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To fans and afficionados of Bangladesh cricket, Aminul Islam needs no introduction. He captained the Bangladesh team in the 1999 World Cup. In the maiden Test versus India in 2000, he scored Bangladesh's first Test Century and remains one of only three to have scored a century on their Test debut. In his interview with BanglaCricket editor Khondaker Mirazur Rahman, he revealed his thoughts about much needed improvements to our domestic infrastructure, Bangladesh’s struggle in Test cricket and his willingness to contribute to Bangladesh cricket.

An interview with Aminul Islam Bulbul

Published: 28th June, 2007

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Aminul Islam Bulbul is only the third batsman in Test cricket history to have scored a century on debut. His 145 against India in November 2000 is the second highest debut score after Australian Charles Bannerman’s 165 back in 1877. Aminul started his career as a professional footballer and played premier league during the golden era of Bangladesh football for Victoria Sporting Club. He was equally proficient in cricket, a neglected sport in Bangladesh at that time. He used to play in the Premier Cricket League for Azad Boys. After getting selected in the ICC Associates XI for the World Youth Cup Cricket Tournament 1988, he seriously thought about taking cricket as a career. A knee ligament injury suffered during a professional football match hastened his decision.

He made his One Day International debut for Bangladesh in the Wills Asia Cup 1988 match against India at Chittagong. 11 years later he rose to the helm of Bangladesh cricket and captained Bangladesh in the 1999 World Cup. Bangladesh’s success in the 1999 world cup paved the way for their Test status. And on their debut Test agaunst India Aminul labored out a nine hour 145 with an amazing display of concentration and stroke play. He considers this innnings as the highest point of his career. Like many other Bangladeshi batsmen, he failed to build on his promising start and only managed two other 50’s in his 13 Test career. A poor run of form in 2002 saw a premature end to the career of one of the most polished batsman of Bangladesh Cricket.

After retiring from International Cricket, Aminul went to Australia where he played district cricket and worked as a coaching staff for the New South Wales University alongside Geoff Lawson and Michael Slater. After completing a level 2 coaching course in Australia, he returned to Bangladesh in 2006 to help raise the standard of cricket in Bangladesh. In his first two coaching assignments, he masterminded Abahani Limited to Premier League glory after a 7 year hiatus and also led Acme Laboratories to their first ever corporate league title. In his interview with BanglaCricket editor Khondaker Mirazur Rahman, he revealed his thoughts about the much needed development of domestic infrastructure, Bangladesh’s struggle in Test cricket and his willingness to contribute for Bangladesh cricket.

Aminul made history on the debut Test for Bangladesh

Aminul made history in the inaugural Test for Bangladesh © Cricinfo

BanglaCricket : You are the first Test centurion for Bangladesh which came in our debut Test match. After that Bangladesh have played 45 Test matches and managed only 11 more centuries. What is the reason behind such a poor show?

Aminul Islam Bulbul: It is really unfortunate that Bangladeshi batsmen failed to transform their starts into big scores throughout their international career. I think lack of technique and temperament are the main reasons behind the inconsistency. Only Habibul Bashar has shown some temperament required for Test cricket, but others have failed to follow him.

BanglaCricket : Seven years after awarding Test status, Bangladeshi batsmen are still struggling with technique and temperament. Don’t you think this was long enough to have overcome the problem?

Aminul Islam Bulbul: Lack of competitive first class structure is the main reason behind the poor show of our batsmen in the Test arena. Cricket is a mental game; you need to develop the required skills, determination and competitiveness from the domestic arena. We are severely lacking in that front. Until we revamp our domestic system we will continue to struggle in the Test arena. Moreover, our team is young has a somewhat fragile mindset. They need a full time sports psychologist to cope with the pressures of international cricket. Sports psychology is a very important part of modern cricket that we have ignored.

BanglaCricket : We always hear about lack of proper structure in our domestic cricket. Can you shed some more light into it?

Aminul Islam Bulbul: When we played domestic cricket back in 1990’s, we had a very competitive limited overs tournament. Players like Neil Fairbrother, Wasim Akram, and Arjuna Ranatunga regularly played club cricket in Bangladesh. It helped to raise our quality of cricket in the one day format and with time we ended up as a good one day team. On the contrary, after gaining Test status, we failed to develop a competitive first class competition. The National Cricket League, which is the only 4 day tournament in Bangladesh, is played in a picnic mood. There is lack of planning, facilities and overall format of the National Cricket League. This is holding us back. A picnic style first class cricket can never make players ready for the challenges of Test cricket. For that very reason, we are not getting quality players from the domestic circuit and are depending on age group players to carry us forward. This type of stop gap solution can only ruin the long term prospects of Bangladesh cricket.

Due to the flawed domestic structure, we do not have sufficient number of quality players in the pipeline. We don’t have a dedicated Academy or A team. We are sharing players between the two teams and that is not an ideal situation.

BanglaCricket : Why do you think that there is a lack of competitiveness in the National cricket League format and why are you branding it as picnic cricket?

Aminul Islam Bulbul: If you have a close look at the domestic first class cricket, you will see no players are raised through the regional system. In fact there is no regional system in place at all. All players are playing in the Dhaka leagues and national selectors are distributing those players to the different divisional teams. One player playing for one division this year might play for another division in the very next season. Nothing is regional based, and players do not have any commitment for the region they are playing. It is like playing for the sake of playing as national cricket league participation is a pre-condition for national selection. They are getting very poor payment or no payment at all. You cannot expect competitiveness under such conditions. Regional or first class teams are not grooming any players for the future and everything is too Dhaka based.

BanglaCricket : Historically Dhaka was the center of Bangladesh cricket, but players always came from different divisions.

Aminul Islam Bulbul: In the pre-Test era, we had regular local leagues in most of the districts and a good number of players came from districts like Chittagong, Mymensingh, Rajshahi and Sylhet. After gaining Test status, the administrators ignored the local leagues and mostly paid attention to the international tours and schedules. Unfortunately, after the introduction of National Cricket League in 2000-01, the local leagues graduallt died down and now are irregular in most of the districts. Cricket became more and more centralized to Dhaka; ideally the situation should have been the opposite. For this reason, the regional teams have no reservoir of players to represent in the National Cricket League and have to depend on the centrally made selection process.

BanglaCricket : What are your suggestions for improving the first class cricket structure of Bangladesh?

Aminul Islam Bulbul: BCB must put proper emphasis on the domestic circuit and not just on the opposite. The cricket development committee should co-ordinate cricket throughout the country and it has to be decentralized through regional cricket centres. Bangladesh Cricket Board had a plan of establishing Regional Cricket Centers even before gaining elite status; we must establish them with proper facilities without any further delay. These regional centers will co-ordinate with District Cricket Associations and will ensure regular local leagues. They will also provide necessary training and facilities to the local authorities to run the show.

BCB should provide properly trained coaches, physios and trainers for every first class team.

Each divisional team must have their own age group teams and A teams to make the players ready for the top level in domestic cricket. In this way, players will fight for their places in the first class team of the division and will develop their competitive attitude. I have witnessed this type of first class system in Australia and England. Even Sri Lanka has a similar system.

One of the major strengths of Bangladesh cricket is school cricket. About one thousand schools participate in each year’s school cricket competition. We must introduce 2 day or 3 day competition for school cricket. It is the perfect level to develop the temperament for the longer version matches.

BanglaCricket : Bangladesh Cricket Board (BCB) is working with Cricket Australia to develop the standard of cricket.

Aminul Islam Bulbul: This is an excellent initiative and we have to make sure that we are getting most out of it. We need more of our coaches trained by the Australians and we must employ these coaches to work with the regional teams at the grass root level. We have plenty of players around the country. We need to work with their techniques and for that we need more quality coaches that we are severely lacking.

BanglaCricket : Bangladesh is trying to emulate the Australian Model for the last few years.

Aminul Islam Bulbul: I think it is not ideal for a country like Bangladesh to follow Australia as a model. We should follow Sri Lanka as our model. We must take technical input from Cricket Australia but follow Sri Lanka as a model country.

BanglaCricket : This is something new. Everyone seems to be happy in following the Australian model. Any specific reasons for your difference of opinion?

Aminul Islam Bulbul: Definitely the Australian model is the most ideal model for developing cricket in any country, but we have to keep in mind that we are a developing country. We can never provide similar infrastructure and facilities to our youngsters or regional teams. They have very different physical structure, fitness level, ground facilities and are a big spender on developing sports. For us it is almost next to impossible to emulate them properly. On the other hand, Sri Lanka being a sub-continental team share similar economic strengths, culture and physical structure. They have got a very good domestic structure which is very well managed with the limited resources they have. They are doing very well in both formats of the game and I believe it would be ideal for Bangladesh to follow Sri Lanka as the role model.

BanglaCricket : Batting remains the major concern for Bangladesh in Tests. How can pur players sort out their batting woes and how can Bangladesh improve their Test performances?

Aminul Islam Bulbul: We need specialized batting coaches for the national teams, A teams and age group teams. There are no other alternative or short cut routes. Players need to work hard in the nets and at the same time they need proper guidance. BCB is conducting nationwide pacer hunt program, I think we also need a nationwide batting camp to develop the required batting skills at the grass root level. One more thing, I strongly feel we should conduct a nationwide spinner hunt program to increase the variety of our bowling. We have too many slow left arm bowlers but no right hand off-spinners or leg spinners. Without quality off spinners or leg spinnesr, it will be difficult for us to become competitive in the Test arena.

However, to develop batting skills, a major overhaul is needed in the domestic wicket types. Keeping the natural sub-continental wickets in some first class venues, BCB must prepare some sporting wickets which will offer pace and bounce. Only then players will be exposed to different level of challenges and will be able to acclimatize to different conditions.

BCB have made an excellent decision by forming a national cricket academy. A good number of batsmen playing for academy have got a better temperament for longer version matches and will help to consolidate Bangladesh’s Test batting in future.

BanglaCricket : The Bangladesh team has too many youngsters and the senior players like Habibul Bashar, Khaled Mashud or Mohammad Rafique are on the verge of retirement. Do you think it is an ideal situation for a developing cricket country like Bangladesh?

Aminul Islam Bulbul: We can look into the matter in two ways. While young attacking players can be a blessing in the ODI team, the same cannot be said for the Test team. There is no alternative to experienced players in Test cricket. We have a “lost generation” of cricketers who should be given another opportunity to prove their mettle in the international arena. Players like Hannan Sarker, Al Shahriar and Alok Kapali should be given sufficient opportunity before dumping them out permanently. They are all exciting players and consistent performers in domestic cricket. If they have any specific weaknesses, BCB should work with them to sort that out. They can be really handy in Test matches and have a lot of cricket left in them.

BanglaCricket : Your comment about Dav Whatmore's tenure as Bangladesh coach.

Aminul Islam Bulbul: Dav is my very good friend for the last 20 years. He is a sincere and dedicated coach. We have definitely progressed during his 4 years tenure but the development as a team was not very significant. He failed to sort out our weaknesses in Test cricket and paid more emphasize on One-Day cricket.

BanglaCricket : Recently Bangladesh handed the captaincy to Mohammad Ashraful and he is leading Bangladesh in Sri Lanka.

Aminul Islam Bulbul: Mohammad Ashraful is a performer captain and BCB made a very good decision by selecting him. He is a gutsy young boy and I believe he can take Bangladesh to a new heights. I am wishing him good luck in his first assignment, which is a difficult one, and I believe Bangladesh will do much better in Sri Lanka. Ashraful should play for wins and I think we will be able to draw at least one Test.

BanglaCricket : What is your future plan and what can you offer to develop the standard of cricket in Bangladesh?

Aminul Islam Bulbul : I returned to Bangladesh in 2006 to serve my country. I have completed a level 2 coaching course from Australia and worked with the New South Wales University team as a coaching staff. I felt Bangladesh cricket needs a person like me while Australia has a sufficient number of trained personnel to work with their cricket. That was the main motivation for my return to Bangladesh. I applied to BCB to work in any suitable position with age group teams, the academy team or the national team. I have specialized myself in batting and leg spin coaching, I am very keen to work but I haven’t yet heard anything official from the BCB. I have guided Abahani Limited to the Premier League Championship in my first big assignment as coach. Cricket is my life and I have to earn my livelihood through it. Now after 14 months I am looking for some overseas job. Bangladesh cricket will always remain as my priority and whenever BCB feels I can contribute in any capacity, I will be ready to serve my country.

BanglaCricket : Last question to you. Have you heard about BanglaCricket before?

Aminul Islam Bulbul: Yes, off course. I used to visit BanglaCricket regularly when I was in Australia.

BanglaCricket : Thank you very much for your valuable time and thoughts about Bangladesh cricket.

Aminul Islam Bulbul: Thank you.

 

About the author(s): Khondaker Mirazur Rahman spends as much time on BanglaCricket as on his Post-Doctoral research on Gene Targeted Drug Design. Like a true scientist his articles are all well researched. He goes by the nick "Miraz" on our forums and is also a BanglaCricket editor.

 

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