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Coach Nabab Ali’s joy knows no bounds as Riyan Parag makes it to Team India

Imtiaz Ahmed/Guwahati

Since Monday, people across Assam have been rejoicing over the inclusion of IPL star cricketer Riyan Parag in Team India for the tour of Zimbabwe. Among them stands out a man who nurtured a Parag from the age of 8 years to an international cricketer. He is the veteran coach Nabab Ali fondly called Nababda and given the title of Nawab of cricket in Assam.

Nabab Ali has shaped the careers of over 50 first-class (Ranji Trophy, Deodhar Trophy, Duleep Trophy, etc) and Under-19 World Cup players and at least 100 national age group tournament players.

However, he has faced disappointment as his students returned from the threshold of being selected for Team India. This time, with Parag making it to Team India on Monday, Nababda’s aspirations have been fulfilled.

“I have no words to express my feelings today. It’s a matter of great pride for the state of Assam and our cricket. I felt the same way as others are feeling. I can’t express my feelings at the moment,” an ecstatic Nabab Ali told Awaz-The Voice.

What Shivaji Park in Dadar (Mumbai) was to Dronacharya awardee the late Ramakant Achrekar, the celebrated coach of legendary cricketer Sachin Tendulkar, the Nehru Stadium in Guwahati is to Nabab Ali.

Nabab Ali coaching young cricketers

A dedicated life to coaching since 1985, has finally attained fulfilment.

“He came to our coaching center (Guwahati Cricket Coaching Centre) at the age of eight. We observed that he did not need the basic training and, so we put him straight into the advanced trainees’ group. He batted against adult bowlers full of guts and confidence. One fine day, the then National Cricket Academy director Sandeep Patil was inspecting the Nehru Stadium ground and spotted a little boy of nine years batting at one corner of the field. He called the boy, asked his name and age, and straight away advised his father Parag Das to take the little boy to the NCA because Patil felt the kid was tremendously talented. And, the rest is known to all,” Nababda recalled.

Incidentally, Riyan’s father Parag Das is also a former first-class cricketer and was groomed by Nababda. An allrounder, Parag Das is one of the most successful captains of the Assam Ranji team.

Nabada is hopeful that Riyan will grab this opportunity to establish himself as a mainstay in Team India for a long period. “Riyan has been in phenomenal form over the past year. He’s matured enough now and thus, I am sure he will grab this opportunity to capitalise on and I wish him a very long stint in Team India. I’ve seen his evolution from a young kid to a mature cricket professional. I have full confidence in him,” he said.

The return of his most aspiring produce Syed Jakaria Zuffri, Abu Naschim Ahmed, and Parag Das from the threshold of Team India was a frustration that prompted Nabab Ali to take his coaching standards to the next level and kept him motivated to keep working hard to produce the first-ever Team India player from Assam.

Riyan Parag taking a strike during the IPL

Starting his coaching career in 1985, Nababda has produced at least six India colts (juniors) over the past four decades but always longed to see one man in blue wielding the willow for the most glamourous outfit in the world of cricket.

Nababda began his cricketing career at the age of 15 with what he learned from the then BCCI East Zone coach Edul B Aibara in 1978 and went on to represent 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-districts from 1984 to 86 in his rather short-lived playing career.

With a zeal for organizing and coaching that he nourished from his childhood, 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 seniormost among those trainees, I used to coach the younger ones,” Nababda told Awaz–The Voice.

His coaching center – later on given the shape of a full-fledged coaching center with the help of his contemporaries such as the late Abdul Robb, Ratul Das, Ashrafur Rahim (Raju), and others and christened Guwahati Cricket Coaching Centre – is presently one of the grooming grounds for many cricketers. From the initial days when the likes of former Assam captain Rajinder Singh, Zahir Ahmed, and present BCCI joint secretary Devajit Saikia were among about 25-30 trainees, the center today boasts of enrolment as many as 350.

Some of the best the sexagenarian has produced include Syed Jakaria Zuffri, Abu Naschim Ahmed, Parag Das, Nishant Bordoloi, Khanin Saikia, Riyan Parag, Mrigen Takukdar, Polash Jyoti Das, Sadek Imran Choudhury et al. While Jakaria played India B in the Challenger Trophy in 2002, and Abu faced a BCCI suspension (as he turned out for ‘rebel’ Indian Cricket League) when he was a certainty for Team India along with Ishant Sharma.

“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 at that point of time,” Ali said.

Abu, Mrigen, Polash, and Khanin have donned the India under-19 colours, while Sadek turned out for India under-17s in 2001.

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Like Achrekar did in the case of Sachin and his son Arjun whom he mentored at the initial stage, Nabab Ali too 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 Nababda but also from far-flung Sivasagar, Charaideo, Nazira, Dibrugarh, Silchar, etc flock in to train under him during short-term camps.

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