Aminul Islam Bulbul
, one of the torch-bearers of Bangladesh cricket in its early period, has been training and educating cricket coaches around the world for more than a decade now. His works and achievements in the field of cricket coaching since retirement are set to exceed the length of his 14-year long glorious playing career. After completing the first two levels of coaching courses from Cricket Australia by 2005, followed by the head coach's role at University of New South Wales one-day cricket team, he couldn’t hold back the urge of returning home any longer. But he had to spend a year and a half waiting for the desired job at the Bangladesh Cricket Board before Abahani Limited roped him in as head coach in a bid to end their seven-year trophy drought. Bulbul guided the Sky Blues to a memorable title-winning campaign in his debut Dhaka Premier League season, but the absence of advanced coaching courses' opportunities forced him to leave the country once again. He started working for the Asian Cricket Council development programme and also completed the prestigious Level-3 coaching course in 2009. During his eight years at the ACC, he conducted around 80 coaching courses in China, Malaysia, Singapore, Hong Kong, Myanmar, Brunei, Afghanistan, the UAE and many other countries. He continued to learn more on cricket coaching, completing “Basic principles of coaching: Level 2” from the Victorian Institute of Sports and “Coach Educators: Level 2” from CA.
Bulbul, who is now a Level-3 coach educator, has been working for the International Cricket Council as development manager for Asia since November, 2016 and for that purpose, he is currently residing in Melbourne, Australia. This interview was conducted by Dhaka Tribune
during Bulbul's short stay in Bangladesh in December last year. Alongside sharing the memories of cricket coaching during the 1980s and later onwards, the 49-year old also revealed the bitter reality of Bangladesh cricket in the decisive field of coaching education. His words echoed his sentiment regarding the negligence of professionalism in cricket coaching, despite the game being the most popular sport in the country.
Bulbul was playing both cricket and football simultaneously for Azad Boy’s Club and Victoria Club respectively in the late 1980s. A torn ligament in his right leg made his football career uncertain. With the inspiration of Australian coach Peter Spence, he concentrated solely on his cricket career from 1988. As the interview was focused on cricket coaching, the inevitable question was regarding the scenario of cricket coaching in Bangladesh during his early playing career…
Sports science say when an infant or an adult learns cricket or any other sport, he learns 70% by watching, 23% by playing or hitting and 7% by listening. So the visual aspect is important. When we were young, we couldn’t watch cricket, we used to listen to the commentary on the radio. And we would seldom come see matches at Bangabandhu National Stadium in Dhaka or Outer Stadium in the capital, if there were any. Back in 1981-82, when I started playing Nirman school cricket, the best players of the tournament were invited for a month-long course. The course was conducted by some experienced Bangladesh coaches, who completed their coaching diplomas from National Institute of Sports in Patiala, India. They were Syed Altaf Hossain, Morshedur Ahmed Mintu, Jalal Ahmed Chowdhury, Ousman Khan, and also Shawkatur Rahman Chinu bhai. They taught us the basics of cricket, like, how to hold a bat, bowl. They also taught us the values and spirit of cricket and the importance of fielding in cricket. Fitness wasn’t prevalent at that time. We played cricket our entire lives based on what we learned from that course. I'm saying this because, if you set the correct foundation at ground level, it will stay for the rest of your life. Majority of the national cricketers played upon this very foundation. In 1990, we had our first international coach, Pakistan’s Mudassar Nazar, maybe he wasn’t qualified enough but he had a lot of playing experiences. He was the first to teach us the importance of fitness in cricket. We used to think that only football and hockey require fitness, not cricket. And for that very reason, we couldn’t play long innings, bowlers couldn’t bowl consistently for long.
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Bulbul while conducting Level-2 coaching course in Delhi, India[/caption]
From 1988 to 2002, Bulbul came in contact with some of the most renowned international coaches of the national side, like India’s Mohindar Amarnath (1994), the West Indies’ Gordon Greenidge (1997-99), South Africa’s Eddie Barlow (1999-00) and lately, Australia’s Trevor Chappell. He also talked about the coaching process of local and international coaches back then.
I was entirely under the guidance of the local coaches at the beginning, especially Ousman bhai and Jalal bhai assisted me in my younger days. Ousman bhai used to work with the basics and Jalal bhai got into the science of it. I was lucky to get both of them. Jalal bhai worked on the players' mentality and Ousman bhai helped me on my technique and tactics. Four elements are important in coaching - technique, tactics, physical and mental aspects. The physical aspect among the four elements was something that the local coaches lacked. But they were so good in the other three elements. We were taught, like, “You’ll be in trouble if you don’t do this,” in colloquial Bangla language and it was enough for us to understand how it should be done. But an international coach would take a different approach due to the cultural differences, which is also due to the language barrier. Whenever an international coach such as [Chandika] Hathurusingha or [Richard] Pybus comes around, they try to coach with their culture. I was lucky to get Peter Spence as our coach during the first ever youth World Cup in Australia in 1988. Peter Spence used to work on the aspect of how cricket training should be. We used to ask our local coaches what we should do to bat for long. The answer was "concentration" but we didn’t know what it really meant. Peter elaborated on this aspect, I didn’t get it at first as he spoke English, but afterwards, I grasped what it was about. This brought a substantial difference in me. After that, we had a British coach in BKSP named Derrick Simmons. He also taught us the basics. What he said in English was what we already heard from Ousman bhai and Jalal bhai. Our coaches were of top quality regarding the technical, tactical and mental aspects, which we were taught through our own culture.
Even though Bangladesh produced world-class cricketers like Shakib al Hasan, Tamim Iqbal, Mushfiqur Rahim, among others, world-class cricket coaches hasn’t come up in the same proportion. While reminding this to Bulbul, the country's debut Test centurion replied immediately.
Because we have never worked on this issue. Let’s say, “A” team were going to tour the West Indies, and Sarwar Imran bhai was primarily selected to be the coach but the decision changed the next day and we were informed that a foreign coach would accompany the team. The U-19 national team were coached by Jewel, preceded by Mizanur Rahman Babul, but before the team left, we heard that a foreign coach would be necessary. It’s like a predisposition towards the foreign coaches being the only ones capable of getting the work done.
According to the BCB, there are approximately 300 Level-1 coaches in the country but less than half of them (148) managed to complete the next stage of Level-2. Bangladesh currently has only 16 coaches with Level-3 coaching certificate, to achieve which one must try abroad. Bulbul elaborated on the lack of professionalism of the local coaches due to their limitation on obtaining higher coaching education in the country.
The profession of coaching as well as the coaching education have always been neglected here. Here, we complete Level-1 and Level-2 courses in only five days! Level-3 has to be done abroad. You cannot become a coach in five days and even the outcome of five days’ effort is not being implemented in most of the cases. If Mashrafe [bin Mortaza] had proper coaching education in his younger days, he wouldn’t have had to go through so many injuries. Even Mustafizur [Rahman], if he was educated on why his muscle is acting a certain way and taught how to make necessary adjustments to it, he wouldn’t have suffered those injuries. There are hundreds of Mashrafes and Mustafizurs who do not come under the limelight, or are just not discovered. Coaches are supposed to uncover and nurture the talents and the cricket board should in turn find the right coaches, upgrade them regularly and ensure their future. It’s not just about getting salary every month, they should be compensated for their efforts so that they don’t have to think about anything else.
There are around 82 coaches under the BCB's payroll who are working in seven divisions, 58 districts as well as for the national team. When queried about the financial stability in the life of a cricket coach, Bulbul continued…
Firstly, we need to see how BCB utilises its paid coaches currently. We have many qualified coaches but we fail to upgrade them, tune them and ensure financial security. Coaching is quite similar to teaching. If our cricket board has good coaches, regular events for them with enough resources, development will be automated. We have none of those. We get Mustafizur because BKSP nurtures some players. And then? There are millions of players in the grass-root level, just how many of them are coming under the radar?
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Bulbul features in Chinese cricket textbook, published in Shanghai, 2011[/caption]
Bulbul also talked about the differences of coaching education provided by the leading cricket countries and to that of Bangladesh.
The CA courses are not just based on cricket. The module that they use is based on American sports science as well as German. They also closely monitor sports science of other countries. All we see is a cover drive or in-swinging delivery but what actually goes behind those actions should be explained in details as well. For this reason, South Africa, England and Australia follow different kinds of modules for coaching education. Despite being a Full Member, we haven’t been able to come up with a module of our own. Eddie Barlow tried to translate the modules in Bangla but that has had no follow-up afterwards.
Approximately 14 years after Barlow's efforts fell through, the cricket board reportedly appointed Ross Turner, the former ICC global development manager, in 2015, requesting him to develop a strategic plan for Bangladesh cricket. Turner worked for months to prepare the write-ups which are yet to receive the green signal. After Bulbul denied commenting on the matter, Dhaka Tribune wanted to know his suggestion on what should be done to develop the standard of coaching system in the country…
We need solid sports policies from the National Sports Council and Bangladesh Olympic Association. These organisations should make a detailed and timely plan for the improvement of cricket coaches as well as the coaches from other disciplines, which the sports federations should be bound to follow. Maybe the same approach would not work everywhere but a proper plan should be put in place so that they can be held accountable. Any decisions regarding cricket, football, hockey and any other sport, in Australia, comes from the Australian Sports Commission. In turn, they all work under the supervision of the government. They manage everything. Their certificates are issued by the sports commission, not CA. We need a central governing body that will perform as a hub for all the sports related information and policies.
A yearning desire to return to the homeland and contribute towards the development of cricket coaches of Bangladesh is still in Bulbul’s plans.
I have a secret wish. Even if the BCB never utilises me, I still want to give something back to the country. Maybe I will retire in five-six years’ time. According to my calculation, there are about 60,000 primary schools in the country. I want to coach the physical instructors in these schools equivalent to Level-1 coaching course, and that too without any sponsor and at my own expense. I'm the syllabus, I require a projector and some materials from abroad. I desire to do this all over the country. Even if just one cricketer comes through from my endeavour, that will be a fulfillment of my dream.
Makes national team debut, played in the first ever Youth World Cup in Australia
Named best fielder of the ICC Trophy
Captained Bangladesh in their debut World Cup
Becomes third player in history to hit century on Test debut
Wins national award; Becomes selector of Bangladesh U-13, 15, 17 and 19 sides
Named assistant coach of South Sydney Cricket Club
Wins Dhaka Premier League title as head coach of Abahani Limited
Named development officer of ACC
Level-3 coach certificate accredited by ACC/Cricket Australia
Named development manager, Asia, ICC