By Sham Ali (Cosmos Cricket Club)
Shafiq Jadavji has been inducted into the United States of America Cricket Hall of Fame in a gala affair at the Sheraton in Connecticut last Saturday.
Cricket has had its servants over the years, and United States cricket in particular has been unique in its pedigree. But few, in these United States, will be able to share the stage with Shafiq Jadavji, and his induction into the United States of America Cricket Hall of Fame is a testament to his service, and selfless passion for the promotion of cricket in the United States of America. Shafiq, a jovial, determined, perceptive, self-effacing man who has managed to cram many a contrasting lives into his tender five decades of life; a man with a long record of service to cricket as a player, coach, and administrator. However. his pride and joy is his relentless pursuit in bringing cricket to the Johns Creek area in Atlanta – a place where cricket has been an alien sport, gave him a uniqueness and ultimately a deserving recognition in the cricket fraternity in the United States.
Shafiq Jadavji presence exude a satisfying sense of hope and optimism. While many may appear shocked at the well manicured greenery of the cricket fields, but moreso that the sport is being embraced by the community and city leadership at Johns Creek is story for the history annals. “Shocked” is a word tossed around with thoughtless abandon these days but the life of Shafiq Jadavji is one that fully justifies such a description. A boy who hails from the land of Tanzania, popular for the spectacular heights of Kilimanjaro and encompassed by natures bountiful beauty in the wildlife kingdom in the soil and sand of the Serengeti, has planted his roots firmly in his beloved Johns Creek’s Shakerag Park with youth cricket fields, cricket batting cages and electronic scoreboards.
Undoubtedly, Shafiq is one of the few fanatical cricket students, consistent and disciplined, if seldom a crowd-pleaser, but good enough to turn on the heat whenever he was at the wicket. A dedicated club cricketer, he found far wider acclaim as a highly literate student of cricket whose scholarly analysis of the cricketer’s psyche and administrator’s sixth sense informed every word he spoke. Behind it all lays a tormented soul, one that is eternally restless if he is not at a cricket ground playing or organizing tournaments wherever he is in the world. That is the irrevocable union which fused cricketers to the game; one that has defined them and a pursuit that has consumed their lives since they were teenagers.
Few have been more willing to talk about cricket, or any sport, and wrestled as compellingly as Shafiq Jadavji, and bold enough to challenge the norms. A gentler, more sensitive observer of the game has rarely drawn breath. At a time when judgements are so often harsh and the accent is on serious analysis of techniques and tactics, Shafiq Jadavji cricketing figures were essentially heroes with that flare and flamboyance – even when they were happily presented as flawed characters having fun, they were all the more magnificent for that.
Cricket in the United States of America needed a “face-lift” since the standard had remained dormant for too long, and that there was a dire need for some grassroots direction. He appeared infatuated in his relentless pursuit to create an Association with a solid foundation underpinned the importance that proper playing facilities and strong administrative foundations are needed to promote and uphold discipline, elevate the standard of playing, and change forever the general complexion of the game in the United States. And so, it was in 2014 that the idea the was conceived, grew out of, and pioneered by none other than Shafiq Jadavji. He pooled resources from near, far and wide while he wrestled with the challenges to get his Johns Creek community to recognize the value of the Association. It was a challenge for this “soldier” but Shafiq Jadavji, as focused as he was, and as judicious a student of the game, he championed his cause. Shafiq or “Mr. Cricket,” as he is often referred to by many in Johns Creek and the wider Metropolitan Atlanta community founded the Johns Creek Cricket Association (JCCricket) as a tax-exempt nonprofit organization in 2018, and has served as President from its inception.
Born in Tanzania, Shafiq learned to play cricket during his childhood years in Pakistan before he migrated to New York in 1982 where he continued to play and organize cricket. Shafiq has dedicated an enormous amount of his time in pursuing the mission and vision of JCCricket and Cricket America Ltd., an organization he co-founded in 2016, in the pursuit of a mission of bringing cricket lovers together and the vision of making the City of Johns Creek a destination city for Cricket. This endeavor has remained one of the most singular achievements by anyone in the sport in the United States for the last two decades. It is the beginning of a story that will add volumes of pages to the opening chapter as the years rolled by.
This effort, though with early roots in New York, began to gain momentum and grew wings across the length and breadth of the United States, and his vision of the Johns Creek Cricket Association gave cricket in the United States a breath of fresh air, and pinned Johns Creek on the cricket map.
And if for some reason one so choses to engage him at a cricket event, be prepared for an engaged conversation, and his many stories to make his point, notwithstanding a few trappings minced into the conversation, perhaps for the entire duration of the cricket match. His judgments were based not merely on the wholesome understanding of the game but on a wider understanding of society, history and human behavior, and his ability to connect the dots. Like all good cricketers, he was observant, and deeply affected by the failings of the leagues and clubs, and administrations. His idiosyncrasies often collide, even as he grappled with his own complexity which appeared at greater than the sum of its parts. He is frank, sometimes too frank, he is bold sometimes too much, and at times quite sensitive for a person who never held back from expressing his views on the affairs of the game.
Consequently, when the cricket world deliberates the who’s who amongst those that have made a difference to the game during their lifetime, the name Shafiq Jadavji will resonate in decibels among cricketers and administrators in the United States, and undoubtedly will be engraved in the history annals of USA Cricket. It was only a matter of time before the most prestigious cricket fraternity in the United States, the United States of America Cricket Hall of Fame in Hartford, Connecticut, honored the pioneering work of Shafiq Jadavji in 2022. Who knew what else lies behind the vision of this dedicated student of the game as he towers with all the past inductees, among them are yesteryears greats Sir Gary Sobers, Sunil Gavaskar, Michael Holding, Clive Lloyd, Courtney Walsh and company.
The entire cricket family saluted him for his unprecedented contribution to cricket. In his address at the Hall of Fame ceremony he stated that, “this award does not signify the end, but the beginning of the work to be done to elevate the sport.” It was vintage Shafiq, a workhorse with his eyes wide with a passion for progress and his relentless pursuit of better days ahead for JCCricket and the wider cricket society.
However, his passion and his direct involvement in the promotion and development of the sport of Cricket started twenty-five years ago, and during that time Shafiq has been leading teams, organizing cricket camps and tournaments throughout the United States and abroad. It is that love, where many cricketers flatter to deceive, Shafiq runs deep. He has been the ‘link’ man binding players to officials in a manner to be envied, and he was at the helm at the JCCricket inaugural cricket event. He has been an engaged member of the Johns Creek community since 2011 when he moved to Johns Creek from New York. Currently, Shafiq serves as a member of the Johns Creek Recreation and Parks Advisory Committee (RPAC) and the Police Chief’s Community Ambassador Team (CAT). In the past, Shafiq has served as a board member of the Johns Creek Arts Center (JCAC) for six years. Shafiq is an active leader of Leadership Johns Creek (LJC), graduate of Johns Creek Citizens Police Academy and has been instrumental in assisting the City with the annual Johns Creek International Festival, which draws over 20,000 participants. As President of JCCricket, Shafiq, in his passionate, almost evangelistic manner, engages every aspect of the community to be aware of the initiatives and programs of JCCricket and Cricket America Ltd. This includes present and former Mayors and City Council members, Recreation and Parks department staff, Convention and Visitors Bureau leaders, Fulton County School board members, the Chiefs and members of the Police and Fire departments, students and their families. With Cricket America, Shafiq helped launch the annual Cricket America Championship in 2017 with seven teams. This year’s T20 tournament was held in Chicago with 20 teams from North America during Labor Day weekend.
The need for cricket specific infrastructure in metro Atlanta was talked about by many for years, but never materialized, however, Shafiq was able to inspire the Mayor and City Council members of Johns Creek to fund the development of two youth Cricket Pitches and six cricket batting cages in Shakerag Park with an investment of over $250,000, a first of its kind in the State of Georgia. He now leads the effort to get Cricket infrastructure included in the City of Johns Creek new 220-acre Cauley Creek Park which is expected to come online in summer 2023. Under Shafiq’s leadership, JCCricket has enjoyed steady, mission-centered growth. In November 2020, with students from five area High Schools, JCCricket launched Georgia High School Cricket with the simple but very ambitious goal of making Cricket a Georgia High School Association offered sport by 2025.
Currently, there are 10 High Schools involved in the program. To ensure Georgia High School Cricket is sustainable, JCCricket, under Shafiq’s direction, recently launched its Middle and Elementary School Cricket Program with the introduction of JC Cricket Academy. In 2021, Shafiq convinced the board to launch a female Cricket Program called Johns Creek Panthers and the annual Johns Creek Cricket Festival in partnership with Johns Creek Convention and Visitors Bureau and Johns Creek Art Center. This day-long event celebrates Cricket and fosters community engagement. The historic match between Johns Creek Police Department and Johns Creek Fire Department is now an annual match in the festival with bragging rights trophy. This year, JCCricket is also launching EmPower CRICKET platform for differently abled athletes along with the inaugural GivingThanks Cricket Tournament during Thanksgiving weekend. The tournament is a charity event with the goal to engage the cricket community in Metro Atlanta to raise funds for the Johns Creek Public Safety Foundation.
Shafiq is quietly admired with the success and requisite need for JCCricket that he did so much to build, and warily he often found a way to bridge men and their might under one cloud. Pride and differences in opinion have caused plenty of arguments and disagreements among cricket lovers. But Shafiq is an unapologetic romantic, showering those he spoke about with praise and devotion. In his exchanges, sentimentality or nostalgia is qualities to cherish. Shafiq has retained into his adult years an almost boy-like enthusiasm for cricket and a completely non-envious admiration for its performers; his is the blend of romanticism, relish and sheer delight. A gentleman of not mere surface charm or the easy lightness of confident sociability, he makes sure he fulfils his duties and obligations without drawing attention to himself or making a fuss.
He is that confident gentleman with his signature wide greeting smile and a warm accommodating outstretched hand making everyone feels respected and that they belong. Above all he was always courteous, constant, and always the same, whatever the circumstances or the company as he always has been – warm, self-deprecating, and concerned about the lives of others and always willing to offer help and advice. As ever, he made a point to inquire of my family. Family and friendship, you sense, are central to his life and his values; the quality of a caring man. His affiliation with Cosmos Cricket Club over the years has been both an inspiration and an excellent source of camaraderie to the club, especially on the many tours, and most notably, our international tour to Durham, England.
And, for a confident, aggressive man in his youthful days who could have written a convincing book on the dubious art of cricket on and off the cricket field he was a better, more humble and caring person the second time around, while retaining his sense of humor. His oration could be too florid for some tastes for he was a loveable chap especially when he dives into his trips down memory lane and often imagined himself as he dipped into his shelves of cricket tours; he had an eye for greater truths. You could tell from just one ball bowled or one shot played that he was a cricketer of good ilk. His hard work was driven by the desire to give a full expression of himself, and he did it not with a bat or ball, but dignified in an administrator quest which gives him that signature symbolism of a purposeful practitioner.
He is a man of substance, morally serious and intellectually curious. For all his understatement, he couldn’t fail to convey those qualities to anyone who watched him properly. He loves life. But life, at times, does not always allow us to design our end-product, however, Shafiq’s unwavering passion for the game never relent, it just picked him up, dust him off, and got him to the cricket ground. To me and many of my peers who have served the game over the years, there is little doubt that Shafiq is one of cricket true loyalists; man of many parts, a pioneer, a steadfast character, a cricketer and an official of rare gifts. There is something mystical about his work, as if an attempt was made to draw a line under all that had been done before, but that another force remained to deny it. We shall never know, but behind that affable manner hid inner steel, removed his mask and reveal a creative mind. By being so spiritually aware of what lay beyond the physical world, he became an irresistible conscience for those of us to follow. The game ignores his teachings at its peril. The wisdom, the kindness, the child-like simplicity of his humor, the lack of ego, and how this and that collide, the high standards, the hard but fair marking, the counsel given and taken, the shared love of so many things that stretch heart and mind. Above them all is friendship. His vision ensured that his passion to elevate the sport of cricket is real. Shafiq’s desire to make a sustainable impact in the sport of Cricket continues. He aspires to develop and promote Cricket with the ambition to create better leaders and athletes.
We wish Shafiq Jadavji, a United States of America Cricket Hall of Famer, the very best in his lifelong vision and journey.
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