Jamshed Ahmed is widely remembered as a prominent member of the Pakistan Under-19 World Cup-winning squad in 2006, that defended a total of only 109 in the final against India, where he took 2 for 24 in 7 overs. Despite his excellent performances in that tournament where he took 14 wickets in 6 games, Jamshed's career never really took off and he last played a domestic cricket match in 2014, aged 25.
In an exclusive interview with PakPassion.net, Jamshed spoke about his memories of the 2006 ICC Under-19 World Cup, the culture of 'like' and 'dislike' when it comes to selection in Pakistan cricket, his decision to stay with PIA despite not being given enough chances to play and his advice to young and upcoming cricketers.
By Amir Husain (30th May, 2020)
PakPassion.net: What are your memories of the 2006 ICC Under-19 World Cup?
Jamshed Ahmed: I have some great memories of that event and they are still fresh in my mind as if the tournament happened yesterday. And it’s not just me, but a lot of fans still contact me via social media to send me highlights of my performances in that tournament and remind me of that excellent time. I will never forget that period of my life as it was a unique and memorable time for me.
PakPassion.net: Do people still recognize you at your place of work at Lahore airport?
Jamshed Ahmed: I am pleased to say that I run into a lot of cricket fans who are quick to recognize me and appreciate my services to Pakistan. Even my managers at PIA where I work, also give me a lot of respect for this reason and offer me help whenever I need any assistance. To be honest, I used to be really worried that given my background as a cricketer, I would have problems fitting into a regular workplace but I was pleasantly surprised at the fantastic treatment I have received in my job.
PakPassion.net: You must have been looking forward to a long and rewarding career after the success of the 2006 ICC Under-19 World Cup?
Jamshed Ahmed: At that time, I had no idea that I would have to take up a regular job to support myself as I firmly believed in my abilities and frankly hoped and thought that I would represent Pakistan for a good number of years.
PakPassion.net: Do you feel you were discarded a little too early by those in power at PIA?
Jamshed Ahmed: There is a distinct ‘like’ and ‘dislike’ culture when it comes to selection matters in Pakistan cricket. This is why you have seen players in recent times who have debuted for Pakistan without even playing one game of first-class cricket. Contrast that with what happened in our playing days, where we were told that the reason for exclusion from the Pakistan side was a lack of experience and it was said that one could not survive in international cricket without it. Thanks to the Almighty, I took the wickets of some of the top players in the 2006 Under-19 World Cup, some of whom later became big names, such as Tamim Iqbal, Martin Guptill and Moises Henriques, but I still couldn’t find a place in the Pakistan side. As I said, the culture of ‘like’ and ‘dislike’ was the reason for my exclusion as surely my performance could not have been the reason for that.
PakPassion.net: How disappointing is the fact that you last played a domestic game in Pakistan in 2014, when you were only 25 years old?
Jamshed Ahmed: If one looks at my last 8-10 games in domestic cricket, I was facing the issue that I was being dropped constantly which resulted in a loss of rhythm and confidence and affected my overall performance. Whilst I may have had an overall average of 28 across all formats of the game, the fact is that my average was much lower in the first 15-16 first-class matches I played. The average deteriorated due to a lack of consistent chances which also affected my motivation. At that point, I was simply going through the motions and the loss of concentration from this reflected in a higher bowling average than it should have been.
PakPassion.net: Was the decision to give up cricket and take on a full-time job the right one for you?
Jamshed Ahmed: The fact is that to survive and have dignity in our society, I needed to find a job and am glad I took that opportunity and started working. If I hadn’t done that, my fate would have been the same as many of our first-class cricketers today, who after the closure of departmental cricket are having to make ends meet by driving rickshaws or Careem, or even doing manual labour. But thanks to the Almighty, I have a stable job.
PakPassion.net: You played just 9 domestic games between 2010 and 2014. What was the reason behind this lack of games?
Jamshed Ahmed: The issue with the PIA side during my time was that apart from me, we had fast-bowlers like Najaf Shah, Fazle Akbar, Aizaz Cheema, Anwar Ali and Ali Imran Pasha. So, only three of the bowlers would play and obviously that reduced my chances of playing every game, and that is why I missed out in quite a few games for PIA.
PakPassion.net: Was the decision to stay with PIA the right one, as far as your playing career was concerned?
Jamshed Ahmed: In terms of my cricketing career, the decision to not leave PIA was the worst mistake I made, but in terms of the current economic circumstances, the fact that I stayed with PIA as an employee was the best thing that happened to me. The reason for that decision was that I felt that a permanent job with a prestigious organization was a good idea and on top of that, I had a feeling that had I changed my team, and if I got injured due to cricket or even through a motorbike accident then my life would be ruined. This is the reason I stayed with the PIA team, but I suppose my cricket career suffered due to that. I also believed and was told by my colleagues that I could still get a chance to play more games as I was young, which was a reason to stick it out with PIA. I was told that people like Fazle Akbar and Aizaz Cheema wouldn’t last long and retire early but as fate would have it, they continued playing longer and my career came to an abrupt end.
PakPassion.net: Tell us about the circumstances behind the end of your career at PIA.
Jamshed Ahmed: My name was consistently part of the 20-man PIA squad submitted to the PCB until the 2017-18 season. But inclusion in the playing XI was a different matter and I feel I became a victim of personal dislikes by the coaching staff because as far as I could see, I had not stopped putting in 100% effort. It’s, strange that the same coaching staff. who would refer to me as ‘Irfan Pathan’ due to my all-round abilities in the nets, would not play me in actual games, and that to date remains a mystery. I feel that after the 2009/10 season, my name was only included in squads more due to filling-up the numbers and the fact that I was a permanent employee. If I hadn’t been an employee, I would have been dropped from the squad much earlier than I eventually was.
PakPassion.net: Out of interest, did you attempt to play for another team when it became apparent that you had little chances of playing in the PIA squad?
Jamshed Ahmed: I did look for alternative ways of playing cricket in 2018 when I tried out for a Lahore side but I was told that age was not on my side although at that point I was only 29 years old which shouldn’t have been an issue. However, they made that an issue and also told me that I wasn’t eligible for selection as I had not played first-class cricket for a few years. This pretty much closed the door for me and I said farewell to top-level cricket for good, as it was clear to me that I wasn’t liked and excuses were being made to keep me out of the game.
PakPassion.net: How do you feel about the new domestic team structure that PCB has implemented?
Jamshed Ahmed: From what I understand, the Prime Minister of Pakistan Imran Khan wanted the PCB to create a domestic structure which was similar to the state version used in Australia, or the County equivalent in England. But the fact is that such structures take some time to develop fully. To start with, we need to fix issues related to the selection of players, and the quality of management and coaches also needs to be looked at in great detail. Even in the new system that was implemented this season, we are still seeing players who are personal favourites of selectors and coaches being given priority. In contrast, some players with good performances at the district level are being ignored as they are not liked by those in charge of selection. Regardless of the system we implement, our cricket will not improve until and unless this cancer of ‘like’ and ‘dislike’ of players is not eradicated from our country, and cricket not promoted at the club and school level.
PakPassion.net: It’s hard to believe that this culture of ‘like’ and ‘dislike’ still exists in our cricket.
Jamshed Ahmed: It certainly is and many players have said this to me. I am sure people have heard of a player named Umar Siddiq who performed well in the PSL for Multan Sultans. He was told by his coach for whatever personal reason that he would make sure that Umar did not play for Multan Sultans in the 2020 season. And that is exactly what happened in 2020 as he was not selected for PSL due to the dislike for him by the coaching staff of the Southern Punjab side. This is a sad example of the problems players face in our domestic system and what stops them from progressing further which is a huge disservice to Pakistan cricket.
PakPassion.net: Do you see any issues with PCB’s pathway to international cricket for players which consists of advancement through school, club and domestic cricket?
Jamshed Ahmed: The best way to answer this is to look at the case of a young fast bowler whom we all know well – Mohammad Hasnain. All he has is pace, as does Haris Rauf. None of these bowlers have variations or any other redeeming qualities. Similarly, we took Musa Khan to Australia and made him play a Test match so the idea seems to be that we throw in players without much experience and then hope that one of them will become a proper bowler for Pakistan. There seems to be no proper criteria to choose players to play for Pakistan such as good first-class performances; instead, a player is selected for Pakistan based upon the power of his supporters’ lobby. For a person with no connections, there seems to be many criteria for selection such as a high number of first-class matches whilst for others who are liked by the coaches, a different set of selection rules exist. In the past, getting a Test cap was a huge honour and required a lot of hard work, but nowadays it seems that a Test cap is handed to a player without much thought. It’s not that we have a lack of expertise in our selection committee which has some top former players in it, but I am amazed that even then no proper standards are applied for the selection of new players for Test cricket.
PakPassion.net: Based on your experiences, what is your advice for young and upcoming cricketers?
Jamshed Ahmed: My advice based upon personal experience and although a little late, given changes to our domestic system, is that never become part of a big departmental team. But regardless of who you play for, do not ever give up on working hard for your goals. Having friends or sympathisers at the team management level is also very important to get ahead. If this shamelessly requires you to agree with all their wishes and to tow the line, then so be it, as having their backing is important for your career progress.
PakPassion.net: Tell us about your current job and whether you still play cricket.
Jamshed Ahmed: Thanks to the Almighty, I work for PIA as a Business Supervisor and am stationed at Lahore Airport. I am still playing cricket for a small institution called Rashke Kashmir which has players like Saad Nasim, Umar Siddiq, Agha Salman, Hussain Talat, Imran Butt, Imran Ali Mani, Kashif Siddique, Qaiser Ashraf, Mohammad Irfan and Zafar Gohar. This is an excellent side and the experience is enjoyable and I also play for a club called Ludhiana Gymkhana so I have carried on playing cricket at different levels where matches are of the 40-over and T20 format. In addition, in 2018, I played two games at the District Level for Lahore West Zone in which I took 6 wickets in the first game but took one wicket in the next game which was shortened due to rain.