Feature Expresso Sports: Shahbaz Ahmed’s strict dad still can’t believe the Team India rookie quit engineering to play cricket

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“When one goes to Hathin and asks for Shahbaz Ahmed’s house from one of the townspeople, the answer comes: ‘That RCB cricketer no, the second floor of his house is quite amazing, you notice it from afar.

There is nothing fancy about the house, but the children playing in the streets are inspired by Shahbaz’s house. Because it inspires them that if Shahbaz, who learned the basics of his cricket on these streets and went on to play for India, one day they can too.

Shabaz has given hope to young people in Palwal, one of the most underdeveloped regions of Haryana, the second after Mewat.

Ahmed’s residence has all possible modern conveniences. And his father, Ahmed Jan, like any proud middle-class father, says, “I didn’t take a penny from Shahbaz. I am a government employee of Haryana, my salary is good and I can afford all the facilities,” says the Clerk of the Subdivision Magistrate’s Office of Nuh District of Haryana.

Jan says, “He bought a car with his IPL money in Kolkata, but is unable to drive due to heavy traffic in the city,” referring to the IPL auction money (Rs 2 .4 crore) he received from RCB.

After all these years, Jan is still upset that his son, an A-level student, randomly decided to drop out of school to play cricket.

He added: “Like any middle-class family, we love to watch cricket which I played until university, but education was always our priority. My father, Mohammad Ishak, was a manager of school i am a government worker my younger brother is a teacher and my daughter is a doctor even Shahbaz was a brilliant student he got 80% in class X and 88% in class XII never in my wildest dream, I would never have thought he would drop out of school to play cricket. No father would want his son to play cricket at the expense of education,” which has now been warned by his wife and Shahbaz’s mother, Abnam.

Abnam says with a beaming smile on his face, “He (Ahmed) is still living in 2015. I also wanted him to finish his engineering and get a good job, but sometimes you also have to listen to your kids, what they want from the life “,
Ahmed says he is happy that Shahbaz graduated during the lockdown. But now his main concern is to build a trophy shelf in the newly built Shahbaz room on the second floor.

He says, “I wanted to build a separate little room for his trophies, but his mum and sister love to show off and they don’t want it. I asked the contractor to make a bigger one in his bedroom only,”

Ahmed and Abnam can’t forget the day they received a letter from Shahbaz University saying he hadn’t taken a course for months. The worried parents visited him in Gurgaon, but he was not there, as he had left to play cricket. They went to college and then learned that he was blocking classes.

“He was determined to do something big. Even his college professors told him it was a mistake because he was a good student. Shahbaz told his department head that “one day you will graduate me and congratulate me as well”.
Shahbaz would move to Kolkata, where he initially shared a small 12×12 room with three other cricketers.
Jan says, “He didn’t know how to cook, so his job was to clean the utensils.”
Shahbaz hated food, was regularly labeled a ‘foreigner’ and even thought of returning after being banned from playing cricket. However, it was only after the Cricket Association of Bengal (CAB) conducted an investigation and gave him the all clear that Shahbaz was able to play again. But the only thing that held him together were his father’s words when he was packing his bags before going to Calcutta.

Shahbaz started playing in the second division, and one day he was introduced to Partha Pratim Chowdhury by Pramod Chandila (former Bengal cricketer and current Haryana), who brought Shahbaz to Kolkata. Chowdhury, impressed with Shahbaz’s skills, helped him get into the Tapan Memorial Club, and very soon he became one of his family members.

An emotional Abnam says, “Mister Partha is an angel sent by the Almighty. Nowadays, who provides shelter to a stranger? He (Partha) took care of Shahbaz like his own son; even my endless prayers won’t be enough,”
Shahbaz’s performances caught the eye of Bengal skipper Manoj Tiwary. There were reservations about Shahbaz because he was not from Bengal, but Tiwary was adamant and eventually got through.
If Tiwary took Shahbaz under his wings, it was Bengal coach Arun Lal who made him a bulwark. Shahbaz, whom Lal calls ‘Jaanbaaz (Daredevil)’ has become Bengal’s crisis man. He was instrumental in bringing Bengal to the 2019-20 Ranji Trophy Final. The all-rounder scored 509 runs with the bat and bagged 35 wickets with his left arm spin. In the 2021-22 season, he scored 582 runs and won nine wickets in five matches. During his three years with Royal Challengers Bangalore, Shahbaz became one of the mainstays of the franchise and showed prowess as an all-around player.

Abnam says, “He has a father figure in Partha Bhai, an older brother in Manoj Tiwary and a mentor in Arun Lal. I haven’t met any of them yet, but we are planning to visit Kolkata later this year to show our appreciation. It is thanks to them that Shahbaz has reached this level. I will cook biryani for each of them,” “

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