“When my father-in-law received my marriage proposal his first question as usual was; what does the boy do? It seemed like he was thunderstruck when he was told that the prospective bridegroom was a coach,” said Mohammad Salahuddin, a graduate from Jahangirnagar University who could not realise his dream of becoming a cricketer, but gradually gained a strong foothold in the coaching arena.
He may not be a big star in the country's cricket fraternity -- his name only came to the spotlight when a megastar like Shakib Al Hasan suddenly flew home from the Indian Premier League to seek Salahuddin's advice in order to get back his batting rhythm. But he is a man who is highly respected by the players. To the star players like Shakib, Tamim Iqbal, Mushfiqur Rahim, Mominul Haque and many others, he is their beloved 'Salahuddin sir'. In good or bad times they always trust his advice.
“My nine-year old son doesn't care because to him all the star players are his bhais (brothers) but my family and relatives do care a little bit (smile) when they see players like Shakib, Tamim and Mushfiq care for me,” he said in jest.
“Anyway I don't know why players trust me but I always try to give them honest advice and never hesitate to tell them the truth in order to help them correct their mistakes or flaws,” he continued.
One can't judge him only by his relationship with the big names, but he also has some success stories to his name.
“I had a six-year stint in domestic cricket as a player before injury finally ended my playing career. I joined BKSP as a part-time coach in 1997 and I had a record first-class first result from Patiala in 2000-2001, then I joined Victoria Sporting Club as a coach for the 2001-2002 season and we became champions. The next season we also became champions before finishing third in the third season.
“In the 2004 corporate cricket league my team, Arafat Apparels, became champions. I joined the national team as a fielding coach in 2005 and worked till 2010 in different capacities. Then I spent five years in Malaysia to coach a university team. I coached Sylhet Royals in the 2013 BPL, reaching the semifinal and last year I was the coach of champions Comilla Victorians. Now I am coaching Gazi Group Cricketers in the Dhaka Premier league. This is my story actually,” said the 42-year old coach, who also coached Singapore's national cricket team.
Salahuddin enjoys the work behind the scene but any appreciation still inspires him. “When I heard that BKSP's new DG advised the coaches -- referring to Shakib's sudden return from the IPL -- to follow my path, it encouraged me a lot.
“A coach can't create a player, but he can only manage a player. I follow this mantra,” he added.
A gleaming observation came from Salahuddin when he was asked to speak about the success story and future prospects of Bangladesh cricket.
“I don't think any significant changes came to our cricketing structure but a generation of cricketers completely changed our cricket. Shakib, Tamim, Mushfiq and some other players brought huge changes in the mentality of our cricketers. These are the players who were thinking big from the very beginning of their careers. They always assessed themselves according to world standards. Our cricketing culture is now such where you need not say to any player what is needed to reach the top level.
“I want to thank one person for making a big change in our cricket and he is none other than Richard McInnes with whom I had also worked. He completely changed the work ethic of the players,” he said.
He also gave a recent example of that attitude-changing generation. “Shakib has so far earned huge successes in his career but still he is hungry for more success. Just for your information he is planning to buy a bowling machine so that he can get more batting practice and improve his batting. It simply reflects his character.”
Salahuddin also aspires to uplift the standards and social status of local coaches.
“Once I asked my brother-in-law, who is now a doctor in Australia, why they had accepted my marriage proposal and he only said 'because I felt that you had the fire in you to fulfill your dreams'.”
Mohammad Salahuddin still loves to dream big. His immediate dream is to work in an academy to scout talent from all over the country.
Do his dreams include becoming a head coach of the Bangladesh national team? “Why not? Had anyone thought a few years back that one of our players would one day become the world's number one all-rounder?”