Simply, he says, Arriving from Pakistan in early 2010, having fled his home country for fear of persecution by the Taliban, Ahmed doesn’t understate cricket’s defining role in his new life in Australia.
“I wouldn’t be here (in Australia). I came here for cricket because I got a contract with a club,” he says.
Cricket, and sport in general, is known for its societal benefits, but few have experienced them as profoundly as Ahmed.
His move from the Sub-continent to Hoppers Crossing in Victoria’s West was for club cricket, but his leg-spinning talents soon took him beyond the suburban grounds in Melbourne’s outer suburbs.
Wickets upon wickets led Ahmed on a rapid course through grade and state cricket, and soon piqued the interest of national selectors.
Thanks to a rare federal legislative change, Ahmed received Australian citizenship in 2013, completing his hasty ascent through the rungs of Australian cricket with his debut for Australia in a One-Day International against Scotland in 2013.
Ahmed hopes his achievements since arriving in Australia act as motivation for others from diverse backgrounds to get involved in cricket.
“If I can play within three years for Australia everyone can play,” he says.
“It’s (playing for Australia) a great feeling. I’m so happy here.”
“I [hope I] can be a role model for the community; not just my community but for all youngsters in Australia.
“Things can happen to anyone; there are no impossibles here in this world. You can make it possible if you work hard and believe.”
Cricket’s ability to engage communities is at the forefront of Ahmed’s perspective on life. He has become accustomed to fielding inquiries from Australia’s diverse communities, having been quickly anointed a role model by them.
“I’ve been approached by so many parents… my message is always going to be the same: ‘any sports, not just cricket is good for the kids, especially for their future.”
“Cricket here (in Australia) is for everyone. Everyone is similar; everyone has got the right [to play].
Beyond immediate plans to return to the Australian team, Ahmed dreams of someday coaching fulltime.
Soon after arriving in Australia, he began working for Cricket Victoria as a coach working primarily in multicultural communities but has cut back coaching due to playing commitments.
“My dream is to coach,” he says.
“I love coaching, especially spinbowling. I would love to do it on my own, or maybe in cooperation with Cricket Australia to produce some good cricketers for Australia.”
In Australia he sees an enviable cricket system that provides opportunities vastly unlike those available to kids in his native Pakistan.
Talking about Australian Cricket programs like MILO in2CRICKET and MILO T20 Blast, which have been specially designed for multicultural communities, Amhed says: “The [cricket] programs in Australia are unbelievable.”
“When I go to schools for a speech or a gathering, I am always saying to them ‘You people are really lucky to have such a beautiful system and opportunities in this country’.”
Ahmed has experienced the world thanks to cricket. His playing days began in rural Pakistan and his abilities have taken him to grounds in the UK, Australia and even the unlikely destination of Holland.
This worldly experience demonstrates cricket’s universal appeal. It brings with it access to new clubs, communities and countries. And herein lies the enduring beauty of cricket for Ahmed.
“The good thing about cricket is that it is an international game – that is why they call it the king of sports.
“It has really helped me make so many friends and connections.”