The teams set to start the tri-series on Monday are Bangladesh and Zimbabwe but much of the focus at the Shere Bangla National Stadium on Sunday was on Chandika Hathurusingha who returned to Mirpur after his acrimonious exit as Bangladesh coach last year.
In the Sri Lankan camp now, Hathurusingha was speaking publicly in Bangladesh for the first time since he quit as their coach and there were bound to be questions about that. In particular focus was his resignation which reportedly came in the middle of Bangladesh’s tour of South Africa but was announced a month later by the BCB. The building excitement, however, gave way to one cool response after another.
“I am excited to be back again in Bangladesh. I am looking forward to the series.”
“I think it is very challenging for us. Bangladesh has been really competitive at home lately.”
“Unfortunately, I am not going to go into details about my professional commitment or my dealings with BCB. So I can’t answer that.”
Then came a minor slip-up, when he said “we” when referring to Bangladesh but quickly clarified which “we” he was talking about.
“We haven’t lost a series, one series, in the last two and half years. When I say ‘we’, I mean Bangladesh. They have been playing good cricket in ODIs. They know their roles and game plan well. It is a big challenge for any team to play here,” Hathurusingha said.
Only once his tone touched a higher note, when he was asked if it was irresponsible of him to quit in the middle of Bangladesh’s tour to South Africa. He said it wasn’t.
Although Hathurusingha returned to Dhaka in December to tie up loose ends with the BCB, it is understood he did not submit a written report and board president Nazmul Hassan said that the coach’s decision to quit was prompted by the BCB allowing Shakib Al Hasan to rest during the South Africa Test series.
The only time Hathurusingha spoke to the media during that tour was before the first Test, which prompted questions about his accountability to the Bangladesh fans who looked to him for answers after every thrashing on that winless tour. Hathurusingha remained steadfast with silence, only sending the BCB his resignation letter after the Test series, and not returning to Bangladesh for a debriefing.
Ultimately, it was Mashrafe Mortaza, Bangladesh’s ODI captain, who eased the situation by giving Hathurusingha his due but at the same time pointing out how many of the players also did their jobs properly to bring Bangladesh the success.
“Our dressing room has big-hearted players. On behalf of the Bangladesh players, I salute Hathurusingha,” Mashrafe said on Sunday. “We had success under him. I have no problem in giving him credit but the player did the job in the 22 yards.
“The coach didn’t have to do anything special to Tamim, Mushfiqur, Shakib or Mustafizur. They did it themselves, and ultimately took on the pressure. When Mahmudullah made that hundred against New Zealand, I didn’t think anyone had to guide him through that innings. He performed according to his ability.
“We backed the coach 100%, and we will keep backing the current coaching staff – Richard Halsall (interim coach), Sujon chacha (Khaled Mahmud Sujon, the technical director). They are going to do the same, with full professionalism. But good luck to Hathu. We are more concerned about ourselves right now.”
Some may expect Mashrafe’s statement to end all questions to and about Hathurusingha, but it is unlikely to be the case. The Bangladesh media is huge, and this is only the start of Sri Lanka’s tour.