Mirza Rahmatullah Baig, affectionately known as “Baig Saab” – a fatherly figure to countless cricketers in Hyderabad and across the length and breadth of the city – passed away aged 84 on Monday. He was not just a coach but also a fatherly figure to numerous cricketers in Hyderabad and beyond, leaving an indelible mark on the city.
While his journey in cricket began as a player, representing Hyderabad schools and South Zone schools, his true calling emerged as a coach. After graduating from the Netaji Subhash National Institute of Sports, he seamlessly transitioned from a first-class player to an illustrious teacher.
Commencing his coaching career in the early 1960s, Baig swiftly emerged as a distinguished mentor capable of moulding raw talent into cricketing excellence. After earning his coaching degree from the Netaji Subhash National Institute of Sports, he served in a number of sports organisations, including the Indian Navy, AP Sports Council, Sports Authority of India, and the BCCI. He also spent four years coaching in the Maldives. In addition, he trained young athletes from schools.
Rooted in the timeless principles of hard work and discipline, he instilled these values in every cricketer fortunate enough to be under his tutelage. His coaching philosophy was simple, yet impactful: “With strong basics, you can unlock the doors to becoming a successful cricketer.”
Throughout the years, Baig’s tutelage yielded a remarkable assembly of cricketers who proudly donned the Indian cricketing jersey. Legends like Kapil Dev, Mohammad Azharuddin, VVS Laxman, Rahul Dravid, Venkatapathy Raju, Rahul Dravid, Sanjay Manjrekar and many others attribute their international triumphs to the robust foundations laid by Baig.
R Sridhar, the former India bowling coach and Hyderabad cricketer, shared heartfelt words about the passing of his formative coach. Sridhar remembered Baig as someone who made a significant impact on his cricketing journey, both as a coach and a player.
“It’s a very sad day for Hyderabad Cricket. His contribution to the sport, not just as a coach, but also as a player before that is obviously something which is quite huge,” said Sridhar, adding, “I know my experiences with him when I started playing at the AP Sports Council nets way back in 1985 where he took me in. And after two or three months of seeing me, he said, I must go and report to the gymkhana grounds. That is where you want to practice. That is where you should be. And he got me help and passed me on to Mr. Aibara and Mr. Sampath Kumar. But those three months I spent under him were obviously great learnings for me.”
Sridhar credited Baig for instilling important values and discipline in him.
“I was finding my feet as a young teenager in the sport of cricket and his help and his disciplines, the way he conducted practice and the values that he taught, I think it still holds good for me. Even today, they are relevant. Just with the sport and even outside of the sport. Obviously, I have great memories. I’ve met him a lot of times, even after becoming the fielding coach of the Indian team. He always treated people with a lot of respect. I have very fond memories with him and I pray for his soul to rest in peace.” added Sridhar.
What set Baig apart was his commitment and vitality, even in old age. He continued to share his wealth of experience and wisdom with aspiring cricketers at the ML Jaisimha Indoor Academy, Sports Coaching Foundation (Masab Tank) inspiring them to dream big and diligently work towards their goals.
Despite his extensive knowledge and understanding of the game, the Hyderabad Cricket Association (HCA), didn’t fully utilise Baig’s exceptional coaching abilities and was largely confined to Lal Bahadur Stadium in Hyderabad, even though he did hold office at various capacities at ACA (Andhra Cricket Association and the HCA.
Condolences poured in from Azharuddin, Laxman and others far and wide, underscoring Baig’s impact on the sport.
While Azharuddin wrote, “He was an excellent cricket coach and I have learnt from him since my school days and all through my career,” Sanjay Manjrekar shared a photo of Baig remembering the time he was coached by Baig in the under-19s.
Deeply saddened to know that my coach Rehman Baig Sir has departed for his heavenly abode. May his soul rest in peace.He was an excellent cricket coach and I have learnt from him since my school days and all through my career. pic.twitter.com/ol8wHHpzBj— Dr. (Hon) Mohammed Azharuddin (@azharflicks) October 2, 2023
“Sad to learn of the passing away of M.R Baig of Hyderabad, who coached us when we were at the under-19 stage. A gentle soul & a hardworking, selfless person. For 6 decades he only gave to cricket without expecting anything in return. RIP Baig Sir,” Manjrekar posted on micr0-blogging site X, formerly known as Twitter.
There he is, Baig Sir on the left & me on the right. ( Marked with red )Under 19 camp in Pune. Nana Joshi visiting ex-cricketer giving us keeping tips. pic.twitter.com/butBUr5Mjq— Sanjay Manjrekar (@sanjaymanjrekar) October 2, 2023
Laxman remembered Baig as one of the most committed and passionate coaches he had the privilege to work with.
Deeply saddened by the demise of Baig Sir. He was one of the most committed and passionate coaches I had the privilege to work with. He will always be remembered for his contribution to the game of cricket. His legacy in the field of coaching will forever be cherished. My sincere… pic.twitter.com/fZl9MJkEM6— VVS Laxman (@VVSLaxman281) October 2, 2023
“Deeply saddened by the demise of Baig Sir. He was one of the most committed and passionate coaches I had the privilege to work with. He will always be remembered for his contribution to the game of cricket. His legacy in the field of coaching will forever be cherished. My sincere condolences to his family in this hour of grief. Rest in Peace Sir,” wrote Laxman.