Dean Ahmad: The Young Players Of The Agent With A Professional Vision > Cricket News, cricinfo, mobilecric, cricbuzz, livescore and more
Cricket news - Dean Ahmad: The young player agent with an experienced vision
Dean Ahmad can laugh now. Having signed up to television's The Apprentice, it wasn't long before the cricket agent was under pressure. On the second challenge, Ahmad's team had to manufacture and sell ice lollies with the aim of returning as much money as they could muster. Unfortunately, their effort was an unmitigated disaster, with Lord Sugar describing the lollies as looking like pig trotters and the whole task ending in recrimination. Profit? Entirely absent. Embarrassment? Plentiful.
It was an early baptism by fire, but thankfully for Ahmad, he was not the one fired by Sugar. He lived on to fight another week and is still in the show now, coming into his own more and more. But he did not escape the taunts of some of his clients over ice lolly gate. "A few of them have said thankfully I am a better representative than I am at making ice lollies," Ahmad jokes. "That's definitely not my go-to."
At just 20 years of age, Ahmad is probably the youngest cricket agent in England and certainly the youngest to run his own agency. Clients at his growing Fine Edge Cricket group include Sussex's new recruit Ravi Bopara, Samit Patel of Nottinghamshire, Essex's Daniel Lawrence, former South African batsman now coach Herschelle Gibbs and Pakistan's Mohammad Nawaz. The Apprentice gig is, Ahmad says, a business venture with the GBP250,000 prize money being a potential game changer for his agency.
"The show is going to open doors for individuals," Ahmad says. "It is incredibly cut-throat and incredibly difficult. It's not always what you see on TV. It's so challenging. But that's where the best candidate can differentiate themselves. It's an amazing experience and I loved every minute of it." Filming has already finished and viewers will have to wait and see how far Ahmad gets.
Right now, it is back to the day job of looking after his clients. Ahmad played a key role in Bopara's recent move to Hove from Essex, the club he grew up at and had spent 17 years as a professional. As Bopara told Cricbuzz recently, it was a terrifically difficult decision to leave Chelmsford but it had got to the stage where he felt the opportunities at Essex were limiting.
It was not a big money move by any means but Sussex's offer of a two-year deal, compared to the one season contract on offer at Essex, and their willingness to countenance a white-ball focus aligned with Bopara's goals of improving his game in the hope of "doing something special" in T20 cricket and playing on into his forties. Ahmad says making decisions based on longer-term opportunity rather than shorter-term gain is vital even if it can lead to more difficult decisions.
"I will always say to a player, the money is short term," he says. "You have to think about the bigger picture. Where do we want to be in five years, what are your goals? A lot of agents will maybe advise for the short-term, money or success. There's no point chasing a quick buck. For a player or an agent, you will never be successful."
Nawaz's choice to play in South Africa's Mzansi Super League rather than the T10 in the UAE was a decision also based on what it might mean for his longer-term future rather than what is more lucrative right now. Nawaz could have earned another five or ten thousand pounds at the T10 but according to Ahmad, it wouldn't have fit into the plan he and the left-arm spinner have devised together.
"It's about the type of competition, the type of opportunity that is going to come from it," Ahmad says. "He's not really going to make headlines playing T10. He's now got a month and a half of opportunity in South African conditions to show what he is capable of. If he does well, it advances his chances to play in next year's T20 WC in similar conditions in Australia."
With the proliferation of short format competitions around the world, the importance of a well-connected and influential agent can never have been more important. Ahmad and his team work their contacts ahead of the various auctions or drafts, supplying them with statistics or video footage of their clients. They will target the key decision makers, whether that is a franchise owner, the head coach or the analysts. "Our responsibility is to highlight and promote our players to the important people," he says.
It seems to be working. Bopara was picked up in the recent draft for The Hundred for GBP 100,000 while Lawrence was selected by London Spirit as one of their local icon players. Patel and Lawrence also secured deals for the upcoming T10 while Bopara will be joining Nawaz in South Africa for the MSL.
Despite his youth, Ahmad has already been doing this for four years, having started his agency at the age of just 16. His first two clients were coaches, Ian Pont and Julien Fountain, who he basically cold called and convinced to let him represent them. The pair worked with Quetta Gladiators during the first Pakistan Super League and Ahmad, all fresh faced and, by his own admission, "naive" went to the UAE to catch-up with them and network. Things have not really looked back since. Fine Edge Cricket now has 13 full-time clients and is looking for more.
"I started very young in an industry which is on the older side," he says. "You get a lot of agents who are ex players like Neil Fairbrother or guys who've gone into law and then go into the sports law sector. With me, I have always had a passion for sports and business. I was 15 or 16 at the time I started and I combined the two, set this agency up and just grafted. It was an obvious path to go down.
"There is sometimes an unconscious bias about age but I have always thought, regardless of age, if someone is good enough, someone is good enough. So you should be judged on merit, on skills, on integrity. Experience comes into it of course but if someone is good enough, they're good enough.
"I have had a few interesting experiences. Before, maybe I was conscious of the age thing. But now, the age is a positive thing almost. Certain players feel they can relate to me. Maybe it's a fresh approach, maybe it's a young approach, I don't know."
Ahmad is aware that the reputation of agents across all sports could be better and he does not shy away from the criticism. "I am quite opinionated on this. Unfortunately, there is a reputation about agents being money hungry, having bad intentions. It does exist unfortunately. It could even be the majority. We pride ourselves on being different. Players can see that straight away when they meet us. The importance of prioritising a player's best interests over a quick buck.
"You might have two or three teams interested in a player, maybe one is offering more than the others. But actually one team is better for the player's growth. They might be able to play every game at a team offering a lower amount, they might have an IPL coach which is better for their long-term prospects than an extra thirty thousand in the short term. I'll only sign a player if I feel we can really add value and build something in the long-term.
"The way cricket has evolved, every player needs an agent who has their best intentions at heart. The importance of putting your player's interests before anything is of the utmost importance."
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