SPORTS WRITER: Why I chose seeing the Cloughie statue over a cricket interview
An international sports writer has described how he turned down the chance to interview a leading ‘up-and-coming’ cricketer – and instead chose to visit the Brian Clough statue in Nottingham.
It was back in June 2009 when Nottingham was hosting the Twenty20 World Cup Tournament at Trent Bridge. The famous old cricket ground was home to Bangladesh, India and Ireland for their Group A matches.
Among the Bangladesh squad was all-rounder Mahmudullah, who went on to become the country’s T20I captain and scored their first World Cup century. But back in 2009, the sports editor of an international newspaper was not especially impressed with him.
Azad Majumder is the Dhaka-based sports writer for New Age, an English language newspaper in Bangladesh. He was in Nottingham to cover the World Cup matches that summer, but when the opportunity arose to interview Mahmudallah, he chose instead to see Cloughie in bronze.
Majumder has revealed that he was not particularly interested in the cricketer at the time, because he felt his form had been patchy and he was not consistently selected to represent his country.
While Mahmudullah made his ODI debut in 2007 during a tour of Sri Lanka, Majumder says: “it was those days when Bangladesh were struggling to find a right combination with plenty of youngsters in their limited overs side. Players got picked and dropped too soon, so I was not surprised to see Mahmudullah sitting out for the next six matches.”
Despite scoring four consecutive hundreds in first-class cricket in 2009-09, the cricketer still failed to impress the sports writer. “This is perhaps one reason I refused to take his interview during the ICC World Twenty20 in 2009,” recalls Majumder.
“Bangladesh would not want to remember the tournament, partly for their defeats against Ireland and India, though I had a lot of memories to carry from it,” he says. “One night, while we were having a leisurely chat after our dinner in the famous Mughal-e-Azam restaurant in Nottingham, we saw a man literally running to us.
“He struggled to take breath before telling us that we just missed a story, as they had celebrated the birthday of opening batsman Shamsur Rahman in the team hotel. I did not pay much attention to him….
“….Likewise, when my senior colleague Hasan Ullah Khan Rana proposed me to approach Mahmudullah for an interview next day I did not agree.
“Instead of talking to Mahmudullah, I preferred seeing the statue of Brian Clough, former Nottingham Forest coach, who helped the club win two European Cups. I politely refused to join my favourite Rana Bhai to interview Mahmudullah and instead moved to Nottingham city centre just off Old Market Square to see the Clough statue.”
Writing in the New Age newspaper, Majumder says his attitude towards the cricketer changed in his next England tour the following year. The writer and other journalists were waiting for an interview with a player after a training session at Old Trafford.
With their deadline looming, the player in question refused to speak to the journalists – but Mahmudullah noticed their predicament and stepped-in to give an interview.
“My respect for the player suddenly got very high and it has remained the same ever since,” says Majumder. Nevertheless, his original visit to see Cloughie was obviously a wise choice – after all, Old Big ‘Ead loved cricket and once said he dreamed of being an opening batsman.