowlers like Taskin (Ahmed), Hasan Mahmud, Mustafizur (Rahman) and Saifuddin; Shoriful (Islam) brings a good pace to our attack. There we want to play an aggressive brand of cricket with our fast bowlers. I guess Bangladesh has relied heavily on spinners and away games in the past. We will try to change that. We’ll try to hit with a new ball and hit in the middle of an inning pace, not just a spin. These are the types of challenges that Tamim will face, to get the team to move in that direction and not become spin-dominant in the middle of inning, and also to get their fast bowlers to the big discoveries we need to happen.
As for the bigger picture, how much do you think the team has progressed in all formats since you took responsibility?
I was very pleased with the way the one-dayers and the T20 went. To win the T20 in India and push them close in the third T20, we probably needed to win that game. We won six ODIs in a row. We have won the last six T20 games, which is a good comeback. As for white ball cricket, the team is definitely moving in the right direction.
Obviously, we are far from where we need to be in the tests. We need to change the culture of the test team. We have to make sure that we have a group of players who are hungry to play tests, skilled to play tests and lead the fight that is needed to loop it for five days. That is a big challenge for us.
We know it’s a lot of disappointment to lose a series against the West Indies. It’s a good wake-up call for everyone to show how much we failed the tests. The guys will say they have won in the past, but these were one-time victories on the test. They haven’t won the big test series yet. There is a lot of work in the test format. I see it as a great challenge as a coach and management to ensure the improvement of our Test Cricket. For me, it’s format number 1, but trying to get players to understand that’s the biggest thing. Just respecting the Test-match format is a big challenge for players trying to break their heads.
How did the team react to the loss of the West Indies Test series?
Everyone was very disappointed with the performance. We know in the first test that we dominated for four days and made some bad decisions on the fifth day. In the second test, we didn’t play well at all. The coaches were hurt by the way the series went. But that is the nature of international sport. Now we have a chance to correct that in New Zealand and do something that neither side of Bangladesh has done in New Zealand and that is a win in the series. We will try our best to do that. It will be a difficult question.
Players, who are professionals, know they have to get up. They know that when they put on their green shirts again in two weeks, their minds are completely clear and focused on the future, not the past.
Where do you think Mominul Haque, the captain, made a mistake against the West Indies?
Mominul has a lot to learn as a captain, but his heart is in the right place. He is completely focused on the team. He wants to lead the team from the front. It is a new experience for him. Will be better. We support, guide and advise him as much as we can. But he must also find his own captaincy, which he is still trying to establish.
It was his very stop-start captaincy, which makes it even harder. It would have been easier if he had a test game in a week, but now he has to wait a few months for the next test. It’s not easy, and it’s not an easy job either, but I know it’s a job he wants to do and in which he’s totally committed. I support him 100% to try to achieve the goals he set for the team.
And finally, where do you stand with Shakib’s decision not to play the Sri Lankan series in favor of the IPL?
It is hard. As a coach, I would always like Shakib to be available from the sidelines. On the other hand, if a player is not all about it, and there are other possibilities at this stage of his career, it is very difficult to judge him about making those decisions. I think that’s a decision he has to make. He can receive opinions from various sides, but that is Shakib’s decision. As coaches, we must respect his decision. His career and existence are, so it is not up to us to make those judgments.
I know when he plays for Bangladesh, he is completely committed. What format it will play, these are debates that we should probably lead further. As cricket is currently going, no one can be forced to play in any format. We have to respect the decision made by the board and the player.
Mohammad Isam is a correspondent for ESPNcricinfo in Bangladesh. @ isam84