Rajin Saleh's one-handed spectacular catch at square-leg to dismiss Rahul Dravid in the 2007 Chattogram Test against India remains one of the greatest catches taken by a Bangladeshi. He did not play Bangladesh's debut Test match but you will find his name in the scorecard as he took two catches as a substitute fielder. Rajin is undoubtedly the best close-in fielder Bangladesh have ever had. The stylish batter captained Bangladesh as well.
After leaving competitive cricket in 2018, he has taken up different coaching roles. He has been the head coach of the Prime Bank Cricket Club in the Dhaka Premier League (DPL) for three years. Recently he was appointed as Bangladesh's fielding coach for the upcoming Afghanistan series.
The Business Standard's (TBS) Shanto Mahmud caught up with Rajin Saleh to talk about the role, his coaching philosophy and beyond.
You've always said that fielding is something you are really passionate about. You've been entrusted with such a responsibility. How are you feeling?
It's an honour, to be honest. I earned fame as a fielder in Bangladesh's debut Test match against India. As a player, I was passionate about fielding. I always had a dream of working with the Bangladesh team as a fielding coach. But this is a short assignment and I want to complete it successfully and wish to work with the team again in future for a longer period of time.
Has such a conversation taken place about assessing your performance in this series and then appointing you full-time?
No, not really. I have been appointed for the next series and to me, the country comes first. If the players, especially the senior players, accept me and agree to help me, then my job will become easier. I have already spoken to Tamim Iqbal and Mushfiqur Rahim and they have welcomed me. But such a conversation that you mentioned has not taken place.
Bangladesh haven't been a great fielding side for a while and that's why the BCB did not renew the contract with Ryan Cook. Do you think you can make a difference? Is this going to be a challenge for you?
During the series, it won't be possible for me to teach the players new things or techniques. It would have been a challenge if the board had given me the responsibility to work for a longer period of time. Now my target is to work one-to-one with the players and minimise the weaknesses.
According to you, how is Bangladesh as a fielding side right now?
Which team doesn't drop catches? Everyone drops catches. I think the youngsters in the team are very fit and are good fielders. I would give the fielding side five or six out of ten right now. But having said that, the youngsters have great potential and if they work with me, I think they will improve.
How hopeful are you of taking the players to the next level in terms of fielding?
As I said, it's a very short assignment. I won't get enough time to make a difference, you know. What I can do is to minimise the problems the team has in fielding. That's it.
Who are the current players whose fielding you think is world-class or up to the mark?
I think Afif [Hossain], [Najmul Hossain] Shanto, Shamim [Hossain] are good fielders. In fact, all the young players are good fielders. I have watched them in international cricket, Premier League and BPL. All of them are great.
Fitness or concentration or some special technique - what's more important if you want to be a good fielder?
I think the most important thing is fitness. Then the players learn the techniques, but there are some special skills as well. Agility is very important. It's part of fitness.
We watched you taking acrobatic catches during your playing days. Once you fell down on the ground while ducking to a bouncer and then got up immediately. Your balance was unbelievable. How did you develop such balance?
My fitness was good. And as I said, it was my passion and that passion helped me improve and make a name for myself.
Did you get an opportunity to speak to Jonty Rhodes when you were a player?
No. But I always idolised him. I still remember that we used to play with heavy Maruti rubber balls. I imagined myself as Jonty and asked Tapash Baisya to throw the ball on muddy fields. I threw myself about to stop the balls. I was always passionate about fielding and I think it's easy to be a good fielder if you have passion.
Did you complete any special course before working as a fielding coach?
No, not really. I passed level two from England. But I have organised camps in numerous places throughout the country. I worked for Clemon Cricket Academy and as part of that [Khaled Mashud] Pilot bhai took me to different places as a specialist. [Khaled Mahmud] Sujon bhai inspired me to become a fielding coach. I travelled to Noakhali, Comilla, and worked in the BPL and BCL. Under my coaching, Sylhet Division won the BCL title after 19 years. Now I have been working in the Premier League for three years. All these have boosted my confidence as a coach.
Do you follow or regularly speak to any specific fielding coach?
I follow Jonty Rhodes' coaching a lot. A few days ago, I spoke a lot to Sohel [Islam] bhai. He is a senior coach, a knowledgeable person and wants to share his expertise. I like to discuss things with people who want to share their experience.
You have worked as an assistant coach and now working as a head coach. Have you worked anywhere as a fielding coach?
No. But I make my students do fielding drills. The other teams have seen that as well. Despite being the head coach, fielding is always one of the aspects that I focus on.
Is there any particular aspect you want to work on during your assignment?
I haven't really thought about it. But yes, I think I will definitely try to fine-tune the skills of fielding in the 30-yard circle in limited-over cricket and during pressure situations.
Bangladesh don't yet have a specialist slip fielder or close-in fielder. You must have a plan to find some suitable fielders for these specific positions.
There is no specialist fielder currently in these positions, everyone fields there more or less. I have seen Yasir Ali Rabbi fielding at short-leg and at silly point. When I get to work with them, then I will be able to understand who are the right guys to do the job.
You were a stylish batter and it's a regret that you could not serve the country for a long time. Do you have any regrets as well?
What's lost is lost forever. Yes, I had thought that I would have played longer-version cricket for some more time. But I don't think about it now. There are a lot of players who play a couple of matches for the team and disappear. When I started working for Sylhet Division, I had the desire to find out why players can't last long and share my experience with them, so that they don't face the same fate.
Translated by: AHM NAYEEM