'Get the enemy before the enemy gets you'

There's no secret formula for coaching a cricket team, says Bangladesh coach Stuart Law.

Dhaka, (The Telegraph): Stuart Law, the Bangladesh coach, spoke to The Telegraph at the Pan Pacific Sonargaon on Wednesday. Law, 43, played for Australia between 1994-1999 and was Sri Lanka's assistant coach before taking up the current job around the middle of last year.

The following are excerpts:

Thursday will be Bangladesh's biggest day cricket-wise, since its debut Test (November 2000). Is there a fear that the players could get carried away?

It can be easy to get your mind off the job, but we've got a few senior heads in the dressing room...Captain Mushfiqur Rahim and (former captain) Mashrafe Mortaza have told the boys that while it's an achievement to make the final, we haven't really done anything big as yet...Beating Pakistan in the Asia Cup final will be big.

What did you tell the players after the win over Sri Lanka?

Enjoy the moment, but the job hasn't been done. That it would be one better to actually win the tournament...If we play good cricket, we'll get the result we want.

Will it still be an achievement if the final doesn't go Bangladesh's way?

We'll be disappointed, even though no one gave us a chance before the Asia Cup began...We need to repeat what we've been doing over the past week or so...However, getting this far is definitely an achievement and shows that we can compete...In successive matches, we've beaten the world champions (India) and the runners-up of the last World Cup (Sri Lanka).

What's your take on Pakistan?

In Bangladesh, people see Pakistan as the Big Brother, in much the same way as the Sri Lankans looked at India till 10 or so years ago...Pakistan's cricketers are treated like God and heroes in this country, but once the match begins, they've got to be seen as the enemy. So, get the enemy before the enemy gets you! It's nice to respect the opposition, but you play to win, not lose.

Interview: Whatmore on coaching Pakistan
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Not many hours remain for the final...What could make the difference?

The crowd, for one...The home team's supporters have been incredible and have helped the players lift their game. The crowd has been acting as the 12th man! Much will also depend on the frame of mind in which our players turn up.

Bangladesh making the final is your biggest moment as coach. What are your own emotions?

I'm still trying to understand what makes these players tick...We've worked hard in the lead-up to and during the tournament and that has been rewarded. With tougher preparation and more attention to detail, there are less chances of up-and-down performances...I know it's going to be such a big day.

So far, beating India remains the highpoint of your tenure. Did the result surprise you?

(Smiles) It did...The way India started, I thought we'd end up chasing over 350...But we stuck to our task and did the right things to win by five wickets...We knew India's bowling, with no Zaheer Khan, wasn't at its strongest and we gave ourselves the best chance of doing well. It's one thing to plan, quite another to execute according to plan.

You aren't Bangladesh's first coach from overseas. What is it that you've brought extra to the table?

Nothing extra and there's no secret formula for coaching a cricket team. A coach has to understand that there are individuals in the group and you can't treat all the same. Some players require more than the others, some require absolutely nothing from the coach, but for guidance at certain times. The coach has to be clear about who falls in which category. My predecessors have tried to do their level best and I'm doing the same. I'm probably luckier in that I've got some world-class cricketers to work with. Besides, some very promising ones are coming through.

Is there anything you learnt in Sri Lanka, as assistant to the-then coach, Trevor Bayliss, which is useful now?

That the sub-continent's players have natural ability and you shouldn't over-coach them...Give them better options to deal with situations, but that's it...Cricketers in the sub-continent may lack in fitness, but not in the level of skill. Some people wanted Lasith Malinga to bowl line and length, but if he did that, he wouldn't be the bowler he is. He's a quick who loves bowling yorkers and mixes up the slower ones. As coach, it's not my agenda to change anybody's game.

The captain is very impressive, on and off the field...

Mushfiqur is a very intelligent young man (23)...Is very respectful and he understands how things work. He's a very good role model and leader.

There are former captains in the dressing room. So, what's it like? No egos?

Egos are there, but everyone knows what they're supposed to do...Mushfiqur knows he has former captains (Mortaza, Shakib-al Hasan) in his team...I don't believe in there being a vice-captain...The way I see it, good teams have 10 vice-captains, with each one of them having something to contribute and making the captain's job easier.

We were shocked when Tamim Iqbal was left out of the original squad for the Asia Cup. Wouldn't you always have him for limited overs cricket?

Nine times out of 10, yes...He went through plenty of stress and began the tournament with a point to prove...With fifties in each of the three matches, he has done so. He's having fever, but still hit enough balls at the nets this afternoon and looks to be in the right frame of mind for the final.

Do you have a say in selection matters?

Yes...Sometimes they (the selectors) listen to me, sometimes they don't...Hopefully, there will come a time when we all agree on everything.

The last one...India's under-achieving. Why?

It could be that they aren't under-achieving and are playing only as good as the opposition is allowing them to...Remember, when the lesser teams face the champion side, they seem to grow an extra leg and an extra arm...It becomes a mental thing, after a stage, and the Indians have been playing a lot across the world.

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