A year on from joining as Bangladesh’s head coach, Steve Rhodes has made quiet contributions to the team’s progress. He has now overseen 15 wins in 25 ODIs, as well as a Test series win over West Indies. Now well into their World Cup campaign, Bangladesh are a team rated as one of the more dangerous sides in the tournament.
The BCB chose Rhodes after Paul Farbrace, Andy Flower, Tom Moody and a host of other coaches had said no to the Bangladesh job between November 2017 and May 2018. Rhodes had a tough mandate to not just follow up on Chandika Hathurusingha’s success, but also to chaperone the side through a World Cup in his home country.
Bangladesh have made progress on the back of consistency from their top five players – Shakib Al Hasan, Mashrafe Mortaza, Tamim Iqbal, Mahmudullah and Mushfiqur Rahim – but in the World Cup’s lead-up, the refreshing factor has been the performance of someone like Soumya Sarkar who has looked in good form.
Rhodes said that in the past 12 months, he has tried to give Bangladesh’s newer crop of players like Soumya, who made his debut in 2014, more liberty, along with responsibilities so that they develop the strength of character to take decisions for themselves. He said that Soumya, Mehidy Hasan, Mustafizur Rahman and Mohammad Saifuddin had earned their places in the playing XI through not just performance, but improved consistency.
“It is my plan as a coach to try and give these guys some responsibilities on the field and in training,” Rhodes told ESPNcricinfo. “So that they can make some decisions for themselves and grow and learn. It is a little bit different to the way it has been run, but I think that’s the way we get the younger players performing. Everyone then says it is a better squad.
“Soumya is finding his feet. Liton [Das] is in good form, although he is not playing. Sabbir [Rahman] with that hundred in New Zealand, and [Mehidy Hasan] Miraz has been bowling in the last two or three years. Nobody mentions [Mustafizur Rahman] Fizz, and Saifuddin has come through. So I do think we are starting to get a little bit more depth.”
Rhodes said that some of these players had improved enough to ensure that Bangladesh’s squad has a bit more depth than before.
Their World Cup campaign so far has seen them beat South Africa, go close against New Zealand but then fizzle out against England. They would have also expected to beat Sri Lanka if not for the washout in Bristol, while they have beaten West Indies, their next opponent, quite regularly in the past 12 months. Rhodes said that Bangladesh should consider themselves as a major competitor against bigger teams.
“I think if you look at all the teams in this competition, we have a right to be on those fields competing against some of these big teams. But we are still well short of the depth and quality of some of these teams as well. But I’d say that we do have some wholehearted, trying cricketers. We also have some great ability. Shakib has been absolutely amazing. We are starting to get a little bit more depth in the players that, you might say, are less experienced.”
At the time of Rhodes took over in June last year, Bangladesh were going through a bit of a confidence crisis, following heavy losses in South Africa and at home against Sri Lanka, as well as getting blanked by Afghanistan in a T20 series. The confidence, at least in ODIs, was regained when they beat West Indies 2-1 away, before getting one back at them in the Test series at home in November.
Rhodes was also expected to deal with BCB chief Nazmul Hassan regularly and quite directly, and so far those exchanges have hardly made the news – which is a good thing. There is however a lot left for Rhodes to do, when it comes to the Test side that was battered by New Zealand earlier this year, as well as a better plan for the T20 side.
Seen as a positive presence in the dressing room, Rhodes has understood how and where not to coach certain cricketers, and areas where he has to put his foot down. Albeit quietly.