Chandika Haturusingha's resignation that came this week was news to the Bangladesh media. He had, in fact, submitted his resignation to the President of the Bangladesh Board in October that he had kept secret. The news of his departure has been received by the media and the BCB like it was a routine matter and little more.
Hathurusingha was a hero in Bangladesh not too long ago. In 2015, when the Bangladesh cricket team had reached the second stage of the Cricket World Cup tournament in Australia/New Zealand and the world of cricket took notice that Bangladesh cricket had finally arrived on the world stage, Hathurusingha was given a great deal of credit for turning Bangladesh cricket around.
Hathurusingha took charge of the Bangladesh Team in May 2014 and was contracted to be the coach till the next Cricket World Cup to be played in England and Wales. Bangladesh cricket in 2019. Bangladesh was then not just a minnow in world cricket it was also under pressure from the self-proclaimed Big Three, namely England, Australia, and India that with the ICC in tandem was conspiring to relegate Bangladesh to the lower level of a proposed two-stage system of international cricket. Hathurusingha was instrumental in bringing Bangladesh out of being humiliated and placing Bangladesh in a position where it is today. Notwithstanding the humiliating South African series, Hathurusingha with the Bangladesh team behind him has buried the conspiracy of the so-called Big Three and the ICC for good.
A statistical look at the achievements during Haturusingha's tenure speaks for itself. During the period he looked after the Bangladesh Team as its coach, it played 17 Tests and won 5, lost 8 and drew 4. In ODI, in the same period, Bangladesh won more matches than it had lost-- 20 wins against 13 defeats. And in the 20/20 format, under Hathurusingha's guidance, Bangladesh had won 9 losing 11. In the ODI format, with Hathurusingha as the coach, Bangladesh is now placed at number 7, ahead of Sri Lanka and for a while was placed at number 6. Its ranking had allowed Bangladesh a berth in the Champion's Trophy that was played in England this year where it had moved into the second stage. Australia had failed to do so!
Hathurusingha did not take Bangladesh to the top of international cricket but he did take Bangladesh cricket to a position of respect. Therefore, if results are considered, Hathurusingha has been a successful coach for Bangladesh by any standard. At a time when the Bangladesh Team seems to have hit a rough patch with the disastrous tour of South Africa, it is not a good sign for Bangladesh cricket that he has resigned-- that too without a successor. And the way the BCB treated the news of the resignation, it did not seem that it was unhappy to let the coach leave. The coach had still 2 years to go but the Board did not seem it was eager to keep him because the coach cannot leave without assigning acceptable reasons that he has not. In fact, the Board appeared too glad that he was leaving without assigning any reasons.
That has left cricket fans guessing, including this writer. The Bangladesh cricket players in all the three formats are a very talented lot. That is not enough though because, without a coach to take charge and a good one at that, the players might find it difficult if not impossible to come out from the rut in which they now find themselves. Why then did the BCB allow the coach to leave even without an effort to keep him until the end of his contract? And why is it not making any efforts to appoint a new coach now that we know that it had decided to let him go without holding him to his contract quite some time ago?
Without any clear information from the Board and the cricket scribes unable to help with inside information, one can only speculate what has happened with Hathurusingha. One speculation could be that the Board allowed him to go without holding him to his contract because it thought that a lot of the blame for the South African mishap could be placed upon him. That may find some takers because they feel Hathurusingha's success in transforming the Bangladesh team had affected his ways of leading the team. He had developed the habit of playing favourites with the players that caused bad feelings within the team.
One case in point had been the way he had decided the fate of Mominul Huq. When Hathurusingha got the charge of the Bangladesh Team, Mominul Huq had just started his Test career. And what a career it was! He was then averaging in the high 50s in Tests with a number of centuries and half centuries. Yet the coach decided he was fit only for Test and took him out of the ODI and the 20/20 formats. Later, he even tried to take his Test career from him, and when he was dropped for the Dhaka Test against Australia recently, there was an outcry.
Test batsmen of a class can easily suit his batting for the other formats. A fast bowler of a class is one the coach of a national team should care about saving for Test only. Therefore, Hathurusingha was unfair with Mominul that the classy batsman himself underlined the other day by being the first Bangladesh batsman to score a half-century in the ongoing BPL. Momin was asked about Hathurusingha's resignation but the gentleman he is, he refused to comment. Nevertheless, Momin's overall career as a batsman may be one of the bright points of the coach's resignation. Hathurusingha also played favourites with other players and some batsmen who needed to be dropped were played in more than one format that made obvious to the cricket fans that the Coach was not always fair in Team selection.
However, it would be unfair to blame the coach alone for playing favourites. Others in the Board did so too and teams in all the formats have not always been selected fairly and the coach was not always in charge of the team selection. Hathurusingha had earned respect of a lot of cricket fans in Bangladesh when he was able to recall a leading player-- a superstar from playing a league in the Caribbean soon upon becoming the coach. It was, therefore, sad to see that he was unable to override the application of the same star player from not going on the South African tour for sabbatical on the blatantly silly excuse that he had played too many Tests, and that he needed rest. The player is a clever one and he knew he would fail both in batting and fielding and therefore used his superstar status to force his application for sabbatical.
Perhaps, Hathurusingha decided to resign because these superstars in the team had become a power unto themselves and he was not comfortable anymore. Further, rumour had it that an offer from the President of the Sri Lankan Board for the job of the Sri Lankan coach was made to him a year ago. These rumours, if true, would explain partly why the Bangladesh Team in all the formats had suddenly declined so fast after climbing such great heights. If cricket fans had expected that Bangladesh players would return to form on their home ground, they are not showing that in the ongoing BPL.
Bangladesh cricket needs a worthy coach desperately with the Sri Lankan tour around the corner. Its talented players need to be regrouped under someone who can channel their talents for productive cricket. These players are all playing in the BPL and with the overseas players stealing the show and dominating the BPL so far, they suddenly look like very ordinary players indeed. It is time for the Board to stand up and see the cricketing realties around them. The fans see a lot of dark and threatening clouds over the future of Bangladesh cricket.
The writer is a former Ambassador.
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