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Arshad Ayub, a former India cricketer has dabbled in many roles in cricket after hanging his boots from the field of play. Nishad Pai Vaidya caught up with Ayub at his academy in Hyderabad.
Set in a corner near Masab Tank in Hyderabad, you would find five nets neatly arranged along a green carpet. From a distance, you can see different age groups taking their spots and trying to outsmart their colleagues. With the trees masking your view, you may feel it is any other coaching camp — one of the thousands in a cricket crazy nation. However, as you move closer, you would see an organised setup being watched by Arshad Ayub, the former India off-spinner and a Hyderabad veteran.
Ayub recalls his time at the highest level vividly and engages in a conversation revisiting the good old days. Since hanging his boots from the playing field in 1994, Ayub has donned many hats that have kept him in touch with the game. After organising a few benefit matches and handling his business, he started the Arshad Ayub Cricket Academy in 1998 — a setup that continues to mentor numerous players every day, having already carved numerous careers.
“In 1998, I set it up. We have consistently contributed to the Hyderabad Ranji Trophy team and the under-19s, under-16s etc. This is a passion to give back to the game what it has given it to me,” Ayub says.
The Academy has indeed given Hyderabad cricket numerous players. Ibrahim Khaleel, the Hyderabad wicketkeeper is one student who honed his skills here. Khaleel holds the record for the most dismissals in a First-Class game, a mark he set during a Ranji Trophy 2011-12 encounter against Assam. Syed Ahmed Quadri, a member of the current Hyderabad team also picked up his trade at Ayub’s academy. Shashank Nag, Mehdi Hassan and Habib Ahmed are some of the other players to emerge from the Academy.
Yet, Ayub feels he could have given it a better shot. “I could have done better in the sense that I could have given it more time. Because of my business, the time frame was tight.”
But, that insatiable love for cricket kept pulling him back to the sport. In the early 2000s, he had moved into administration and became the President of the Hyderabad Cricket Association (HCA) in 2010. When compared to his playing days, this was a completely different challenge as the HCA had been through a few difficulties. “It was tough when I took over as our Association was going through a bad time. I did manage to get a lot of things done during my tenure. I was the Vice-President for a few years, but in that role you don’t do much. As President, you have many opportunities to make an impact.”
It must be said that Ayub made numerous changes on the cricketing and the administrative front. “I changed the constitution of the HCA, introducing elections for the post of the president. I also made it two terms for each member, otherwise people went on for seven to eight terms. We completed the stadium at Uppal, built an indoor facility, started an academy etc. I had also conducted two IPLs, Champions League T20s, and a Test match,” he says with pride.
It wasn’t administration on the state front alone, but Ayub was also given the task of managing the Indian team for the tour to Bangladesh in 2010. Ayub shares a good comfort level with the likes of Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid and VVS Laxman — players with whom he shared the stage during his heydays. It was a happy atmosphere under coach Gary Kirsten that Ayub enjoyed being a part of, “He handled the team very well. The rapport between the players was very good. It was lovely to be with the team and I enjoyed being there.”
With his tenure as HCA President complete, Ayub can be seen at the Academy. With children as young as seven and a few students in their 20s, Ayub is a firm believer in backing natural talent and not tinkering with something inherent. Identifying that natural ability is what his main challenge is. “The most important thing about coaching is to develop them in a natural form, whatever they can do the best and effectively. Even though their action is not right, and they may bowl effectively, we just need to correct them a little, put them in a more comfortable.”
“The challenges are that if you don’t read and try to produce clones, it becomes difficult. You need to recognize that natural ability in young kids.” With his students practicing with intent on each side of a small lawn, Ayub keeps a close watch over the proceedings. This is his passion after all!
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