You could count the spectators on your fingers at Jaipur’s Sawai Mansingh Stadium on that October afternoon three years ago. Two of them were a middle-aged couple from the Haryana town of Hathin.
It was for the first time that Ahmed Jan and Abnam were watching their son in action on a cricket ground. Pride, not surprisingly, was writ large on their faces.
“Since this venue is not far from home, we thought we could watch this game,” Ahmed told this correspondent, even as Bengal and Railways were battling it out in a Vijay Hazare Trophy One-Day match.
A few days ago, Ahmed and Abnam made another trip to watch their son. Their destination was nearer - New Delhi. The match was bigger - the final ODI between India and South Africa.
Their son, Shahbaz Ahmed, was now an international, having made his debut in the second ODI at Ranchi. “The atmosphere inside the Arun Jaitley Stadium was amazing,” he says over phone.
“Such a big crowd was there, unlike Jaipur. It felt great.”
Shahbaz had made him feel happy. He had taken two crucial wickets, of Aiden Markram and Heinrich Klaasen.
In the Jaipur match too, Shahbaz had done well. After scoring 30, he had taken one for 26 with his left-arm spin.
“Shahbaz went to Kolkata because he thought he wouldn’t get opportunities in Haryana,” Ahmed had said at Jaipur, as his son continued to bat resolutely to ensure that Bengal would have a decent total to defend. “I think he did the right thing.”
Indeed. After performing consistently for Bengal across formats, he was bought by Royal Challengers Bangalore for Rs. 20 lakh at the IPL auction for 2020. Two years later, after releasing him, the franchise paid Rs. 2.4 crore for his services.
Shahbaz is fast emerging as a dependable all-rounder and is an excellent fielder, too. Though Ahmed is proud of Shahbaz’s achievements in cricket, till a few years ago, he had wanted his son to become an engineer.
“I was shocked to get a letter from his college that he had been bunking his Civil Engineering classes for months,” says Ahmed. “When I saw his passion for cricket, I let him follow his dream. He has completed his engineering course, too.”
As for that match in Jaipur, it ended in a tie. That may not be the main reason Ahmed and Abnam remember it for.
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