'We've challenged the No 2 side in the world, so why not others?'

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Fargana Hoque became the first Bangladesh woman to register an ODI century
Fargana Hoque became the first Bangladesh woman to register an ODI century © BCB

Hashan Tillakaratne, the Bangladesh women's head coach, is in a good space following the performance of his team in the recently-concluded series against India. In a free-flowing chat, the Sri Lankan opens up about how his team has shaped up and the plans going ahead

Excerpts from the interview:

You have done extremely well against India? What is the impact of this performance on Bangladesh as a team?

I think the performance is huge because it was a big challenge to do well against a top-rank side like India. The preparation was good and all credit goes to BCB for providing us with all the facilities. The win is huge because they have started believing in themselves and we know there will be more challenges coming up but the preparation will be easier going forward because once you do well against top sides, you just follow the process. I think we have gone to the next level and girls have taken a huge step to achieve it.

When you took over, did you think your team could challenge big sides like India?

Yeah, when I saw them in the qualifiers and in the Asia Cup, I saw there was no short of skill they just needed a little bit of fine-tuning. It was challenging but I loved it because they were keen to improve and that was the plus point.

When did you feel that you could beat India?

I think from the second T20I, we started believing that we could beat India. There were a few hiccups but they started believing, and that was the major part and it was the most positive thing in our cricket.

You were always very keen on developing the batting unit. Are you happy with the batting unit's performance at the end of the series?

I think batting will take time. It's about believing in yourself and trusting your coach. Right now, after two bad performances (in the opening two T20s) we had a very fruitful discussion with the girls and we came out with a batting plan. How to get 220 - that was our plan. We knew our bowling was strong and we had two anchors Lata and Pinky. Pinky and Lata were given specific roles to play and all the other batters, had to bat around them. Pinky batted brilliantly and took responsibility. She has worked hard for her hundred, but along the way, others contributed as well.

Do you feel the anchor role is required in women's cricket considering in modern-day men's cricket, they are going after the bowlers from both ends?

Yes, men's and women's cricket are different. You need someone to hold one end so that others can bat around her. We are just doing the basics right like believing in ourselves and believing our ability and that is one plus point because we can build on that now. Someone has to be there to take control and we just did that and more importantly, we kept it very simple. We just follow the basics.

From the bowling point of view, you played two leg spinners - Rabeya and Fahima - and you also had another one Swarna who missed due to injury. It seems you can play three leg spinners in one game. Will you be brave enough to take that chance considering leg spinners can be expensive?

Look they (leg spinners) will bring you wickets. Everyone saw the way Rabeya bowled and what a talent she is and how freely she is playing. There is no pressure and she is just enjoying in the middle. I think we have the best spin bowling attack right now in the world. Dhinuk played a big part in developing them and the spin camp before the tournament went off very well. Once you know the technical part, you can switch to the tactical things and that is what we did during the spin camp. Leg spinners always leak runs and if you are negative towards them, they won't be comfortable. We have created that environment so that they go out and express themselves in the middle. We certainly missed Swarna as she is one of the top players we have but unfortunately, the world could not see her much in the series. She is tall and from that height when you bowl leg spin, it is more difficult to play. If the track offers spin, depending on the combination, why not go for three leg spinners? That is also another option that we can take in the future. What we need to do is see the opponent's strengths and weaknesses before making that call.

How do you rate Marufa?

Brilliant youngster and I think now women's cricket is starting to notice her. She well get a lot of respect from other countries. She is a very good student of the game and learns very quickly. The thing is that she doesn't take any pressure, and being a youngster, she is just enjoying the game and having that smile on her face, and probably that helps her to perform.

Do you feel if she bowls a bit upright, she can generate more pace?

Yes, that is right. We are working on her fast bowling right now, and if she can get it (action) a little upright then she can generate more pace on the ball - one or two yards - and we are working on that.

How do you rate your captain Nigar Sultana?

She is a versatile captain and we are on the same path that makes things easier for me. She has a very balanced mind both technically and tactically and wants to compete with everyone and that is another plus point.

Bangladesh dropped seniors like Jahanara, Rumana and Salma (though included in the squad, didn't play much) from the series against India. This was a massive call but after this series, do you feel you can say that this is the new face of women's cricket in Bangladesh?

Nothing personal (against the seniors). It's just that we are looking at the 2024 World Cup and there are few youngsters coming through. Yes, we have to blend with youth and experience and we haven't closed the door to anyone. If someone is good enough, someone is performing well, the door is open for them. They have done wonders for Bangladesh cricket and lots of respect for them. If they perform well, they are always welcome to play for their country.

Since joining, your major focus has been on fielding and how far have you achieved in that aspect of the game?

We emphasize on our fielding and even when we are fielding well. We are fielding as a unit in patches but not a hundred percent. If we can stop 20 runs and take two catches and make two run-outs, that makes it very easy for us to get on top against the opponent. We are emphasizing on our fielding and they need to be fitter to meet these challenges.

Do you feel this group has the potential to challenge other big nations?

We have challenged the number two side in the world so why not others? They are quite capable and I believe that they have all the skill and potential to challenge any side in the world on a particular day. It's a process and there will be so many challenging phases and you challenge those phases with your knowledge and skill.



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