Russell Domingo, the 44-year-old South African, has been named as the new head coach of Bangladesh national cricket team. As per the initial contract, he will be working with the Bangladesh team for two years. One day after after getting the job, Domingo (RD) granted his first wide-ranging interview with the Bangladeshi media to UNB sports writer Saif Hasnat (SH), over the phone from his home in Port Elizabeth.
SH: I want to start with the question— what prompted you to be the coach of Bangladesh? As we know you were working with the junior level cricketers in South Africa.
RD: Working with the South African A team, which is just under the national team, where we have quite a few national players as well, was really good. And look, Bangladesh is probably the side who have improved most in the last five years. They have improved their performances as well. So the time is very exciting for me (to take the role of the head coach).
SH: BCB parted ways with the coach (Steve Rhodes) who was in charge during Bangladesh’s World Cup assault due to not meeting the expectations in the mega event. It is always tough to take over a side at such a moment. How will you handle this challenge?
RD: Nowadays, every international coach works under pressure. But we have to keep thinking about developing the players for the future, which is very important. No matter where are you coaching, whether it is in England, in Australia or Pakistan, you will always have to take the pressure. It is unfortunate for coaching but this is the way things work.
SH: Right after taking the role, you have to face the new Test nation Afghanistan in a one-off Test and then Zimbabwe and Afghanistan in a tri-series T20. How are you viewing your first assignment as Bangladesh coach?
RD: I am flying to Bangladesh tomorrow (August 19) and we will have a practice camp for ten days. That will give more clarity about what we have in our team. But yes, it is quite a challenge to play against Afghanistan. We cannot take them for granted because they have some world-class players in their side. I am looking forward to that series.
SH: It is always tough to coach a team from the subcontinent because of the fans’ expectations. This creates a lot of pressure on the players. As a coach, it is really tough to keep the players calm and confident. What are your thoughts on this aspect?
RD: Look, when I became the coach of South Africa the success was very important for our team. The losses created pressure on us. No international coach prepares his team for losing. As a coach, I will try to keep the boys positive on their job, keep them focused on their game. At the same time, public support is very important for a team to succeed.
SH: You are appointed at a time when Mashrafe Bin Mortaza, one of the best cricketers that Bangladesh has ever produced, is close to retiring. He is a good leader. After his retirement, the dressing room will surely miss him. My question is, what kinds of steps will you take to create more leaders in the team?
RD: It is important to have a senior leadership group. It is not just the captain who will make the decisions. It is for sure that the captain will take most of the decisions but the leadership group is equally important. Once I get there I will try to understand how things are going there and plan accordingly on and off the field.
SH: Despite the fact you have never played international cricket, you have been doing very well as a coach. You were the coach of South Africa Under-19 team, after that you coached the national side, you coached the Warriors (domestic team)- what was the inspiration that guided you to become a coach at the early age of 25?
RD: I always love to work with people and make great relationships. As a coach, I get the chance to learn from other people and as a coach, I can understand what a player needs to go to the next level. I believe this has always prompted me to be a coach. I am hopeful this experience will help me to work with the Bangladesh team and the management.
SH: You are a specialist in uncovering new talents as you have worked for a long time to develop young players for the senior side. Apart from being the national head coach, will you look after the Bangladeshi junior sides as well?
RD: I will definitely spend some time with the junior level game development manager, and establish the connection with the best players who are coming through the system. I think it is always good to have an understanding of how the next team looks like. I will become more hands-on (about working with the junior players).
SH: The Dhaka Premier League is the most important domestic competition in Bangladesh. Do you plan to follow that closely to find out the new talents?
RD: Definitely, I will spend time at the grounds to see the new players playing in the biggest leagues in the country. I suppose the teams are under good coaches and support staff. I know the competition is great in the league.
SH: You will get some players in the Bangladesh side who have been playing for a long time in international cricket. They will surely be your strongest assets to drive Bangladesh cricket to the next level- what are your thoughts on them?
RD: Yes, there are some exciting guys who have been around for a long time now. I will have Mahmudullah (Riyad), Tamim Iqbal, Shakib (Al Hasan), Mushfiqur (Rahim) and more. They have been playing international cricket together for a long time. They are moving in the right direction. I have to make sure that they will continue improving themselves, and also that the team will go to the next level.
SH: It must be the most lovely question for you that your support staff in the dressing room will be your countrymen (Charl Langeveldt, Neil McKenzie). It will obviously help you to create a good support team. What are your thoughts on that?
RD: (Laughing.) Yes, I have worked with them for a long time in South Africa. So I am looking forward to working with them again in Bangladesh. They are great coaches. It will make our job easier. The important thing is we know what to expect from each other. I believe it will benefit the Bangladesh team.
SH: Daniel Vettori was appointed as the spin bowling coach before your appointment as the head coach. What kind of pairing are you expecting with the New Zealander?
RD: I’ve met him a couple of times previously. We will try to provide the best assistance to the players. If he spends much time with the younger players, they will get to learn many things from him.
SH: As per the initial contract, you will be working with BCB for two years which is also extendable. Where you do you expect Bangladesh team will go in these two years?
RD: I think we should definitely go to the top four-five. Especially in ODIs, we should be able to crack the top four, and it is a realistic goal for us. I know it is hard and we have to do a lot of work to achieve that. I am up to (the task of) guiding Bangladesh to the next level.
SH: My last question- after you were interviewed by BCB, they said you were excellent with your plan about developing Bangladesh cricket during the interview. What was it do you think that persuaded BCB to hand you the role?
RD: Look, I think I have much coaching experience in international cricket. I have coached the international side for seven years. Before that, I worked with the youth development system. I understand what it takes to be an international cricketer. I was lucky to share some of those ideas with BCB.