The US Cricket Open is right around the corner, and like previous years our team; Pakistan First is going to enter the tournament with all of our local players. Pakistan First: The Dream Team, the name sounds more like a political slogan than the name of a cricket team. The irony is it is a popular slogan for a not so popular political party of Pakistan’s ex-president Pervez Musharraf.
Slogan or not the fact remains that the name resonates closely with many, if not all Pakistani expats involved with cricket in the USA as it gives them pride of association with a country they so dearly love; so how did Pakistan First Cricket Club came into being? How did we get so many talented Pakistani cricketers playing in the New York/New Jersey area to come together to play in a single team? Not only has it taken time, a lot of hard work and perseverance from many individuals, but at the core is the bond of friendship and brotherhood that all of players share so strongly that after two years of the club’s formation, the team is going as strong as ever.
The idea itself was the brainchild of Usman Chaudhry and myself. In 2011, after the cricket summer season we decided to enter the inaugural Pink T20 tournament in New Jersey. The idea was floated around to some of the very best players like Adnan Naseem, Bilal Ahmed, Asad Munawar, Ahmed Gulzar, Zafar Khan, Saroosh Nadeem, etc., in the local leagues, that we wanted to have the best local talent on a single team.
The idea came to fruition and all of the above-mentioned players happily agreed to be part of it, thus the Golden Ducks was formed. The team not only won the 2011 Pink T20 with ease but also repeated the feat the next year, when players like Nousherwan Adil, Umer Farooq and Naeem Arif joined the ranks. Hence the seed for Pakistan First was sown; in the years to follow, Omar Chaudhry along with Umer Farooq and the rest of the players decided to form a team that would not only compromise the best Pakistani talent in the area but will compete nationwide to showcase that talent; Omar Chaudhry named the team Pakistan First. Where most teams bring in first class players and international players to bolster their rosters, Pakistan First has excelled, persisting with their local talent.
Win or lose; the team plays with a big heart and continues to impress even the harshest of their cynics. The results have helped their cause as well, winning championships in Boston in 2014 and 2015, and was the only team with local USA players to qualify for the playoffs in 2014 US Open, winning the Independence cup in Philadelphia in 2015, winning the Pink T20 in 2014, runners up in the 2015 Secaucus Night T20, are some of the highlights of the team’s accomplishments.
Today Pakistan First has a long list of supporters and well wishers, and the list keeps growing. Running any sports team is a difficult task, but running a team of 15-20 friends who play together and leave no opportunity to make fun of each other even during tough matches, but yet come together to back each other up when the chips are down, is a monumental task. We will be heading to the US Cricket Open again this year, and as one of our well-wishers once famously said: Teams better not take us normal (pun intended).
Story and photo courtesy of http://adeelkhanphotography.com/