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Once a drug den now a cricket academy

  • Z. Azam from Rajshahi
  • 3 July, 2022 12:00 AM
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Once a drug den now a cricket academy
Former national skipper Khaled Mashud Pilot (centre) is seen talking with the cricketers of Clemon Rajshahi Cricket Academy in Rajshahi on Saturday. –SUN PHOTO

Former national skipper Khaled Mashud Pilot dreamt of setting up a cricket academy in Rajshahi since his playing days. When he finally started the academy 12 years back inside at the Shaheed Kamruzzaman Stadium, he faced many obstacles to run the cricket academy. However, as time progressed, he and his academy were able to solve these issues and Clemon Rajshahi Cricket Academy has now become one of the most reputed cricket academies in the country. The 46-year-old on Saturday talked to The Daily Sun about his club in Rajshahi.

Here are the excerpts from the

interview:

The Daily Sun: What prompted you to open a cricket academy?

Khaled Mashud Pilot: Well, it all started during my playing days. I was playing cricket in my locality and at that point, I thought of an academy where kids could practice and there would be good facilities. Look, when I was playing in the Bangladesh team, at that point Rajshahi Division were also doing well but we didn’t have any place to practice. We were practicing at different places in Rajshahi. At that point, another thing struck my mind that if there is an academy then kids will practice there round the year while we can also do our practice when we need it. We (seniors) can also show them the ways by practicing with them.

The Daily Sun: It must be quite difficult getting the initial finance to start the academy?

Khaled Mashud Pilot: It was indeed but I got support from local representatives of Rajshahi. They helped me in more than many ways. Mampon bhai of Epyllion was the first one to come forward with financial help as he donated TK 50,000 and with that, we started the academy. At that point, we made jerseys of different sizes - Under-14, Under-16 and Under-18 with that money and started selling them. We didn’t have money so we rolled that money by selling those jerseys but that was not enough as I could not give salary to the coaches. I felt that I could not run the show in this manner and at that point, I went to different people in Dhaka for sponsorship.

Many people looked interested initially to come forward and help us develop the academy but eventually backed out and it was largely because no one wanted to sponsor in places like Rajshahi because there is no promotion and branding involved here. At that point, I met the owner of Akij Group named Sheikh Jamil Uddin during a talk show. During the interval, I was talking with him about my dream project and he got interested. To my utter surprise, he came to Rajshahi to see what I was doing. He later asked me to join them as he became encouraged seeing the energy of the boys and later we changed our name to Clemon Rajshahi Cricket Academy from Rajshahi Cricket Academy.

The Daily Sun: Initially what was your biggest challenge?

Khaled Mashud Pilot: This place was a hub of drug addicts as no one came near this place where my academy is situated and they used to take different kinds of drugs. One day, a ball hit those junkies who were taking cannabis and they got furious and came running to hit my coaches and kids. We locked ourselves in the academy and later police had to intervene to bring us out. This is just an example of things at the start. After that generation left, we are in peace now and I feel now they realize that this place has become a good place.

 The Daily Sun: How many students do you have and what are the fees?

Khaled Mashud Pilot: I have 300 students and we do training at different times six days a week. I have got eight coaches headed by Alamgir Kabir and they do training in two shifts in the morning and in the evening. I look after the administrative side. I think in the academy stage, you don’t need very high-profile coaches and what I feel is that if they have the basic knowledge, they can do well. What I feel is that I can’t coach a kid in the academy and all I can do is inspire them because my level of thinking won’t match them. We plan our schedules taking school and college activities into account as it is hard for the students to come and practice when they are studying. We have around five to six grounds where we rotate the training session. I charge TK 1000 from the students though it was TK 500 earlier. I did this because I train a lot of boys for free because a child of a day labourer or an auto-rickshaw driver can’t pay me though their children have the desire to play. 70 kids from the current lot are having training sessions free of cost while few others contribute as much as they can.

The Daily Sun: Shoriful (Islam) and Shanto (Najmul Hossain) are the products of your academy? How does it feel seeing them?

Khaled Mashud Pilot: It feels good but I’m not like that to say they reached the national team because of my academy. Look, we play a lot of matches and different clubs in Dhaka ask me to provide players and if I feel that someone has the capability all I do is recommend them but the rest depends on that individual about how far he can go.

The Daily Sun: What is your dream with the academy?

Khaled Mashud Pilot: I want to develop different grounds in Rajshahi where my coaches can go and teach the boys. A lot of parents complain that if they could save the three hours that they have to spend bringing their children here that will help them. I want the students to come here and after reaching a point, they can come here on their own.