Bangladesh's chances of beating MS Dhoni's men in the quarter-final rests on master strategist Chandika Hathurusingha, Sri Lanka's assistant coach during the 2008 Test series win against India
Melbourne: Sri Lankan Chandika Hathurusingha has a very straightforward yet nonchalant way of going about things. Yesterday, when the Bangladesh chief coach greeted mediapersons before a brief chat ahead of his team's training session at the MCG, at one glance, one realised that he is a man with a mission.
Bangladesh's Soumya Sarkar speaks with head coach Chandika Hathurusingha (left) during their practice session at the Melbourne Cricket Ground on February 25. Pic/AFP
With three wins — Afghanistan, Scotland, England — the Bangla Tigers have roared into the last eight of the World Cup for the first time, where they will face defending champions India on Thursday. And on master strategist Hathurusingha's shoulders rests the team's progress considering he has previously brought about India's downfall, in the 2008 Test series in Sri Lanka.
The former Lankan Test opener and medium pacer was the national team's shadow coach (he was head coach of the 'A' team then) during the time and helped them beat Anil Kumble's India 2-1 in three Tests. That was also the series where the Decision Review System (DRS) was introduced, and while the Lankans mastered it, India were miserable with their calls and ended up hating the technology.
Then, Hathurusingha, who was star off-spinner Muttiah Muralitharan's first coach at Tamil Union, advised his ward to bowl from around the wicket instead of over it. Consequently, Muralitharan claimed 21 wickets in the series. Back then, Hathurusingha was being groomed to be Lanka's national coach, but eventually fell out with the authorities and moved to Australia, where he garnered respect as assistant coach of New South Wales.
He was later promoted to the head coach's position and was the chief architect of the team's Sheffield Shield conquest last season. He was also head coach of the Big Bash League franchise Sydney Thunder, which means that Australian conditions are well known to the 46-year-old, who admitted to the same.
"Knowing the conditions helped me prepare a team and chalk out specific training for these conditions. We changed a few techniques knowing limitations of ub-continental players," said the former Lanka batsman, who played 26 Tests and 35 ODIs between 1991 and 1999.
Two months before the World Cup, Hathurusingha made his batsmen practice on granite wickets to prepare for the bouncy conditions in Australia, and it turned out to be a masterstroke. Mohammad Mahmudullah became the first Bangladesh batsman to score consecutive centuries in the World Cup.
Unlike India, Bangladesh did not have a busy calendar before the World Cup and that has helped, said Hathurusingha. "Not playing a lot of cricket in the lead-up to the World Cup was a good thing as we reached Brisbane a bit early to acclimatise to Australian conditions. The preparation was thorough. That was the key."
Hathurusingha seems to have got it spot-on in his analysis of Team India too. "India are a good batting side, but their fast bowlers have done very well too. That's an area that we would probably keep an eye on," he said.