Bangladesh are on their way to New Zealand for a six-week tour, which starts with a long quarantine, followed by three ODIs and three T20Is. They have just lost a home Test series to West Indies, which has expectedly attracted widespread criticism. Head coach Russell Domingo understands the situation, and feels an overhaul of the Test culture, by making the players appreciate the importance of the format, is the need of the hour. For now, though, he is hoping that the players' love for limited-overs cricket will help on what is an important overseas assignment.
Bangladesh have never won a match against New Zealand in New Zealand.
We know it's going to be a tough tour; New Zealand are playing really good cricket at the moment. From the year that I have been here [with Bangladesh] now, 50-overs cricket is a format that a lot of our players seem to enjoy and pride themselves on. We are looking forward to a very competitive series.
The fast bowlers will have a big role to play there - what sort of improvements are you looking at for them on this white-ball tour?
We haven't played a lot of one-day cricket without Shakib (Al Hasan), so trying to find that allrounder to balance the team is crucially important. (Mehidy Hasan) Miraz has shown that he can do it in Tests, but we need to find some allrounders who can give us more options. The second area is our finishing of games with the lower-middle order, trying to establish a power-hitter in the back-end, giving someone the responsibility of finishing games. It is something that we want to develop over the next couple of months.
On that, Mohammad Saifuddin is the first name that comes to mind - he has been around now for four years, what are your thoughts about his progress?
He still has a lot of work to do, especially on his batting. He is still a bit inconsistent with the way he strikes the ball. He is coming off quite a few injuries too. We would like him to get his pace up by another five or six kph or so. I know that's something that Ottis (Gibson, the bowling coach) also feels. If he can bowl consistently at 132-134kph, that's where we need him to be. He is a very good package for us in white-ball cricket, but he is still not the finished product as far as I am concerned.
What would be the challenges for Tamim Iqbal as captain? And do Bangladesh hope to win the series?
Absolutely. We definitely feel that we are going in with good fast bowlers like Taskin (Ahmed), Hasan Mahmud, Mustafizur (Rahman) and Saifuddin; Shoriful (Islam) brings good pace into our attack. We want to play an aggressive brand of cricket there with our fast bowlers. I suppose in the past Bangladesh have relied heavily on spinners on away tours as well. We are going to try to change that. We will try to strike with the new ball and strike in the middle of the innings with pace, not just with spin. Those are the types of challenge Tamim is going to face, to get the team moving in that direction and not become spin-dominant in the middle of the innings and also be able to get his fast bowlers to get those big breakthroughs that we need to happen.
In terms of the bigger picture, how much do you think the team has progressed, in all formats, since you took charge?
I have been very happy with the way the one-dayers and T20s have gone. To win a T20 in India and push them close in the third T20, we probably should have won that game. We have won six ODIs in a row. We have won six of our last T20 games, which is a good return. In terms of white-ball cricket, the team is definitely moving in the right direction.
We are a long way off where we need to be in Tests, it is obvious. We have 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 have the fight that's required to guts it out for five days. It is the big challenge for us.
We know there's a lot of disappointment losing the series against West Indies. It is a good wake-up call for everybody to show how far back we have fallen in Tests. Guys will say that they have won in the past but those were one-off Test wins. They haven't won a major Test series yet. There's a lot of work to do in the Test format. I see it as a great challenge as a coach and management to ensure our Test cricket improves. For me, it's the No. 1 format, but trying to get the players to understand that is the biggest thing. Just an appreciation of the Test-match format is a big challenge for players to try to get their heads around.
How did the team react to the West Indies Test series loss?
Everyone was very disappointed with the performance. We know in the first Test we dominated for four days and made some bad decisions on day five. We didn't play well at all in the second Test. The coaches are hurt by the way the Test series went. But that's the nature of international sport. We have an opportunity now to rectify that in New Zealand, and do something no Bangladesh side has done before in New Zealand, and that's winning the series. We will try our utmost to do it. It is going to be a tough ask.
The players, being professionals, know that they have to lift themselves. They know that when they put on their green shirts again in two weeks' time, their minds are completely clear and focused on the future, not the past.
Where do you think Mominul Haque, the captain, went wrong against West Indies?
Mominul has a lot to learn as captain but his heart is in the right place. He is fully focused on the team. He wants to lead the team from the front. It is a new experience for him. He is going to get better. We support, guide, and advise him as much as we possibly can. But he also has to find his own way of captaincy, which he is still trying to establish.
It has been a very stop-start captaincy for him, which makes it even harder. It would have been easier if had a Test match in a week's time but now he has to wait a couple of months for the next Test. It is not easy, and nor is it a simple job, but I know it is a job he wants to do and is fully committed in doing. I support him 100% to try to achieve the goals he has set for the team.
Lastly, where do you stand on Shakib's decision not to play the Sri Lanka series in favour of the IPL?
It is a tough one. As a coach, I would always want Shakib available in the side. On the other side of things, if the player is not all in it, and there are other opportunities at this stage of his career, it is very hard to judge him on making those decisions. I think it is the decision he has to make. He can take opinions from various quarters but it is Shakib's decision. As coaches, we have to respect his decision. It is his career and livelihood, so it is not for us to make those judgements.
I know when he does play for Bangladesh, he is fully committed. What format he is going to play, those are discussions we probably still need to have going forward. The way cricket is going at the moment, nobody can be forced to play in any format. We have to respect the decision that the board and player is making.