Mohammad Ashraful, an enigma of Bangladesh cricket, turned from poster boy to villain overnight. The young sensation, who became the youngest to score a debut Test century, was once regarded as the biggest star in the cricketing constellation but saw a disgraceful fall when he was proved guilty of match fixing. He consequently faced an eight-year ban from international cricket.
To his credit, he came back after serving the ban but never regained the lustre of his old self. However, Ashraful is set to start a new innings and this time as a coach. The former Bangladesh captain completed a level-3 coaching course from Abu Dhabi. The stylish batter believes he learnt the vital lessons from his eventful cricketing career. He believes he has learnt well from the theoretical and practical part of his experience and is revving to go as a coach. Ashraful shared his thoughts with Tarek Mahmud of Prothom Alo about his future plans and also shed some light on his past.
You have completed the highest level, level 3, of the coaching course. So, what is Mohammad Ashraful now? Player or coach?
(Smiles) I wish to play in the current season. I want to start coaching next year after leaving play. I have been playing for 27 years, so I feel this profession will suit me. One may work as selector or in other sectors of cricket for three-four years but I can do coaching for many years. I had completed level-2 of coaching in England. I had to complete the highest level of coaching to become a fully professional coach.
So, this is your last year in professional cricket and then shall we see coach Ashraful from next year?
I wish to leave playing after completing 10 thousand runs in first-class cricket. I require 800 (808) more runs to reach that milestone. I may leave playing after that. Meanwhile, if any team picks me as coach, Inshallah I shall work as coach from next season.
Afghanistan Cricket Board was the organiser of ICC Coaching Course at Abu Dhabi. How did you contact them?
Bulbul bhai (former Bangladesh captain and master educator of ICC’s development department) and BCB’s chief executive officer Sujan bhai (Nizam Uddin Chowdhury) helped me. A total of 12 current and former players of Afghanistan participated in this ICC course. Only a South African and I were outsiders. The interesting thing is that even Afghanistan Cricket Board president Mirwais Ashraf participated in the course with us. He played 46 ODIs for Afghanistan. I asked him, ‘Why are you taking part in this course?’ he replied, ‘The job of board president is not a permanent one for me. I may have to leave it anytime. I was a player, I completed the level-2 course. If I complete level-3 I may work as a coach in future.‘
Which part of the player Ashraful will be most useful as a coach?
I have been following Bangladesh cricket since they won the ICC trophy. I had been with the team from its second Test. I have seen the whole journey and transformation of Bangladesh team from then to now very closely and not many people have such an experience. I have seen many ups and downs in my career. I fairly understand what is good for a cricketer and what is bad. I have always considered myself as a positive person. I could not have recovered from what happened in my life (being banned for part of the spot fixing) had I not been positive. At one stage I even contemplated on suicide. I returned from there by thinking positively. As I have seen all the dark alleys and bright highways a Bangladeshi cricketer may traverse, I reckon I shall do very well as a coach.
The type of coaching has changed a lot. These days everything is very much dependent on information technology and data. How do you envisage modern coaching?
The job of head coach is now easy and, in some respect, tough as well. Coaches have to do the main management. Earlier coaches had to conduct practice sessions, fitness training and even the responsibility of a physio. Now, there are separate coaches for everything.
As a player you used to be aware about the playing styles, stats and records of other players regularly. Do you think this analytical mind shall help during your coaching?
It’s a big advantage for me. Since I was 12 cricket has been everything in my life. But it is true it is not easy working in our country. If you tell the truth or say what should be said, sometimes you may not get the job.
You were banned for being involved in spot fixing. Do you think it may create a negative impact in your coaching?
I hope not. Rather it will have a positive impact because that is also a part of cricket. Cricketers take part in various programmes of ICC’s anti-corruption unit. Yet we make mistakes. I made a mistake, confessed and was punished for that. No one can say better than me how to handle these situations.
As a coach you may have to start at the domestic level. There are many successful coaches at the domestic level. How much competition are you expecting from them?
There are many good coaches in Bangladesh now. Recently many of them joined after ending their playing career. I have captained the Bangladesh team. The experience of captaincy makes the coaching job easier. A captain has to think about the team all the time within and outside the play, something that the other players may not comprehend. The record may not speak loud for me but I know how much I used to try during play. Yes, I was perhaps not that good beyond the boundary. I shall be more cautious about these things when I start coaching.
Local coaches do not get many chances working with the national team. Recently BCB searched for an assistant coach for the national team through a circular but only one local coach applied for it. Do you think the local coaches have deficiencies for doing the job at the top level?
The biggest problem is, our good coaches do not work in first-class cricket. There are not much financial incentive for coaches in first-class cricket, that may be the reason. Sujon bhai (Khaled Mahmud), Salahuddin bhai- the best coaches of the country never coached in first-class cricket. If the good coaches get involved in first-class cricket it will not only benefit the country’s game but the coaches themselves may learn a lot. The coaches do not get recognition in our circuit as well. One may give 12-15 thousand dollars for hiring assistant coaches from abroad but locals are never given that much.