Should've Treated Tamim-Smith Captain's Armband In The Episode Better: Mohammad Salahuddin > Cricket News, cricinfo, mobilecric, cricbuzz, livescore and more

Cricket news - Should've handled Tamim-Smith captaincy episode better: Mohammad Salahuddin

"I certainly dream to be the national head coach someday." - Mohammad Salahuddin

Comilla Victorians lifted the silverware in the recently-concluded Bangladesh Premier League by defeating Dhaka Dynamites in the final by 17 runs. Mohammad Salahuddin, the head coach of Comilla Victorians shares his journey and the challenges he faced in the tournament in an exclusive interview to Cricbuzz.

Excerpts:

You won the BPL on two occasions. It must be extremely satisfying, isn't it?

I think when I won it on the first occasion, it was really satisfying for me as there were a lot of emotions attached to it. This year the championship failed to give me the same kind of high, although I am not sure about the reason behind it. I don't think we formed a team eyeing the championship because there were certainly better teams than us in the tournament on paper. I want to give the whole credit to the players and precisely the local players as due to their efforts we ended up winning the tournament. It is satisfying that the local players played better in our team compared to some of our opponents. If you see our top five, apart from Evin Lewis, we filled the other slots with our local cricketers and as they kept performing, it helped us to have proper balance because losing Steven Smith was a big blow, and we knew Shoaib Malik would leave after a certain point. We had formed our middle order keeping that in mind and all of a sudden, we realised that both of them will be unavailable. So in that sense it can be regarded as an achievement.

How did you feel when you learnt that Smith will not be available because you went quite a distance to ensure you could avail his service that was barred initially?

We knew Malik would leave after four matches so we needed some experienced campaigner to replace him as he [Malik] is a proven customer. So we went after Smith and though he hesitated initially, eventually he agreed to come and we were very extremely happy about it. At that point, we decided to bring him and though it was quite difficult to set up our team, considering we had planned for Smith to replace Shoaib instead of accommodating both in our line-up. To be honest, initially it was difficult to set up our team after his arrival but his inclusion certainly had an impact, but unfortunately he could not stay till the end. We had a huge vacuum after his departure and I must credit Tamim Iqbal for suggesting Shamsur Rahman's name during the draft although he was not in our initial plans.

If it was not for Tamim, we wouldn't have picked him as he didn't attract any buyers in the last edition of the BPL. It turned out to be a masterstroke as he delivered beyond our expectations and that allowed us to gain confidence as the tournament progressed. We had the option of playing him at number three, four and five positions and he was even ready to bat at six. He played a few knocks that totally changed the momentum of the team and his strike-rate was quite high. We did not believe that a local boy would perform in this manner and it helped us to have the proper balance. Though we had a formidable top-order, we didn't have much depth in the middle order. We had Shahid Afridi and Thisara Perera in the late-order but they were included to do the job in the end but there was no one who could be around to build the platform for them in the middle. We had four openers- Lewis, Tamim, Anamul and Imrul while we were hugely dependent on Smith to do the job for us in the middle, but after his departure, it went to Shamsur and he did the job for us.

How would you describe the impact of Smith and more so when he is coming to play a tournament without taking part in any kind of competitive cricket due to his ban?

Smith is certainly one of the leading batsmen in world cricket and we witnessed what he can do as a captain. Even before arriving, he gathered inputs about the local players. It was quite a pleasant surprise when he asked me to provide a detailed report about the credentials of our local cricketers and during the first meeting, he came an hour early to watch a few videos of the bowlers to make sure he has a clear understanding of our strengths and weaknesses before chalking out his plan of action. It proved how keen he was to perform as well as to lead the side in the tournament but he is probably more dynamic inside the field with his plans compared to his activities off the field and it was quite surprising for me to see him taking his own decisions right from day one.

But there were quite a few controversies surrounding his participation, and these kind of uncertainties can have a negative impact on the team? Despite that, how did you decide to make him your captain? How difficult was it to take away captaincy from Tamim as prior to the tournament it was more or less confirmed that he would be leading the side?

I think there were certainly a lot of issues that we could not disclose in public, but there were several issues from certain quarters that was certainly enough to demoralise the entire team ahead of the tournament.

For the last six to seven months, Tamim and me did all the planning regarding our squad formations for the BPL and where we will put our major emphasis to do well in the tournament. It was Tamim who helped us to get in touch with Steve Smith and he was the one who played a big role behind his arrival in Bangladesh. Initially, we all knew that Tamim was our captain and we were planning accordingly but unfortunately, he learnt from Smith's agent that he was appointed as our captain and it was quite a big shock for Tamim. He was quite right to be disappointed because someone who had put all his sweat to form a competitive squad in a bid to accomplish his mission of putting up a good show in the tournament certainly seemed left alone.

Even Smith asked Tamim whether he should lead the side as he knew earlier that Tamim would be appointed as the Victorians captain before everything changed quite drastically and to everyone's surprise. To be honest, he is not someone who loses his sleep over captaincy and even he asked me to think whether we can appoint Smith as their skipper after his arrival. But the whole thing turned up quite ugly with this sudden decision of appointing Smith as Victorians' captain just ahead of the tournament and I still believe it would have been better if we could have handled it differently as that would have allowed us to have a more settled dressing room. I think this is one of the reasons behind his below-par performance during the start of the tournament and he could have taken the entire episode badly, but fortunately it did not turn that way. I would say the amount of dedication he showed for the team despite all these things is a big sacrifice on his [Tamim] part as it was something that could've hurt anyone's ego but he managed to overcome it and was gracious enough to leave behind every grudge and act as a true professional serving for the cause of Victorians. As time passed, he began to get over his inner pain and started to come forward with his suggestions and shared it with Imrul inside the field to get the better of our rivals during the time we were put under pressure by our opponent.

Do you feel this is reason Tamim did not take up the captaincy after Smith's unexpected departure due to his injury?

You are right. It was the sole reason he did not want to lead the side anymore and I feel Tamim took the right decision because anyone else in his position would've done the same, considering the entire episode that took place regarding the selection of our captain. That is the reason we opted for Imrul to captain us for the rest of the tournament.

What is the biggest challenge for a coach in the BPL?

I think managing the team was a big challenge as we were pretty inexperienced as far as our coaching set-up was concerned. Apart from Sohel Islam (assistant coach), none had the taste of performing at international level or with major international stars of the cricketing world. So keeping the right person in the right place for the right purpose was important, more so, because they were quite excited as they got involved with the team, sharing the dressing room with such high-profile cricketers. I think defining the role is important and for me it was imperative to understand our local players and how to make them comfortable along with the foreign cricketers because it is not the foreign players that will help you win a championship, rather a team will do well in BPL where local players are not shy to express themselves.

Ahead of the final, Shahid Afridi gave a speech before the last practice session though he was never considered as someone from the leadership group. What was the reason behind it?

I think there was lot of pressure in a final and there was none other than Shahid to share his experience with the boys on how to cope with the pressure of a final because he carries a rich wealth of playing the most number of finals and looked best suited to help out the boys. Even I am not very experienced in this regard. It was part of my plan and I often do it whenever I feel the team needs some motivation. If someone else can help the boys in certain situations rather than me trying to explain it myself as it can motivate the players in certain aspects.

Do you feel coaches have much to do apart from motivating and man-management in franchise-based Twenty20 tournaments?

From a coaching point of view, man-management is not the end in T20s because there are a lot of things that need to be implemented to get the best out of every individual and lot of technicalities are attached in the process, or else every team would have hired someone who is capable in the man-management sector. For example, Taskin bowled really well in the tournament and their head coach Waqar Younis must have played a big role behind it. That does not necessarily mean he changed his bowling action or re-arranged his bowling steps. He could have helped him by providing some tips regarding how to read a batsman's mindset by watching his footsteps or make him understand the value of holding his aggression and when to deliver with his heart out and what plan he needs to execute against certain kind of a batsmen. Unless you are technically sound as a coach it is difficult to excel in T20s because it is all about planning and execution in the middle, and considering it, proper execution is only possible with technical proficiency. Coaches have to find out where his charges are messing up at the execution level and how to make a player successful by imparting technical knowledge time and again without hurting anyone's ego because there is a slim chance that situation will arise. Unless they are capable of delivering, they won't be taking part in such franchise-based tournaments.

How do you feel as two local coaches were in charge of their respective teams in the finals considering there were five high-profile foreign coaches guiding the rest of the teams in the competition?

It is certainly a huge achievement and I am sure this will help our local coaches to gain confidence and come up with greater success in the future - both at the domestic and international level.

But BCB is reluctant to provide space for local coaches in the national set-up. There are talks that Khaled Mahmud's failure as head coach during his short stint after the departure of Hathurusingha left a negative impact on the BCB high-ups?

I don't think it is right if that is the case. I agree that our local coaches lack several qualities, but at the same time they are not provided with enough opportunities to work on their shortcomings. I always welcome the arrival of high-profile foreign coaches but at the same time if we had made a provision that stated that each of the foreign coaches will have to have a local coach under his management group it could have helped them gain experience and later that experience would help them to strengthen their confidence. I don't feel we should judge Khaled Mahmud's coaching credentials with one or two series and that too when the team was going through a transitional period. He achieved success at different levels where he handled some of the leading cricketers with utmost precision. So just to make a judgement on the basis of seeing his performance as national head coach on couple of series is certainly not fair. The way he regrouped his team after they slipped in the BPL only indicates he does have the skills. If we had given him certain amount of time as national head coach, then we could have judged him because it would have allowed him to come up with his long term and short term plans.

Do you regret that BCB didn't come up with any kind of offer at the national level because going by your track record and the amount of authority you possess on the core group of cricketers from Shakib to Tamim to Mominul and many more, it would have been a good to judge your potential at the international stage. After you parted ways with BCB, your name came up for discussions with the latest being called by Gary Kirsten on his visit to prepare a report ahead of choosing the head coach after the departure of Chandika Hathurusingha? Do you have any desire to play a part in the national set-up in future?

Probably the BCB feels that I am not good enough to serve their purpose. I worked with them as Jamie Siddons's assistant coach for couple of years before we parted ways and since then, they haven't made any formal proposals though it came in the media on several occasions, suggesting that they are thinking to recruit me in a different capacity. Kirsten called me during his brief stay at the hotel and asked me whether I am interested to work in the national team as some senior cricketers had proposed my name. It was nothing official but just a formal talk where he wanted to get some knowledge about our cricket culture due to the fact that I am involved with some leading cricketers from their childhood and he felt that I can give some inputs highlighting the requirements of national cricketers. But nothing progressed beyond that as far as my relationship with the BCB is concerned. Lot of things are involved regarding my future in the national team is concerned that includes the financial part too, because at present, I am quite happy with my coaching considering the amount of financial stability it provides me on lieu of my service in Dhaka Premier League [country's traditional Dhaka club-based 60-over competition] for Gazi Cricketers along with my stint as the head coach on regular basis in the Bangladesh Premier League.

I am also employed in Gazi Group and we are working towards making a program to develop cricketers so despite not working with BCB, my time is more or less preoccupied by cricket. Still every coach dreams to be the head coach of the national team someday and I am no exception in this regard but whether it will eventually happen someday or not only time can say. I certainly dream to be the national head coach someday but for the time being, let me hone my skills further so that I can grab if any opportunity arises in the national set-up.

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