Russell Domingo’s future as coach

A lot has happened in the past few days. How are you viewing all of this?

I am feeling very, very much at peace. This is not an issue at all. I’ve tried my best with the T20 team. The board wants to try out someone else. If the board feels this is in the best interest of the team, I have no problem. I don’t have that big of an ego.

But the board openly criticised your coaching style…

Everyone is entitled to their opinion. But it’s their opinion. It’s disappointing that they were saying this to everyone other than me. I haven’t even read what they said about me. Other people have told me. But I’m content with what I’ve done with the T20 team. I don’t think about these things at all.

Have you thought about your future?

My focus will be on the 50-over World Cup. I believe we have a good chance to do well there. I will try to take the Test team to a good position. We have to try to win some series. A lot is said about me, I know. Where am I going, will I continue or not… But at the moment, I just want to keep doing my job. I don’t want to think about these things.

Will it be easy for the cricketers to adjust? Because usually when more than one coach is appointed for a team, it’s done on the basis of white and red ball cricket. Now you are the coach in ODIs and Tests, not T20. Will it be confusing for the cricketers?

I think that in the future, we will see different sets of coaches and players in every format. Look at the West Indies team we played against. Their team was quite different in each format. Six-seven of our players play in all formats. Now, whoever gets appointed as coach, will have to create a separate team once the pool of cricketers gets bigger. Because, the skill required in T20 is completely different to the ones needed in Tests. ODIs in that sense are more like Tests. You have to build an innings, show patience when the bowler is bowling a good spell. The same cricketers can play in Tests and ODIs. But T20 is completely different.

But the discussions of separating the coaching staff must have come as a surprise to you. Because, you had no idea about this even two days back.

I wouldn’t say that I was shocked. Because as a coach, you have to be prepared for anything. And if the team keeps losing, then you can’t say anything about your future with certainty. I knew that many people had many questions about the team. In that sense, I wouldn’t say this was completely unexpected.

At present, almost all coaches want to work in T20 leagues. But you have been removed from the T20 team. Will it harm your coaching career?

Absolutely not. I have won more matches for Bangladesh compared to other coaches. We have beaten Australia, New Zealand in T20 series. Won a T20 in India for the first time. The way it ended is definitely disappointing. Because I feel that the T20 team is not far off from becoming a good team.

Will you return to Bangladesh?

The plan for now is that I will return home. Then in October I will go to Dubai with the ‘A’ team. A few of our Test batsmen will be part of that tour. I will spend a few weeks with them. Then I will return before the India series in November.

Experience of coaching the T20 team

As your T20 chapter in Bangladesh has drawn to a close, how do you rate your own work?

I think we were playing good T20 cricket. Then came the 2021 World Cup, and the cricketers couldn’t cope up with the external pressure. We definitely should’ve defeated West Indies and Sri Lanka at the Super 12s. Then Australia, South Africa and England won against us convincingly, but all three of them are among the top teams in the world. After that, the team had lost all its confidence. After returning home we lost to Pakistan. From then, everything changed. The selectors changed the team. Some cricketers went on rest. There was no consistency. After that everything got out of control.

What do you mean by external pressure?

We lost two matches at the main stage of the World Cup. Shakib and Saifuddin got injured. At that time, there was a lot of tension in the team. This happens when cricketers don’t get a chance to think by themselves. This comes from the coaching and leadership. In the last 8-10 years the cricketers of this team haven’t received this sort of coaching. Cricketers can’t think by themselves. Because, the board tells them something, the director of cricket tells them something, everyone gives them an earful. If the cricketers are told what to do at every step, then how will they learn? The cricketers can’t think by themselves. Because they are always told what they need to do. This is the biggest challenge of Bangladesh cricket. The cricketers can’t think or do anything by themselves.

Did you give the cricketers that freedom?

I didn’t want to completely leave them on their own. But shouting, scolding doesn’t do much good. If we completely blast the cricketers when they make mistakes, we won’t get the best out of them. I didn’t want to do that. The cricketers will make mistakes and they will have to learn from it. For that, they need to take decisions by themselves. But they can’t do that. Because they are constantly given advice and are scolded. It’s not that this comes from just one end, this comes from all corners. That’s why their cricket knowledge doesn’t grow. They can’t think by themselves. The boys have grown so used to this that now they are always dependent on others.

As head coach, it is your responsibility to guard the cricketers from all of this…

You can ask the cricketers, I try to maintain a calm atmosphere in the dressing room. But there are too many voices around the team, it was no longer possible for me handle all of it.

Is this why getting removed from T20s is a relief for you, not disappointing? Looking at you, I get the impression that you are happy to be free of the burden.

Yes, exactly right. There is nothing more for me to do here. I was always told that I need to shout at them at all times. I have to be strict. This is how I need to behave with the cricketers. I’m sure that many coaches before me have done that. But the coaches before me also couldn’t achieve anything in T20s. In fact, my record should be better than theirs. Because, Bangladesh has won just one match at the main stage of the World Cup. I was with the team at one World Cup. Before that, many coaches have gone to the World Cup with this team. But nothing happened. I tried to take a different path.

In your first press conference after becoming the Bangladesh coach, you were asked how you will handle outside interference while coaching the team. You said that as you are coming from South Africa, you are used to it. After three years, what will you say?

This team is really unprotected. Everyone keeps commenting and those comments reach the team. I’ve worked seven years in South Africa. There, there’s only the coach, staff and selectors. Nothing from the outside reaches the team. Here, it’s not like that. In South Africa, the interference is political. Here, it’s completely different.

*This interview appeared in the print and online edition of Prothom Alo and has been rewritten for the English edition by Ashfaq-Ul-Alam Niloy