What a difference a Dav makes
Last Updated: Thursday, 9 October, 2003, 12:57 GMT 13:57 UK
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What a difference a Dav makes
By Scott Heinrich
When Dav Whatmore became coach of Bangladesh earlier this year, he inherited a group of cricketers lacking more than just a maiden Test victory.
It's our plan to put as much pressure on England as we can and get closer to that first Test victory
In sport, success breeds confidence and Whatmore was unsurprised to encounter a team stripped of self-belief when he met up with players ahead of the Australia tour in July.
The Sri Lanka-born Aussie found himself attending to the psychological needs of his players as much as anything related to cricket.
"When you are used to losing all the time it's really difficult to be positive and it's too easy to take the soft option and be defensive," Whatmore told the BBC Sport website ahead of the two-Test home series against England.
"Trying to turn that around is not easy but I can see is that the players have a desire to do well and improve and that's all I can ask for."
The bare facts suggest Bangladesh have made no progress under Whatmore, but statistics can hide the truth and in the case of Bangladesh they do not tell half the story.
The Tigers lost everything in Australia except the respect of the world champions after a number of gritty displays, while twice in Pakistan recently they came within a whisker of victory only to lose out in close finishes.
Whatmore is not a character to be content in defeat, but even he is happy to take small steps with Bangladesh.
"We're on a bit of an upward curve and we'd like to stay on it," he said.
"It's a combination of things but basically I've just tried to encourage the players to make decisions and go ahead and back themselves. I want them to be responsible for their actions.
"Against Pakistan, I just felt the difference between the teams was our lack of experience.
Habibul Bashar averaged 33 with the bat before the arrival of Whatmore, but 52 afterwards
Mohammad Rafique's bowling average pre-Whatmore was 31, but is 23 since
Whatmore working wonders again
"We just didn't know how to hold our nerve in tense situations and that counted against us."
Certainly, now is an interesting time for England to tour Bangladesh; there is a feeling the hosts will approach the series buoyantly in spite of their woeful record.
Several players have made noticeable improvement - not least Habibul Bashar, who is averaging 52 for the new coach - but Whatmore is not given to individualising.
"I rarely pinpoint individuals and for us to do well against England it will need more than one or two players," he explained.
"England are pretty good in sub-continent conditions and they don't make it easy at any time so I can see this series being as difficult as any other one.
"It will require the contribution of many, but there is no reason not to be hopeful."
One player who will not be given the chance to contribute is Mohammad Ashraful, the highly regarded batsman who was surprisingly left out of the Test squad after dropping form.
That Bangladesh are going to battle without arguably their brightest young batting talent implies a strength in depth that has gone unnoticed.
Either that, or Whatmore is defining the parameters of his regime and broadcasting to players that nobody's place is safe.
"We can't reward players for not doing well," Whatmore said.
"Ashraful is a good player but at the moment he is not doing well so we are looking to give someone else a chance.
"It's not the end of the road for him, but this team is performance-based now."
Nor is it the end of the road for Bangladesh, who for the first time will go into a Test series believing they can win. England beware.