Imtiaz Ahmed / Guwahati
He may not have hit too many centuries and half-centuries during his brief cricketing career, but he has cracked more than a ton in producing quality cricketers from Assam. Beginning his coaching career in 1985, Nabab Ali has nurtured over 50 first-class (Ranji Trophy, Deodhar Trophy, Duleep Trophy, etc) players and over 100 national age-group tournament players.
Yet Nabab Ali still says ‘dil maange more’, because none from Assam has yet made it to Team India.
Some of his protégés like Syed Jakaria Zuffri, Abu Naschim Ahmed and Parag Das were close to don the Blue jersey. Their non-selection was a disappointment that Nabab Ali is trying to overcome by taking raising his coaching standards.
Ali started playing cricket at the age of 15. He was coached by the then BCCI East Zone coach Edul B Aibara.
Nabab Ali explaing something to a batsman during coaching
He represented Assam in the CK Nayudu Trophy School Cricket Tournament in 1981-82 and 1983-84 seasons. He also represented the Guwahati district team in Nuruddin Trophy senior inter-district from 1984 to 86.
Ali then switched to coaching after he and a few others were trained under Sports Authority of India coach Virendra Kumar Sharma during a camp organized by the State Sports Council of Assam in 1984. “After Sharma was transferred out of Guwahati, a coaching center came into existence by 1985 at a corner of the Nehru Stadium, and being the senior-most, I used to coach the younger ones,” Ali told Awaz-the Voice, Assam.
He is also an accomplished sports organizer having led the Guwahati Sports Association from the front till 2018.
With the support and help of his contemporaries like Abdul Robb, Ratul Das, Ashrafur Rahim (Raju),his small coaching initiative turned into a full-fledged coaching center and was christened Guwahati Cricket Coaching Centre.
Today, Guwahati Cricket Coaching Center is one of the main grooming grounds for young cricketers. From the initial days when the likes of former Assam captain Rajinder Singh, Zahir Ahmed, and the present-day Assam Cricket Association (ACA) secretary Devajit Saikia were among about 25-30 trainees, the center today boasts of 350 trainees.
Nabab Ali in the field during a coaching session
Syed Jakaria Zuffri, Abu Naschim Ahmed, Parag Das, Nishanta Bordoloi, Khanin Saikia, Riyan Parag, Mrigen Takukdar, Polash Jyoti Das, Sadek Imran Choudhury are some of his most famous proteges.
While Jakaria played India B in Challenger Trophy in 2002, Abu faced a BCCI suspension (as he turned out for 'rebel' Indian Cricket League) when he was supposed to get selected for Team India. His fellow new-ball bowler in India under-19 team Ishant Sharma cut in lieu.
“I was quite disappointed when Jakaria and Parag Das were overlooked for Team India, and Abu was a shock for all of us. He was quite unfortunate then,” Ali said.
Abu, Mrigen, Polash, and Khanin have donned the India under-19 colours, while Sadek turned out for India under-17s in 2001.
Ali said: “Since Nehru Stadium has always been a multi-purpose stadium and was the only available infrastructure in the city, we had to make a lot of adjustments because there used to be cricket, football, hockey, athletics, and what not all the time. But, we have always got a lot of cooperation from everybody, including the Board of Sports of Assam and the ACA, and we too want other sports to grow as well. Lately, the Assam Cricket Association has come forward to develop the infrastructure which is a great encouragement to us.”
Apart from laying new turf wickets in the stadium, the ACA has also laid a few practice wickets with nets where Nabab Ali used to coach youngsters. He is allowed to use the wickets for training and the coaching center is supposed to maintain the wickets.
Nabab Ali raining a wicket keeper in the field
“With the new facilities and encouragement from the ACA at our disposal, we have set a higher goal for ourselves; to take our coaching standards to the next level. I want to see the next generation youngsters, such as the sons of Jakaria or Parag and their contemporaries, don the blues,” Ali said.
Like Achrekar did for Sachin Tendulkar and his son Arjun, Nabab Ali has coached father-son duos of Parag Das and Riyan Parag, Jakaria and Arman, and a few others. Players not only from Guwahati train under Ali but also from far-flung Sivasagar, Charaideo, Nazira, Dibrugarh, Silchar, etc flock in to train under him.