After our dismal performance in 2003 world cup, we needed some good performance to prove our credential as a Test nation. My first success as a captain was against a full strength Zimbabwe side at Harare in 2004 which was my first game as Bangladesh captain. [Editor's note: Bangladesh won it's first game since 1999 against Zimbabwe on March 10, 2004] I must give credit to Dav Whatmore who worked very hard to make the turn-around possible. I enjoyed a very good relation with Dav and we shared our thoughts to lift the spirit of the Bangladesh team. With our “team first” approach we effectively turned a losing side into a winning outfit. The team spirit within the team was very high which played a pivotal role in our success.
BC: You worked with Dav Whatmore for four productive years. Your comments on him as a coach.
HB: He gave optimism and discipline to a team that had not won a single match for four years. He understood our team chemistry very well and he made individual cricketers' lives easy. He allowed us to play our natural game and appreciated even very simple achievements. I personally rate him as one of the best in the business.
BC: What’s the role of a Captain in a team like Bangladesh? Did you enjoy the job?
HB: A captain has a huge role. Apart from some of the well defined responsibilities while on the field, the most important task of the captain is to gel the team together. In many cases a captain alone can make a significant change in the way a team approaches the game. In a young and inconsistent team like Bangladesh, the job is far more challenging and requires a lot of patience and man-management skills. As a captain I had to work hard to help players get through the bad times and keep their motivation up.
I enjoyed every bit of my captaincy. It was more enjoyable because Bangladesh managed to beat some noteworthy opponents. Those are happy memories.
Habibul Bashar is the first Bangladeshi to score 3000 runs in Test cricket
BC: What would you rate as your biggest achievement as captain?
HB: That we have managed to earn respect of the opponents, especially in ODI matches. In our early days, every team took us for granted and trust me it is not a nice feeling when you are not taken seriously. Now, a match against Bangladesh is no longer considered a walk in the park and that is my biggest achievement as the captain of Bangladesh. For example, when we defeated India in World Cup 2007 and progressed to the Super Eights stage, every team had a different look at us. It probably made our job difficult, but it also helped us to enjoy the game. We felt counted. We have not yet achieved the same in Test cricket. I hope Mohammad Ashraful will be able to take the team forward and Bangladesh will be respected as a team regardless of the format of the game.
BC: International cricket has been a bumpy ride for Bangladesh since their introduction in Test cricket. What’s the way forward?
HB: Cricket is very popular in Bangladesh. We have a very strong fan base and there is lot of passion for the game. At the same time, we need to take few right decisions to raise the standard of our game.
Sporting wickets are a necessity to strengthen our domestic cricket. Currently each first class team plays with three or four spinners on slow, low, wickets which is killing our game.
The BCB can introduce a quota system for international cricketers. During our time in club cricket, we benefited enormously from the presence of players like Neil Fairbrother, Arjuna Ranatunga, and Wasim Akram. A similar presence of international cricketers in domestic first class circuit will definitely help young cricketers to learn from their game. Our cricketers do not get enough opportunity to play county cricket in England or first class cricket in countries like Australia and South Africa. The BCB can appoint full time agents in those countries to help our cricketers find suitable clubs. It is very much required to raise our game to the next level.
Finally, I feel that we are a much better side than what we are performing at the moment. We are playing much, much below our potential. It is more a mental block than anything else. Some consistent good performances can lift the block. We will probably see a much improved Bangladesh side in near future.