Aminul Islam, Bangladesh's first Test centurion and former captain, leads a 24x7 life these days. He completed his Level-1, Level-2 and Level-3 coaching degrees from Cricket Victoria and has trained club sides in Melbourne and Sydney. He's now involved with the ICC in his capacity as Cricket Development officer for China, Hong Kong, UAE, Singapore, Thailand and Myanmar. He chats with ESPNcricinfo on what his work entails, Bangladesh's rise as a limited-overs force, coaching methodologies and much more. Excerpts:
How special is it to be remembered as Bangladesh's first centurion?
Sometimes, I'm embarrassed. Sometimes I'm proud. Sometimes, I think 'many people have scored hundreds. So what if I'm the first?' A colleague was at Lord's recently to organise the MCC game against Nepal. When he was at the museum, he immediately called and said 'Hey, we saw the bat you used to make that hundred'. It's a signature of my life. In Australia as well, when I go on radio and TV shows, they always introduce me as Bangladesh's first Test centurion. Recently, Javed Miandad and I were in China to promote cricket. We were trying to introduce Javed to them by saying so many things like 'World Cup winner', he's made these many Test runs, ODI runs. One guy raised his hand and asked 'Has he won gold medals?' So there, they equate sporting success to gold medals. So in every country, there's a stamp. This hundred stamp will always be with me. That hundred keeps me alive.
Bangladesh are now a serious limited-overs force. That should please you immensely.
Absolutely, it pleases me to see them win, pleasing to see opponents not consider them pushovers. But I'm also a little worried about our domestic cricket. We're not the same force in Test cricket because of that. There are no proper pathways or information system because there are no regional cricket centres. So cricket has to be decentralised. Despite this, talent is coming through and I feel proud because this has been sustainable. The BCB's investment is starting to pay off no doubt, but they need to think forward. The success they've had since 2015 is amazing, the experience of the senior players is now starting to trickle down. Just look at Mushfiqur Rahim's innings against Sri Lanka. Five years ago, he would've played a rash shot and got out, but here he knew he had to stay right till the end. He hasn't bought this experience from Dubai Mall.
What can they do to get better at Tests?
Cricket is the only sport where you don't practice where you play. In hockey and football, they play where they train. The Bangladesh team has skills, but for Tests, skill acquisition says, you have to tweak your game to specifics. Players need to understand their weaknesses. If short ball is a problem area, are you playing 200 short balls every day at the nets? How many deliveries were you in control, even while leaving or moving out of the way. If swinging ball is a concern, are you working on that? Are they able to inculcate format-specific training? I'm not entirely sure, so I think they should look to work towards that.
When did you decide to get involved in full-time coaching?
After I finished with first-class cricket in 2004, I knew I wanted to get into coaching, but I thought it can't be a right just because I've played the game. So I did my Levels-1, -2, and- 3 in Australia up until 2006, and returned to coach Abahani [a premier club in Dhaka]. In 2007, I joined the Asian Cricket Council, and short-term assignments with Cricket Victoria really helped me. I thought coaching can't be a right. There are many finer aspects involved, like understanding biomechanics and vision, management areas like short-term and long-term planning, man-management, and player-psychology. When you play, you don't learn all these things. Yes, it no doubt helps you share experiences, but management opens up a completely new world. I could've done the coaching certifications in Bangladesh too, but back there, how you interact with people from different culture and home-grown people isn't the same. Whereas, elsewhere, you can learn something new everyday by interacting with different cultures.
How much did you miss having such intricate details of coaching during your playing days?
Let's take a simple example. When we see a batsman who isn't an on-side player, we assume it's because of lack of skills, but it could be that his left eye isn't the dominant eye. It's possible his saccadic vision could be hampered. As players, we didn't have access to such finer details. We had two great coaches initially in Bangladesh - Gordon Greenige and Eddie Barlow. Their work on skills, techniques and tactics were always sorted, but issues within the mind, understanding a player psychology and mindset - that wasn't solved all the time and that is what we needed then.
"Five years ago, Mushfiqur would've played a rash shot and got out, but here he knew he had to stay right till the end. He hasn't bought this experience from Dubai Mall."
You now live in Australia. Was it a culture shock when you first toured there in 1988?
The first night I landed in Melbourne, I wanted to comeback. Eventually I settled in. Australians love sport - cricket, rugby, football. That time I also played football, but I had to leave it. I got an offer from Ringwood Cricket Club in 1989, but it clashed with the domestic season in Bangladesh. In the 1990s, my wife went there to study and we moved as a family in 2003. Since then, Australia has become my second home.
Is it fair to say the prospect of a Bangladeshi coaching in Australia would've been improbable 10-15 years ago?
I didn't look at it that way at all, honestly. When I came here, my mindset was to learn. But yes, it feels good to now know they value your inputs. When Cricket Victoria come to me and ask me, 'can you please work with our batsmen on tackling spin on turning tracks' or when they ask me 'can you help us develop a bunch of community coaches', it feels good. Recently, Cricket Australia had invited me for a coaching seminar to talk on batting, along with Michael Bevan and Thilan Samaraweera and Damien Fleming. It felt very good.
What was your first impression of playing Australia?
I played them first here in Sharjah at the Austral-Asia Cup in 1990. Greg Campbell and Merv Hughes, their fast bowlers, started swearing at me because I kept leaving the ball. I couldn't take it, so I went to Steve Waugh and complained to him. I told him 'Steve, they're mouthing foul words.' He also gave me the same words. Then Simon O'Donnell took pity, he came and told me 'just keep quiet and don't utter anything. They will stop soon.' Playing against the superstars was a great feeling.
"Cricket was alive even when Bangladesh wasn't the force they were. That hasn't changed one bit. Science says, you learn 70% by seeing, 23% by feeling and 7% by hearing. When you see Sunil Gavaskar talk technique, you learn. It's things like these we try and inculcate."
How does it feel to be giving back to the game in this role?
At the back of my mind, whatever I've done, I've kept thinking 'how will this fit into the Bangladesh scheme of things?' Development plan, high performance plan, training and fitness - I would love to share this with Bangladesh, but currently I don't have the access. Even if it is honorary, I want to share the experiences with the younger players. There is a perception in Bangladesh that I'm always busy and outside. The relationship exists, but somehow things haven't worked out, but I want to still try.
What's your schedule like?
I wake up early, go to the ICC office, work from 8am to 3pm as an ICC development manager. Once I'm finished, I rush back home and catch up on meetings because 3pm in Melbourne is 9am in Dubai. Then I take my son for one-on-one training and then teach voluntarily at clubs, just to stay in touch. Sometimes I do my meetings at midnight Melbourne time. It is busy, but I'm enjoying it.
Which are the countries you work with?
As a development manager, I look after China, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand and Myanmar. I give them desktop support, tailor High Performance plans and follow-up with the coaches. During the afternoons, I'm in sync with the ICC and discuss how we can implement different programmes for these smaller teams.
What's it that these countries can learn from Bangladesh's rise?
I try to exchange our experience, how Bangladesh moved from Associates to Full Members. We were an average team but always had cricket culture. The fan support was mad. Club tournament finals between Mohammeden and Abahani used to have 50,000 people. The ICC Knockouts Trophy for example had full houses in 1998 even though Bangladesh didn't play. Television played a massive role. When a lot of these kids turned on TV when they were young and saw a Tendulkar batting or Wasim Akram bowling, they were inspired. Cricket was alive even when Bangladesh wasn't the force they were. That hasn't changed one bit. Science says, you learn 70% by seeing, 23% by feeling and 7% by hearing. When you see Sunil Gavaskar talk technique, you learn. It's things like these we try and inculcate.