From the standpoint of a captain, what do you think played the biggest role in Bangladesh’s series win in the ODIs?
Confidence. After winning the first ODI everyone became confident, that helped us the most. As a captain, it’s extremely difficult for me to give credit to one or two players. Players, coaching staff, management– every one contributed, especially the players.
The ODI team looked even more organised this time…
Look, out of the three formats, we play ODIs the best. As we have done well in this format, everyone feels confident in ODIs. It’s not like I have changed a lot of things or have done things differently as a captain. Our ODI team is quite settled. My job is to make sure we utilise the players we have.
You said utilising the players properly is your main task. So what is your formula to bring the best out of the players?
Whoever plays for Bangladesh, wants to do well. I try to make sure that everyone is in a good frame of mind, and is relaxed. To me, every match is a learning opportunity. In every match, I face new situations. In some situations I make the right decisions and sometimes I make mistakes. If I don’t repeat the same mistake twice, that means I am doing good as a captain.
As the captain in ODIs, I have an added advantage of leading a very experienced side. If I face any problems while taking a decision on the field, I can consult Mushfiq (Mushfiqur Rahim), I can consult Shakib (Al Hasan) or Mahmudullah. If needed, I take suggestions from Liton (Das), Miraz (Mehidy Hasan Miraz). The coaching staff is also there. I have said this is in the dressing room, they can send messages to me on the field if they feel it’s needed. I am not the sort of a captain that won’t listen to advice from the dressing room. According to the situation, I will decide whether I will take their advice or not.
Your understanding is also not the same with every senior member of the team. How do you manage that?
I believe I have good relations with everyone. I don’t think I have a strained relation with anyone in the Bangladesh team. For as long as I have been the captain, I have never noticed any tension among the players. I have also gotten answers and help from my teammates whenever I have asked for them – it would be wrong to say otherwise.
You said you take help from the young players while captaining…
In this series, I think after Mushfiq I have spoken the most with Liton. When I was playing under Mashrafe (Bin Mortaza) bhai, I would maybe give him 10 suggestions, he would take the one he thought was right and ignore the others. The same way, Liton, Miraz, Shanto (Najmul Hossain Shanto) give me suggestions, I take whichever one I think is right.
Out of the young players, who do you think possesses leadership quality?
It’s difficult to say from beforehand who will be a good captain. Many might have the quality, but you can’t say anything for sure before they actually become captain. Miraz, Shanto, Liton– if given chance can be good captains. But before the come across the situation, we can’t say for sure.
How do you rate Mominul Haque as a Test captain? Mominul is facing criticism for his captaincy in South Africa, what would you say about that?
It’s difficult to be Bangladesh’s Test captain. What Mominul is doing, is a very difficult task. It would also be difficult for me or anyone else. I have said strongly before, Mominul is the best person to be our Test captain. I doubt if anyone gives Test cricket as much importance in Bangladesh as Mominul does. Everyone likes Tests, even I do. But he only plays in this format, so his attitude towards it is different. So, Mominul should remain as our Test captain. Sometimes, you have to train someone to be a captain. And to do that, you need some time. Now, if you make Miraz, Liton or someone else the captain in Tests and then they lose the following three-four Tests, then we would be back to square one. Would that be the right thing for them? No. The same goes for Mominul. What’s happening to Mominul is unfair. It’s not like we win four-five Tests every year. What happened at Mount Maunganui was unbelievable.
What catches your eyes the most in Mominul’s captaincy in Tests?
Currently our pace bowling department is very good. It wasn’t like that even six-seven years ago. Many don’t know that Mominul deserves most of the credit for the fact that we have sufficient pacers for Tests and ODIs. Earlier, in domestic first-class matches, two pacers would maximum bowl five overs each before the spinners would be brought on. It would happen everywhere, whether it’s NCL (national Cricket League) or BCL (Bangladesh Cricket League). Mominul is the first captain I have seen that lets the pacers bowl longer spells. On occasions I have gone up to Mominul and said, “Bhai, let the spinners bowl now.” But he would reply, “If they don’t learn here, how would they bowl in Test matches?” It was his aim to make the pacers bowl longer spells. The coaches also deserve a lot of credit. But Mominul also had this dream. It’s true that Mominul still has a lot to learn as a captain, so do I. With time and experience, he will learn many things, understand more just like I would.
Mominul is a good batsman, good person, thinks about Test– that’s all said and good. But does he have the authority over the team like he needs to have as a captain?
Mominul is a very mild mannered person. But that doesn’t mean he stays quiet if you make a mistake. Now, everyone doesn’t need to see or hear that. It’s an internal matter of the team. Even when I or Mushfiq make a mistake, he lets us know. As we are seniors, maybe he phrases his displeasure a little differently. But he tells everyone.
There was some tension between you and coach Domingo a while back. Has the tension simmered down in the South Africa?
There is no team in the world where the players and coaches don’t have disagreements. About a year ago, Domingo and I also had a falling out. But both of us have forgotten about it and we have a very good understanding between us. We had a long discussion about the issue. We are progressing very well and definitely you saw that during the South Africa, you yourself were there. Before that incident, I had a good understanding with Domingo. But still if people keep talking about this, then there is nothing I can do about it.
You have taken a six-month rest from Twenty20 Internationals. What are your plans in this format? If you don’t want to play, why aren’t you retiring, why this six-month sabbatical?
(Smiles) More or less everyone can sense which way this thing is going. Definitely, there were reasons why I decided to take a six-month sabbatical. It’s not rocket science that no one would understand what is going on. I am a contracted cricketer of the BCB (Bangladesh Cricket Board). Whenever I have needed rest or I didn’t want to go on a tour, I have always clearly informed it to the board beforehand. Even in this case, everything is crystal clear, they know what I want. I will again inform the cricket board exactly what I’m thinking. Then I will officially announce it.
*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.