Coach tells tigers, overcoming fear is key

Ever since he was appointed as head coach in June, Chandika Hathurusingha has spoken of getting Bangladesh to play without fear. Too often, he must have felt, the team had been worn down by anxiety, a persistent worry of failure.
Last year, Bangladesh lost its first 12 ODI matches, including one — infamously — to Afghanistan and seemed to have regressed as a team since the Asia Cup defeat of India in 2012.
The bowling looked lightweight, the batsmen were out of form, there was a steady supply of controversy, and Ireland and Afghanistan were catching up. The idea of playing with abandon could not have appealed to the side a great deal.
Yet, six months later, Hathurusingha is at the Melbourne Cricket Ground, preparing his wards for a World Cup quarterfinal. They are laughing and joking with each other during a game of football; the bowling coach, Heath Streak, considerably wider around the midriff than in his playing days, joins in the fun.
Bangladesh has beaten England and pushed New Zealand to the brink before losing. If there was fear in the players’ minds, it wasn’t apparent.
Help from psychologist
“We always talk about playing with freedom,” Hathurusingha said here on Monday.
“We have a sports psychologist (Dr. Phil Jauncey, an Australian) and his work has been immense in getting the players to concentrate on their own game and not be afraid of making decisions.
“That gives players room to move and do things in the middle. That is the culture we’re trying to create.”
At the end of that horrific run of results in August, Bangladesh blanked Zimbabwe 5-0 and arrived early in Australia to get accustomed to conditions.
“That’s another thing, our preparation was very thorough. Now we’re peaking at the right time. The players have been improving with every match and that’s the key to success,” the Sri Lankan said.
Overcoming mental frailty may not turn Bangladesh into a world-class unit, but it will definitely make the team better. “I can’t speak about what happened in the past but what I can tell you is that we believe in ourselves,” Hathurusingha stated. “Against established sides, the key is to play to our potential and catch them off-guard. If they have an ordinary day, we can beat them, we can beat any side.”
That boldness has been embodied by the captain Mashrafe Mortaza who, having sat out the New Zealand game with a niggle, was back training. Against England, he chose to trust his fast bowlers as the endgame played out. The young Taskin Ahmed leaked late runs but got rid of Jos Buttler. And Rubel Hossain, back after off-field strife, duly finished England off.
“We have a general game-plan but the captain has free [reign] to take decisions based on how the game is progressing. Rubel bowled well. He has practised what he has to do. We talk about the mental aspect and he was very professional in the way he was switched on,” the coach noted.
No dwelling on bygones
Back in 2007, Bangladesh dumped India out of the World Cup and progressed to the Super Eights. That win in Trinidad can serve as inspiration, with Tamim Iqbal, Mushfiqur Rahim, Shakib Al Hasan and Mortaza still around to recall events, but Hathurusingha does not like to dwell on bygones. “I don’t think we will talk about that at all,” he said. “That is in the past.”
There is no doubting that Bangladesh lags a long way behind India but Zimbabwe showed that this side was not immune to having bad days.
Hathurusinghe did not speak of Indian weaknesses, or what victory would mean to Bangladesh. All he was preoccupied with was getting his players to have fun.
“The team that is going to enjoy the occasion more will have a better game.It’s key to enjoy the opportunity that is presented. It’s the first time but we know we are good enough and that’s why we are here.” – The Hindu