They met in 1988 at the Youth World Cup in Australia and Venkatapathy Raju got Aminul Islam cheaply. Both went on to play Test cricket. Post retirement they pursued the game in different capacities before settling down in their present roles as Development Officers. They conduct courses for coaching – something neither had thought of during playing days.
“We are coach educators,” says 48-year-old Islam. “I played cricket for fun and now it is my profession. I have to share my experience with cricketers from associate members of the ICC. The game itself has changed so much. There is much more science than one ever visualised.”
For Raju, it continues to be fun. “They made me selector which I never enjoyed, I know how players hate selectors. I wanted something related to grass root and this job brought me back into the game as a coach. I was told the cricket field always beckons a player and I realise it is true.”
Islam made 145 against India on Test debut at Dhaka in 2000. “Each moment of that innings is vivid. After I quit playing I studied in Australia to be a coach. Cricket was my bread and butter.” Islam did better by learning Mandarin and now spends time in China with a coaching project with the women cricketers.
Raju, who played 28 Tests and 53 ODIs, adds, “We have to develop coaches among the associate members. We inspect and recommend. It is like evaluating them constantly. Of course, the students have the scope to innovate. This course is a tool for them to improve, a pathway for them to develop their own style.”
Now settled in Australia, Islam, having represented Bangladesh in 13 Tests and 39 ODIs, observes, “It’s a huge task to help in coaching and management. We are also qualified match referees. Now we realise how important it is to keep track of the game’s progress. We observe minutely and act. It is about the role of coaches and skill development. We don’t interfere with their natural style and try to build on their strong points.”
The previous generation, notes Islam, were “fast learners. We read books and watched lots of matches. It is different now. Video support makes the job easy. A lot depends on coaches’ individual flair too. We don’t look to produce robots. If cricket was to be played just by the coaching manual then we wouldn’t have had Viv (Richards) and Viru (Sehwag).”
Both desist from needless analysis. “Over-analysis is paralysis,” laughs Islam. “There is no sense in five commentators dissecting the game. You get five different views which is not always the best way. Even non-cricketers give suggestions on technique. We were told batting was about blocking, leaving and hitting the ball, in that order. Not it is only hitting the ball.”
Says Raju, “Everyone is an expert, everyone. You can’t always watch the ball being hit. T20 brings in money but Tests give you the aesthetic satisfaction of good cricket. A Test player can excel at T20 but not vice-versa. That is what we look to convey. First develop sound basics and then look to experiment if you have to.”
The course for Afghanistan coaches over, Raju flies to Nepal and Islam to China to carry on their work as development officers. They do manage to squeeze in time to go at each other at nets. The scores, at the last count, were equal.
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