When you think about Aminul Islam, the picture of a composed and disciplined character comes into your mind. In his playing days, he was the symbol of hope and assurance for Bangladesh cricket. His services towards Bangladesh cricket are huge while his dedication is an example to emulate for the young generation.
Very recently, Aminul Islam had a candid talk with Cricketsoccr (CS). He was charming, thoughtful and at times emotional while talking with Cricketsoccer……
CS: You chose to play cricket in an era when soccer was the most popular sport in Bangladesh. What influenced you to take cricket as a profession?
Aminul Islam: When I was young, soccer was the heart and soul of every Bangladeshi. Soccer stars like Salauddini, Chunnu, Kaiser Hamid and Aslam were the household names. I also wanted to be a soccer player. Those soccer players were so amazing that they inspired a generation to take soccer seriously. In my home, alongside soccer, cricket too was followed. My elder brother used to play cricket. We used to follow cricket commentaries in radios as in those days; live telecasts were not available like today. But still, in the early 80s I didn’t take cricket seriously though I used to play cricket. I represented in soccer teams like East End (1985-86) and Victoria (1987). Even in 1988, I got an offer from Brother’s Union to play soccer and cricket simultaneously. The year 1988 was significant for me. I was called upon by the Bangladesh Football Federations and Bangladesh cricket Board simultaneously. Both the Bangladesh Football Federations and BCB proposed me to represent Bangladesh internationally in the youth team. Sadly, the anterior cruciate ligament of my knee joint was torn which prohibited me from playing soccer, I chose cricket instead.
CS: Then you were picked for the ICC Associates XI for the World Youth Cup in Australia………….
Aminul Islam: Yes I was playing for the ICC Associates XI in Australia. The ICC Associates XI included four players from Zimbabwe, two each from Bangladesh, Bermuda, Canada, Denmark, and the Netherlands. I and Liton were representing Bangladesh and in that tournament, I was performing quite well. Our coach was an Australian named Peter Spence. He was pretty satisfied with my overall performance and advised me to stick to cricket and concentrate more on this game as I have a great future here. His motivation pushed me more to take cricket seriously.
CS: In the same year you were selected for the Bangladesh national team in the Asia Cup which was held in Bangladesh. How was the feeling of representing Bangladesh?
Aminul Islam: Representing your country internationally is always a matter of great pride. I was feeling immensely proud while representing Bangladesh with the ICC Associates XI in Australia. While I was faring well in Australia, one of the Australians advised me to stay in Australia and start playing cricket there. According to him, Bangladesh have no future in cricket. But I replied that I would feel more proud to represent my own country and it was just a dream come true when I made my international debut against Sri Lanka in 1988.
CS: Cricket had hardly any hope in those days in Bangladesh. But still, cricketers like you, Minhazul Abedin, Akram Khan, and Gazi Ashraf Hossain Lipu carried on the hope of cricket amid the sky-high popularity of soccer. How difficult it was for you guys to carry on this hope?
Aminul Islam: It was tough indeed. Cricket didn’t have any professional structure in those days and above all, it was an expensive game. Cricket kits were very expensive and it was hard to buy new kits. Again, there was no such competitive domestic cricket to motivate the next generation and above all, there was no proper funding in the game to inspire young boys to take cricket as a profession. But I myself, Akram Khan, Minhazul Abedin Nannu and Gazi Ashraf Hossain Lipu were all in love with the game. We were cricketers full of passion and optimism. We strongly believed that cricket will bloom in Bangladesh. Our passion helped us to move on amid the sky-high popularity of soccer.
CS: Your batting was based on a solid technique. Many found a touch of Javed Miandad and Sunil Gavaskar in your batting. Did those two batsmen influence your batting?
Aminul Islam: Basically I was a fan of Richie Richardson. I used to follow his batting a lot. As we didn’t have any frequent live telecasts in those days like today, so whatever matches were telecast in those days, I used to follow them sincerely and studied them, especially Richardson’s batting. Batsmen like Sunil Gavaskar and Javed Miandad were always a big inspiration.
Coming back to my batting technique, well, my solid technique developed due to my coach Bashir Bhai. He was my first cricket coach during my younger days while I was living in Gandaria, Old Dhaka. Then the valuable advice of Osman Bhai, my coach during Nirman School cricket, also helped me a lot. And above all, one man had a tremendous positive impact throughout my cricketing career and he is none but the great Syed Ashraful Haque.
Also, in my 20s, I played in minor counties in England which helped me to develop adaptability against any attack. Also, the experience of playing in Australia’s hard and bouncy tracks helped me in developing a solid technique.
CS: Tell us something about the ICC Trophy in 1997. That victory had totally changed the face of Bangladesh cricket. Isn’t it?
Aminul Islam: It had been the most significant event which changed the face of Bangladesh cricket. In the previous ICC events, we failed to live up to the expectations. Only the champion team was allowed to play in the ICC World Cup before the 1997 event. But in 1997, three teams would qualify to play in the World Cup. We thought that this was our best chance. We vowed to do well and even if we have to die to win this tournament, we were prepared for that as well. Our coach Gordon Greenidge had done a tremendous job in preparing ourselves for the tournament. We worked very hard and thanks to Almighty Allah that our hard work had paid off.
CS: In the final of the ICC Trophy 1997, you and Akram Khan were in a steady partnership. You two didn’t hit boundaries but plucked singles and couples despite the escalating asking run rate. What were you both thinking during that time?
Aminul Islam: We lost Naimur Rahman early. But Mohammad Rafique and Minhazul Abedin didn’t let the pressure of that early dismissal get into us. They both essayed breezy knocks. After their dismissals, there was a dodgy period. I had Akram Khan with me at the wicket and we both concentrated on fetching singles and couples as the Kenyan spinners were in operation and they were much disciplined. It was hard to hit them. Both I and Akram kept on saying to each other that we can do it; it was not an impossible task.
CS: What about the grand reception in Dhaka?
Aminul Islam: We could not even realize that Dhaka and the whole country would have gone such crazy with this win. We were greeted by a vast crowd in Manik Miah Avenue and it is pretty hard to describe that emotional moment in words.
CS: Then Bangladesh played in the ICC World Cup 1999. The match against Pakistan is a part of Bangladesh cricket’s folklore. Did you guys think that you could beat that strong Pakistani team?
Aminul Islam: Bangladesh as a team were improving in each match during that World Cup while Pakistan were unbeaten before playing against us and were in top-notch. Before facing them, we just thought of playing our natural game. Our veteran cricketers like Minhazul Abedin and Faruk Ahmed declared of retiring from cricket after this last game against Pakistan. So I told my boys to make it a day to remember for these two great cricketers of our land. The rest is history.
CS: Then a year after the World Cup, Bangladesh gained the much-desired Test status. Do you think that Test status was pretty early for us?
Aminul Islam: First of all, the achievement of the Test status was largely possible due to then BCB’s CEO Syed Ashraful Haque’s diplomatic approach. He was highly instrumental in achieving this Test status. Now, Even if the Test status was given today, you would have asked whether it was too early or not. We gained the Test status at the right time and in these thirteen years, you need to look at the positives. Though I think, there were areas which were needed to be galvanized, still, I think it was not early but lack of proper planning and implementation of the right works have not led to a successful thirteen years of Test cricket for Bangladesh.
CS: Bangladesh’s batting in the Test format lacks stability. Don’t you think that we need to give more importance to playing more 4-day and 5-day formats in the domestic arena rather than indulging too much on T20 cricket?
Aminul Islam: Listen, brother, T20 is not cricket but a baseball game. Test cricket is all about technique and temperament. To achieve the desired results in Test cricket, you need to give more importance to the longer-version games and improve the domestic structure. Not only in domestic cricket but also in the U-19 and school level, you need to build the habit of playing two-day or three-day games, so that the attitude grows up amongst the young boys earlier.
CS: Bangladesh played its inaugural Test match in November 10, 2000. Before the Test match, there was a lot of drama regarding your selection……..
Aminul Islam: I was not sure whether I would get selected in the team or not. I was having a bad patch. I was written off by the local newspapers. The situation was such that I would get picked as I have given service to my national team for a long time. They were showing mercy towards my long term service but not judging my abilities at all. At that tough moment, I received great support from my coach late Eddie Barlow, Imran Bhai and captain Naimur Rahman. Finally, I was selected. Even some of the newspapers wrote why I was being selected! But thanks to Allah I delivered the best for my team.
CS: Tell us something about your magical 145 against India…….
Aminul Islam: I was determined to do well. I gave plenty of time to adapt myself to the conditions. The Indian attack was boosted by Srinath, Agarkar, Sunil Joshi, and co. It was a strong attack. I waited for the loose balls and planned to play session by session. I got nervous when I was in my 90s. I became slow. Two names kept wandering in my mind – Javed Miandad and Pravin Amre. Both of them had scored Test hundreds for their country on debut. I kept on motivating myself by remembering their unique feat. Finally, I reached my hundred and thanked the Almighty Allah. Soon after thanking Allah, I looked towards the dressing room where a paralyzed Eddie Barlow was trying hard to stand up from his wheelchair to give a standing ovation. Later his wife helped him to stand up. These are just precious moments.
CS: Suddenly you got lost from our cricket. You didn’t even retire from cricket officially……
Aminul Islam: After playing against India, some of our newspapers started to raise the voice of building a national team for the World Cup 2003 without the senior members. I was dropped in the Test and ODI series against Zimbabwe in 2001. Gradually I was being ignored. As a matter of fact, I was getting more accustomed to Bangladesh cricket’s newest cricket atmosphere. But a certain group never wanted me to flourish. They even didn’t want me to play in our domestic cricket or even minor local games. Slowly I held myself back from my country’s cricket. I flew for Australia where I am a permanent citizen as well. I started cricket coaching there. I have taken proper coaching and training in Australia. I am never lost from cricket. I am still with cricket.
CS: Pace bowling is a worry for Bangladesh. We had a pace hunting program in 2003-04. Don’t you think we need to start the pace hunting program again and continue it? Or, According to you, what measures the BCB should take?
Aminul Islam: Definitely we need to start such programs and continue it. Again, our wickets must be encouraging ones for the pace bowlers as well. Then there should be a strategy to build fast bowlers – fitness regime and proper diet.
CS: What sort of strategy does Bangladesh need to do well in Test cricket?
Aminul Islam: Every Test-playing nation has a specific strategy to do well in Test cricket. You need to gain confidence by doing well at home. You need bowlers to take twenty wickets and batsmen to score consistently. Look at India and Sri Lanka. Their strategy of doing well at home is built upon their spinners apart from their brilliant batsmen, while the medium pacers aid those spinners to strike gold. We can follow that role model as our conditions are quite similar to them. We are blessed with some quality spinners but these spinners are never utilized according to a plan. As our pace bowlers are not that good, a strategy like India and Sri Lanka could have been followed. But I don’t understand why such strategic actions have not been taken so far.
CS: We all are shocked by Ashraful’s involvement with spot-fixing. The dubious involvement of Mohammad Rafique, Khaled Mahmud, and Khaled Masud are shocking as well…….
Aminul Islam: First of all Mohammad Rafique, Khaled Mahmud and Khaled Masud’s case have not yet been proved. I came to know about this whole saga through our local newspapers. Ashraful’s case was simply upsetting. As he himself has accepted his wrongdoings so what can I say about that. Yes, it is a very frustrating thing for our cricket.
CS: What should the BCB do to stop corruption in our cricket?
Aminul Islam: The BCB should develop a strong monitoring system in our domestic matches. A strong monitoring system in domestic cricket can help to stop corruption
CS: You have been a very good captain. Who was your role model? What was your strategy as a captain?
Aminul Islam: Clive Lloyd was my role model as a captain. I always wanted to be a leader like him. As a captain my policy was simple. I was more a player’s captain than a strategist. I gave my players freedom and always listened to them. My motto was always to win.
CS: How do you rate the present Bangladesh team?
Aminul Islam: I rate them highly. Their body language is always very positive. They fight hard in every game. Many players in our current team have plenty of international matches under their belt but despite this, they are not able to deliver according to their experience in the international arena. Perhaps that’s why Bangladesh still aren’t able to strike gold consistently.
CS: Who is your favourite cricketer in the Bangladesh team?
Aminul Islam: I enjoy watching Nasir Hossain. He is my favourite player in the current Bangladesh team. The boy is bustling with energy and is very positive. It’s always a joy to watch Nasir in action.
CS: How is your new role as a coach in the Asian Cricket Council going?
Aminul Islam: I am immensely enjoying it. We are given the responsibility to develop cricket in countries like China, Myanmar, Brunei, Malaysia, Singapore, and Taiwan. In these countries, cricket is flourishing and I am happy with my work so far.
CS: Thank you so much, sir. It had been a pleasure to talk to you. Do you wish to say something to your fans?
Aminul Islam: It was a pleasure talking with you. To the fans, I want to say that I shall always remain grateful to them for the love and support they have given me throughout my life.