From South Africa where, if you get to a press conference ahead of a big game you might get eight to nine reporters. I never seen so many as reporters in my life. I got to the airport yesterday and there were hundreds. It always strikes me that the passion for cricket in Bangladesh. It is the thing that attracted me to this part of the world.
Russell Domingo appeared overwhelmed when greeted by a room full of reporters when the newly appointed Bangladesh head coach came in for his first press conference in Mirpur yesterday. In the full-house reception, there was a hint of the level of expectation the South African will have to live up to during his tenure as coach of the national team of a cricket-crazed nation.
Such was the case with Domingo’s two immediate predecessors -- Chandika Hathurusingha and Steve Rhodes. Rhodes, who Domingo replaced, could not deliver what he had promised initially after taking charge of the Tigers back in June 2018. The Englishman had started with a view to building towards the 2019 World Cup and may have dreamt a bit too big -- sketching a bold picture of seeing the Tigers lined up in the last four of the World Cup. And the Bangladesh Cricket Board (BCB) also did not take long to part ways with the Englishman who -- as has been mentioned by the BCB when they terminated Rhodes’ contract before it’s agreed duration -- had failed to live up to expectations.
It was rather a different story with Hathurusingha. The Sri Lankan commenced his journey as the Tigers’ head coach back in May 2014 with a goal-oriented approach as he had put his focus on establishing the best possible environment around the team to ensure better results.
This time, however, Domingo spoke of taking it rather slow. He begun with an immediate goal of building a good rapport with players as he mentioned that gaining the players’ trust was an important aspect of his plans.
The South African will however begin with a rather tougher ask than either Rhodes or Hathurusingha. Firstly, the 44-year-old is set for a tough start as he will not have the opportunity to guide the Tigers in ODIs -- their favoured format -- at all this year. Domingo’s first assignment is the one-off Test against Afghanistan starting from September 5, which will be followed by a triangular T20I series featuring Bangladesh, Zimbabwe and Afghanistan.
Moreover, he will not have the full complement of seniors who have eased the entry of the last two coaches. Tamim Iqbal has taken a break from the two upcoming home series, and finding a suitable replacement for one of the best batsmen in the country will be the South African’s first headache. No ODIs until March next year also means having to do without the most influential dressing room presence in Mashrafe Bin Mortaza, whose era is nearing an end anyway as the timing of his retirement now dominates news more than his exploits on the field. That, and the recent 3-0 ODI thrashing in Sri Lanka last month leaves the team in a state where a rotation policy will have to be used to unearth new players.
Domingo, who seemed a bit surprised and also concerned about Bangladesh’s lack of opportunities in Tests, will also have to toil to get the best out of the team in this format.
“Bangladesh played their last Test six months ago. It is a long time. I think it is hard to improve if you don’t play enough Tests. I think with the [World] Test Championship, the team will get a chance to focus more on Tests. Bangladesh often play two-match Test series, others play three or four-match series. There is so much focus on white-ball cricket,” said Domingo during the press conference yesterday.
There is no denying that being a coach of any country is challenging and it is truer when the team is Bangladesh -- a nation that has fans and board members with high expectations. Rhodes and Hathurusingha had a lot of challenges too, but the fact that they had a more settled Bangladesh side with the seniors in fine fettle may have made things a bit easier for them. With Domingo, however, it seems he will have a tough initiation as Bangladesh coach.
Russell Domingo, the newly appointed head coach of Bangladesh, aims to build a good relationship with the players initially. He talked about gaining their trust as an important aspect of his plans with Bangladesh during his first press conference in Mirpur yesterday.
Domingo, a major factor in whose appointment was that he would be able to give the sufficient time to players and on developmental aspects of cricket in the country as mentioned by the Bangladesh Cricket Board president Nazmul Hassan, also talked about keeping an eye on the domestic circuit that would help him identify future prospects and develop them.
The South African also mentioned that he needs to have trusted colleagues around him who could help him with their insights. He hoped for good input from selectors and also emphasised on communication with High Performance coach Simon Helmot.
There has been talk of having more players in the pipeline who can offer more rotational options when needed. Domingo will be expected to enrich the pipeline by spending more time with the future prospects and grooming them.
It would be a tough challenge for Domingo to deal with all the expectations of the board members and the fans.
Bangladesh are yet to bounce back from their disappointing World Cup campaign as the Tigers were handed a 3-0 ODI thrashing away in Sri Lanka last month. And with Bangladesh not playing in their favoured format -- ODIs -- this year, Domingo is set for a tough start.
With the introduction of the World Test Championship and a revamped system that makes it harder for Bangladesh to qualify for the 2023 World Cup, Domingo will find it even tougher to live up to expectations.