'It's a special day' for the little-known coaches of Bangladesh's Under-19 history-makers
From Chandpur to Chattogram to Dinajpur, these men will be glued to their TV sets come final time
For just the one day, on Sunday, Shamim Faruqi won't open the doors to his cricket academy in Chandpur. He has to be at home, to watch the Under-19 World Cup final. Mahmudul Hasan Joy and Shamim Hossain, his students, will be on TV and "it is a special day so I have closed the academy for the day, I don't want to miss Joy and Shamim's final".
Sudipta Das, who was almost Shahadat Hossain's guardian angel when he was struggling to make ends meet, will also keenly follow the final from his Chattogram Medical College Hospital office, and later from home in the same neighborhood. That is where Shahadat also grew up. His father worked in the hospital, and after his death in 2010, when the family went through a rough time financially, the young boy thought he would have to return to their village. Thankfully, that didn't happen.
Akhinur Jaman Rusho will be glued to the TV set with his students in Dinajpur, hoping that Shahin Alam, the fast bowler he spotted in a trial in nondescript Kurigram four years ago, gets a chance to play.
In many ways, these are the men who make Bangladesh cricket tick, little-known coaches who form the backbone of cricket development in the country, hoping that the hours, months and years spent in the makeshift cricket grounds yield one or two players who can break into the top bracket.
Faruqi, who runs Clemon Chandpur Academy, taught Mahmudul, whose hundred against New Zealand paved the way for Bangladesh to reach their maiden Under-19 World Cup final, the basics as well as the nuances of batting. He also ensured that little Shamim, who took two wickets in that semi-final, didn't lose interest in the game when he was 12 and at a loose end.
"When he was 12, a little boy, I was planning not to let Shamim do a medical test for a tournament [because he was so small, the coach didn't want the boy to play]," Faruqi said. "But I could see clouds gathering around his face, so I quickly told him that go ahead, do your medical. I will take you with the Under-14 squad for the experience.
"It was a tournament organised by [Nurul Abedin] Nobel bhai at the Women's Complex ground in Chittagong. But when he saw Shamim, I think he was a little shocked. Nobel bhai didn't like that I had brought this kid along. I don't know if he wanted to teach me a lesson, but he made Shamim open the batting against a six-foot bowler. Shamim pulled him first ball for a four. I think we all got our answer."
Mahmudul, who last year became the highest run-getter in a calendar year in youth ODIs beating Eoin Morgan's record, is also someone Faruqi helped in his early days. "Shamim is a naturally talented cricketer, while Joy is a hard-working player. He does all his drills even when he is in Chandpur on holiday," the proud coach said.
In nearby Chattogram, Sudipta isn't really a coach but a local player known to help out young players. Sudipta knew Shahadat from a young age, and got him admitted to a local cricket academy for free. "I didn't do much. I just made sure he could train for free at the Ispahani Academy, and then others also helped him with his gear," he said.
But the story goes that Shahadat has always played with Sudipta's kit, and that Sudipta himself had to borrow stuff from his team-mates when playing club games. "Shahadat's family went through a tough time when his father passed away in 2010. Since then I have always tried to keep him playing cricket, and convinced his mother to let him do so."
In the far-flung northern town of Dinajpur, coach Akhinur is has his hopes pinned on Shahin Alam, a barefoot youngster he spotted four years ago around 130 kilometres to the east of the town in the northern corner of Bangladesh.
Akhinur, who was with BKSP, the national sports institute of Bangladesh, for 20 years before being given charge of their Dinajpur branch, had been conducting trials for two decades. He has seen the rise of players like Abdur Razzak, Mushfiqur Rahim and Shakib Al Hasan, among many who have graduated from the BKSP.
During a 2016 trial in Kurigram, he was finding it hard to get bowling talent for their annual intake. "We had found some batsmen but there were no bowlers," he said. "It was getting frustrating, but then I spotted this strapping kid walking barefoot. I asked if he is here for the trial. He said he was too old for the 13-15 years group. I told him, 'just bowl and impress me, boy'.
"He bowled five or six balls before I made up my mind. When you have spotted talent for 20 years, you sometimes understand by the way a person walks what he can offer. Many people play cricket as a pastime but it is our duty as a coach to find talent. Shahin was one of them. He apparently had just happened to be at the Kurigram stadium that day. Now we are hoping that he plays in the Under-19 World Cup final."
Shahin hasn't played a game yet at this World Cup, and might not get a chance in the final either, but his journey to the wondrous world of an Under-19 World Cup is an amazing story. Shahin is the son of a brick-kiln worker who walked four kilometres every day to get to his workplace. Shahin sometimes accompanied him, carrying the food cooked by his mother. In an interview to Bangla Tribune back in January, Shahin had explained how it was especially tough in the winters as they couldn't afford warm clothes.
There are many such stories in the Bangladesh Under-19 ranks, of players who have gone through immense hardship in their still-young lives. Shoriful Islam, the left-arm quick, is the son of a farmer in a village in Panchagarh district, and had to walk several miles to find a TV to watch in a local bazaar. Towhid Hridoy lost money to a cheat who had promised him admission to a fake cricket academy in Dhaka. Rakibul Hasan, whose five-wicket haul helped Bangladesh beat South Africa in the quarter-final, once used up money meant for his tuitions to get admission to a cricket academy in Dhaka.
All of them have now taken their first step into not just stardom, but a better life.
If they can take bigger strides in the next few years, they can help their families, and make coaches like Faruqi, Akhinur and Sudipta not just proud, but prove to them that the work they are doing is not useless. And on Sunday, these gentlemen will all be parked in front of their TVs, in different parts of the country, to see how they go, if they can do it in front of the whole world.
Mohammad Isam is ESPNcricinfo's Bangladesh correspondent. @isam84