In its centenary celebrations, the International Cricket Council has awarded five medals of honor to five officials who have made significant contributions to the game in the US. The ICC invited the USA Cricket Association to recommend five people after it had asked its regions to submit candidates. Akthar Masood "Chik" Syed, a long time player, selector and administrator, is a recipient of the award. Click here for the interviews with Syed Shahanawaz and Roy Sweeney. DreamCricket.com will interview each of the remaining recipients in the coming weeks.
By Peter Simunovich
Masood "Chik" Syed is a shy and quietly spoken man with a long list of achievements in cricket, which he reluctantly talks about. The retired physiotherapist needs to be prodded to discuss his association in the game in the US, which he has helped change for the better.
Over the years, Syed, 63, who is married with two daughters and lives in Glendale Heights, a Chicago suburb, has helped organize free youth clinics, fields for local clubs in the area and had a hand in forming eight leagues in the Central East Region.
When he first became involved in cricket in Chicago there were about 12 clubs in the area. Now there are 170. During his tenure he helped the Central East Region have the highest paid membership in the US Cricket Association.
A genuine cricket lover from his childhood days, he has been a tireless worker with one aim --- to help the US reach a higher level and play against the world’s best. Chidambar Joshi, who is also involved in Chicago cricket, said: “Masood quietly works hard behind the scenes. He is a leader, gets the job done and does not believe in hogging the limelight.”
Syed, now a USACA board member representing the Central East Region, has a simple explanation: “I love this game. I hope one day the USA becomes a one day and Test cricket nation. We have a very good team right now and it can go to a high level, to a one day international level.”
When asked about being recognized by the International Cricket Council for his services to cricket, he said he did not expect to receive the award, but added: “Now that it has happened, I feel great. I thank the ICC for its recognition and support.”
But there is more to Syed than cricket. He has run the Chicago Marathon 12 times with a personal best of three hours and 34 minutes. His family has set up charities, which he reminds everybody that he plays a small role, to help the less the fortunate in Karachi, Pakistan, and in Bosnia after the civil war in the old Yugoslavia.
In 1979 he met the Queen while representing the US team in the ICC Trophy tournament in England. “She asked where I was from in the US, and I said Chicago,” he said.
Syed was born in Delhi, India, and after independence, his family moved to Pakistan in 1948 and he grew up in Karachi. He played in the inter collegiate competition with DJ College under captain Sallah uddin Ballea and former Test player Nasim ul Ghani.
In 1967 he was chosen to play with the Pakistan Central Zone in a match in Sailkot against a Commonwealth XI led by the legendary Australian all-rounder and captain Richie Benaud.
He recalled that he ran out Benaud at the bowler’s end with an accurate throw from the cover position after he had scored six or seven runs. It was a moment for savor. But not everyone was pleased.
“I remember him (Benaud) giving me a look, like: Who are you?” he laughed. And during the lunch break a spectator came to Syed and chastised him for running out Benaud, saying: “I have come all this way with my family to watch him bat and you run him out!”
Pic (Left): Masood Syed with Amit Kumar; Courtesy: Theo Mavrokefalos
As a player, Syed, a batsman and part time spinner, looked up to Hanif Mohammed, the great former Pakistan captain and Hall of Fame member. His highest score in first class cricket was 116 for Karachi against Bhwal in the Qaid-e-Azam Trophy competition. For the record, in 33 first class matches in Pakistan he scored 1,408 runs, including seven not outs, in 49 innings for 33.52 average.
He hit three centuries and five 50s. He also took four wickets for 217 runs. In two matches with the US team, he batted once for five runs and claimed 1/35 with his spin bowling.
Syed moved to the US in 1972 and played with the Chicago Falcons in the old United Cricket Conference. Four years later he played for the US against Canada in their annual contest in Philadelphia, which is acknowledged to be the oldest series in any sports between two countries.
In that game he and the late Don Weekes, of California, put on an 87-run partnership for the US to defeat Canada.
Syed has a deep background in administration and was elected vice president of USACA in 1987 as the Central Zone representative. He then was elected president from 1996 to 1999 during a very difficult time in US cricket when the US Cricket Federation was formed and claimed to the ICC that it had more members. Under instructions from the ICC, USACA was told to design a new constitution and hold an election and the two bodies decided to amalgamate.
He was also the Central East Region director in 2000, 2002 and 2004 and was appointed chairman of the national selectors from 2000 to 2004
This was a particularly good time for Syed, who helped select the team, which won the Americas Cup in Argentina in 2002 and then the 2003 Six Nation tournament in Dubai. When it won the Six Nation tournament, the US created history by becoming the first ICC associates member to play in the 2004 Champions Trophy.
While this was a major achievement, the celebrations were short lived when the US played in two games against Australia and New Zealand and lost both in the 12-nation Champions Trophy in England. Despite the losses to Australia and NZ, Syed is still proud of the US’s success in the Six Nation tournament.
“We had very good players like Clayton Lambert, Steve Massiah, Nasir Javed, Tony Reed, Rashard Marshall and Sushil Nadkarni,” he said.
Syed has formed a long and close friendship with USACA president Gladstone Dainty and lists him among many who have helped him along the way. He said: “Since Gladstone took over as president cricket has progressed at all levels and extended in all directions. Now we have regional and national tournaments. Despite all monetary difficulties and other friction, he never stops and continues to have national and international tournaments and tours of all levels each year.”
And he is especially pleased the new constitution has created teamwork at the regional administration level. “And due to progress and interest in the youth this is the second time a US under 19 team has qualified for the World Cup,” he said.
Syed says he is on the same page with the modern thinking that the introduction of the 20/20 competition is the road for USACA to follow to expand the game in the US get mainstream Americans interested.
“I see professional playing opportunities for players becoming a reality in the US. I believe that in five years time USACA will have the number of participants and facilities to make this possible. This is due to the building blocks USACA administrations are putting in place for sustainable growth like kiddies cricket, schools cricket, collegiate cricket, our national tournaments and our partnership with parks and recreation,” he said.