What fuels a player almost 7,000 miles from his Peshawar, Pakistan home to New York City in pursuit of a sport he loves? In a sentence – Driven by a passion!
Suleman Ahmad’s journey from Peshawar to Brooklyn, NYC may have begun at age 14, when he first started playing cricket in his hometown city of Peshawar, less than an hour’s drive from the Khyber Agency that produced the legendary Pakistani international cricketer Shahid Afridi, who retired from international cricket earlier this year. Suleman may be far from home in New York, but also far from retiring from his love of the sport of cricket, which brought him to New York.
Like an adventurer, Suleman Ahmad set out to widen his cricketing experience and combined that with a change of his environment, while on vacation. Asked what attracted him to Atlantis Cricket club – NY 7,000 miles from his home, the soft-spoken Suleman said, “I searched the Internet regarding cricket in the USA and came across Atlantis and someone named John Aaron. I immediately knew that he was the right man who could guide me regarding cricket, and he was connected to Atlantis Cricket Club, so I reached out to him via Facebook.”
The opening batsman added, “Although it took me one year to pursue the idea of coming to the USA, I am glad I did, because Atlantis is a reputable New York cricket club, so I finally decided to officially join Atlantis from Pakistan.”
A teacher with the Beaconhouse School System – a part of a well-known and respected worldwide private educational institution with 30 locations in Pakistan alone, Suleman graduated from the Government Commerce College and Peshawar University. He holds master’s degrees in accounting, business administration and economics. He is a Chartered Accountant and holds an Articleship in Accountancy. He’s married to a medical doctor and has a brother and a sister. Although he’s a bit homesick being away from his family, the father of two daughters and a son, Suleman wanted to have a chance to excel in cricket in the USA and feels this is an opportunity he could not miss.
Having played cricket at the District level in Pakistan, the 33 year-old has also played for the P2 P1 Moroso Fast Food restaurant sponsored Cricket Club in Pakistan as a semi-professional, and has represented the Beaconhouse Teachers at cricket. Now, he can add Atlantis Cricket Club – NY and the NY Metropolitan District Cricket League to his cricketing resume.
Suleman’s brother Adnan, his uncle Rashid and their kids are all playing cricket for schools and clubs in England. In comparing cricket in Pakistan with that of the USA, Suleman Ahmad says, “Cricket is played religiously in Pakistan, where almost every other person is a cricketer, and the players are fully committed to daily practice regardless of the weather conditions, even in 122 degree Fahrenheit weather,” adding, “Players do a lot of indoor net practice so as to maintain their form. In addition, cricket is played by doctors, engineers, students, etc., and there are a lot of sponsors who sponsor individual players.”
Addressing the topic of USA cricket more specifically, the newest Atlantis member feels that the process for developing cricket as a professional sport in the USA is a slow one, because each player is working to earn a salary outside of cricket, and play cricket only on the weekends. He feels that the interest in youth baseball is greater, because, “…they see a future career in baseball.”
In Suleman’s opinion, “Without steady cricket practice, the quality of one’s cricket goes down and that’s why the USA team is unable to reach the top. I would suggest proper team grounds and net and fielding practice. In Pakistan, 90% of the players practice daily. I am amazed that in a country as economically strong as the USA, the slow progress of the growth of the sport may cause it to take 15 years to be of a good enough grade to compete in ICC tournaments.” He feels that the USA has to invest in cricket and pay cricketers to practice daily, as well as paying a per match stipend to players, until such time; the USA achieving any major international ranking is impossible.
An admirer of Varinder Sehwag, Shahid Afridi and Virat Koli, Suleman has resigned himself to accepting that no one will chase him to offer him an attractive salaried job in cricket, and convert his visitor’s visa to an H1 or P1 so that he may remain here to provide his services as a cricketer. He says he will play Atlantis club matches and return to Pakistan. Where he earns a living teaching, and as a cricketer.
The Pakistani native has blended well with his Atlantis team mates and applauds their abilities, saying, “Playing for Atlantis is providing me with good exposure and I appreciate the way the players have dealt with me on and off the field.” With a century under his belt playing in Peshawar, he hopes to make a contribution to the Atlantis team this season in the Clement “Busta” Lawrence Premier League tournament, currently in progress.
When asked what he does when not playing cricket, he jokingly replied, “Making arrangements to play cricket.” Despite his earlier outlook on cricket in the USA as one of grandeur, Suleman is still optimistic that the exposure with Atlantis may lead to better things for him, as he sums it up, “I need grooming and I am looking for some higher opportunities in cricket. I am a habitual cricketer and am somewhat disappointed that the players don’t practice daily. I am a cricketer and I am afraid that I may lose my form. I am a cricket lover, and it gives me life and reduces my tension and keeps me fresh. I enjoy cricket.”
Last weekend Suleman starred with the bat, knocking in an unbeaten 28 in an Atlantis 8-wicket win over Spice Island Sports Club at Floyd Bennett Cricket Ground, in Brooklyn, NY, Opening alongside Henderson Blades for Atlantis, Suleman Ahmad had three boundaries in his knock off of 32 balls.