Biryani is more popular than cricket in Hyderabad, admits Hyderabad Cricket Association (HCA) President Arshad Ayub during a conversation with S M Fasiullah. Being a seasoned cricketer who played for the country, Mr. Ayub aims to send as many cricketers from Hyderabad to play for Indian Cricket Team. Apart from his vision to make cricket more accessible in the city, he advises young cricket aspirants to develop serious commitment to play for the nation.
HYM: Does youngsters in Hyderabad have as much craze for cricket as they have for biryani?
Cricket has always been a passion of Hyderabad. It has been very popular in the city. We have about 217 clubs. This year alone HCA conducted 4700 matches, which is unheard of elsewhere in India.
When it comes to biryani, who doesn’t love Hyderabadi biryani. I think biryani is loved by everyone, whereas cricket is a very popular game and is loved by many people interested in the game.
HYM: Now technology brings sports information on fingertips. In your early days as a cricketer, this technology wasn’t available. Does it make way to success shorter for cricket aspirants?
No. I don’t think so. There’s no short-cut to success. But one thing is certain, nowadays if you are a good enough player and consistent in your performance then you would get better opportunities. Like IPL and World20 Twenty. New tournaments have been started in T20 format, which give early exposure to players as young as under 19.
Also, the IPL teams have to take least one or two under 19 players. It opens up new avenues for financial success of young players. The money which has come in play is a such a big incentive and a huge attraction. These things will be a definite motivating factor for young cricket.
When we were playing, the only aim was to play for the country and the state. We knew that there’s no money. Initially, when i started playing for the state i was paid Rs. 100 per match. Towards end of my Ranji Trophy career, i use to get Rs. 600.
Nowadays, young under 19 players get thousands of rupees per match. That’s probably only one part of incentive which they are getting. Apart from this, if you are a good player and performing well, then sky is limit.
Also, we played for a country with almost 100 Crore people. Now the country has over 120 crore people, who would cheer for players playing for Team India. That’s another incentive.
HYM: What’s the best moment of your career as a young cricketer of 80’s?
I started in 70’s. I played my first Ranji Trophy match in 1979 for the state. But in 80’s, I would say nothing was bigger than playing for India in test cricket. That was the biggest moment in my life.
HYM: People had more craze for test cricket then, as they have for T20 now?
You ask any cricketer, he would like to play test cricket. Test cricket has its best form of cricket. There will be so many international cricketers who haven’t made to test cricket. If you ask them they would do anything to play it. Still test cricket is considered as “the cricket” among cricketers. But for public and spectators it is different. They enjoy T20 and ODIs more.
HYM: You are a cricket inspiration for many in Hyderabad. What are prerequisites for a cricket aspirant to get your guidance?
As far as cricket is concerned, it is a serious game for me. To play any game is a serious commitment. You have to have a very serious commitment, if you want to play for the country. If you just want to play for fun, then you can do anything.
If you are trying to play for the country then it’s a very serious proposition. You have to sacrifice so many things before you can achieve that.
Today, I hardly see any young boys who are playing for the state making same commitment as we did earlier. And these people are serious cricketers, but unable to make that commitment. In order to play for the country, you need to make certain adjustments in your life and lifestyle. It’s a life changing program. Once you do that, hard work will definitely take you there.
HYM: How many players trained by you have made it to Ranji Trophy cricket?
There are quite a few actually. From my academy i.e. Arshad Ayub Cricket Academy, Ibrahim Khaleel played for a long time. Mehdi Hasan, Ahmed Quadri, Tanmay Agarwal and Himalay Agarwal are names worth recalling here.
Irrespective of any academy you belong to, if you have commitment and impressive performance then I think you would be able to realize your dream to play Ranji Trophy.
HYM: Under the aegis of HCA, how many young cricket aspirants gets professional training every year?
There are different age groups. We start right from under 14, under 16, under 19, and under 23. Then we have Ranji Trophy, and we also have a tournament which comes under 25. So all these people have to go through training programs time and again.
Cricket training is a comprehensive program. We run two morning sessions, one at Uppal and other at Gymkhana, where close to 300 boys come for regular practice. We have got camps in districts. We also help a few cricket academies in the city, including at Malakpet, Deccan College, and Madhapur. If you take all these into consideration then probably 2,000 to 2,500 boys get training a year with HCA’s direct involvement. And everything is free from the HCA.
HYM: For example, if you are asked to propose two players from Hyderabad for Indian Team. who would be those lucky players?
No. I would not prefer to answer it now. I don’t want to identify anybody at this point of time. Let them work hard. Let them come up. There are quite a few boys who have got the potential. I don’t want to identify them and say that these are the only potential players who can play for the country. So, let them work hard.
HYM: As an extra ordinary move, you amended HCA constitution last time to introduce election for the president post. Any such things this time in your presidency?
I don’t know. Because Lodha Committee is on our head. So whatever decision comes on 18th March or whenever they finish the hearing, probably at that time we have to take a call.
Right now, we are concentrating on number of matches being played in Hyderabad. We were playing 2000 to 2200 matches throughout the year. Last year, we have converted it to 3400 matches in half season. This year, we have converted it to 4700 plus. That is the change.
Also, I brought back Moin-ud-Dowla Gold Cup tournament after a long time. I brought back zonal system, and four tournaments which were not there. Like that changes are happening in cricket under the HCA, as I am trying to focus only on cricket.
But constitutionally there are some small hiccups where we might have to take a call, and change that after calling a general body meeting. As of now, we are waiting for the Lodha Committee to complete their issues. Once it’s done, we will probably take up consolidated things in one meeting.
HYM: Anything as part of your broader vision for cricket that you want to execute under current HCA presidency?
Firstly, I want to see at least two or three boys playing for the country. Secondly, I want to provide enough grounds in Hyderabad to make cricket accessible and ensure players don’t face problems for playing cricket, even in future.
HYM: Minister K.T. Rama Rao encourages sports for youngsters. Does he offered anything for cricket aspirants through the HCA?
He did actually. He asked me to talk to the municipal (GHMC) people and try to find out how many grounds they have and how many HCA can use out of that. we are seeking an appointment with GHMC Commissioner to discuss the matter soon.
That is something government wants to do. But as far as the HCA is concerned, we want to do so many things with our own resources rather than solely depending on the government.
HYM: Muslims in India are a disadvantaged section of the society. Participating in sports is a financial challenge for Muslim youth. How to encourage them for participation in mainstream sports to make a career?
I know there are difficulties. I have also gone through it. I will not say anything on difficulties. Rather, what I would say is as a community we should not be escapists. We need commit ourselves.
For example, if you look at Jews, they are handful but dominate in every field. We are substantial, but don’t bring out best potential out of it. We undermine ourselves. We are self-critical. We criticize our own community for everything.
My point is, our youth must think positively. You need to think in the direction where nobody wants to go. Take up a challenge, try and fight it out. If somebody from other community is getting one hundred, then you should try for three hundreds.
My idea of fighting it out is that you need exemplary performance in any field you choose. You need attitude of “I will try to be the best.” It is going to be difficult, but you have to fight it out. Change in attitude is required. remember, without hard work, you can’t achieve anything.
As a community, we have to rise to the occasion and push our boys hard and make sure that they achieve set goals. There are people within the community who are achieving it, but the number is very small. If you can work hard I am sure you will be able to achieve it. Let’s not have excuses, and then try.
HYM: Muslims have been integral part of HCA since its inception. But why no Muslim from Hyderabad become part of Team India after Mohammed Azharuddin?
Again i will say the same thing. People say we are not being promoted. It’s a way of looking at things. You need to make yourself good enough to represent. For example take my own case. I am not boasting. I am going to talk about just three years from my cricket career.
In year one, I got 10 hundreds and i was not in any sight. In year two, I got 11 hundreds and 175 wickets, yet I was not in any sight. In year three, I again got 10 hundreds and 170 wickets, then I was brought into Ranji Trophy. So my point, you will be picked based on your performance.
Recently we have picked Mohammed Siraj as a fast bowler. He was playing in junior league. Looking at his potential we picked him and he proved his worth everywhere. That is my point. You need to start proving yourself. You need to work hard. You have to give your best, and keep working. You have to be consistent.