Exclusive Interview
Smart Choice does not require any introduction in the franchise tournament circuit especially with the constant success they are achieving. Smart Choice first came in to the picture as the 1st Sponsors of US National Cricket Team and later turned into a professional sports organization who first became Dallas T20 Champions and later US Open Champions.

Sakhi Muhammad (right) the mastermind behind Smart Choice with Pakistan national player Kamran Akmal on the left.

The star studded Smart Choice with big names such as Kamran Akmal and Abdul Razaq complemented with local talent is becoming a cricketing powerhouse. Recently, Smart choice has taken on another venture by seeking out major teams from various states and countries in order to promote the game of cricket and also to promote the local talent.

Smart Choice has recently expanded to NJ and has inducted Stars Cricket Club form CLNJ into their family. We caught up with the President of Stars Cricket Club, Adeel Khan (now known as Smart Choice NJ) and the master mind, Sakhi Muhammad behind the phenomenon, Smart Choice.

Correspondent:  Who is Stars Cricket Club?
Adeel Khan: It all started back in the summer of 1995 when a handful of young athletes started a tape ball cricket team by the name of Plainfield Tigers. Today after eighteen years of playing cricket, the club has not only changed its name to the “Smart Choice New Jersey” from Stars Cricket Club but has evolved into a registered nonprofit 501 (c) (7) organization in New Jersey.

Correspondent:  Like any organization, I am sure you have a mission or goals. Can you highlight a few?
Adeel Khan: Our Mission is to encourage and advance the game of cricket in New Jersey along with promoting sportsmanship, fellowship and delight of the game, and also to practice fair play and adherence to cricket codes of conduct both on and off the field of play.

Correspondent: Major accomplishments for the club?
Adeel Khan: Winning the Championship Trophy for the year 2009 is definitely the highlight. The next two years the club topped the regular reason in points but couldn’t bring the cup home. In all, SCNJ have made the playoffs for six straight years and made it to the semi-final 2010, 2011 and 2013.

Adeel Khan President of Stars Cricket Club.

Correspondent: So looks like you guys were doing just fine “alone” so, why bring Smart Choice into the picture?
Adeel Khan: As far as cricket accomplishments are concerned, yes we were doing great, but we as a club wanted more than just on field accomplishments and for that we needed a partner. Smart Choice was definitely the right fit to achieve this as Sakhi had the same ideas and goals. We as a club are very passionate about the promotion of the game and think that at least in NJ nothing is being done to achieve that so, with Smart Choice’s talent pool we are hoping to set up camps etc. to promote the game.

Correspondent: Now as Smart Choice NJ, what are your plans for the 2014 season?
Adeel Khan: The on field goal for the 2014 season is the same as any season which is to bring home the hardware. On the other hand, we have very aggressive and optimistic plans off the field. The NJ chapter of Smart Choice will like to coordinate a tournament based in NJ and showcase the local talent pool especially the youth. Secondly, we are also planning on going on a foreign tour to Canada to play a couple of social games. This will surely aid us in promoting the game and of course promote our NJ Chapter of Smart Choice as well.

Correspondent: How did the Smart Choice cricketing franchise come into existence?
Sakhi Muhammad: I will not call it franchising but rather call it branding. The whole idea started in May of last year during the finals of Smart Choice Central West Trophy which was held in Houston. I was watching the game and saw Dallas team outperforming Houston team, being a competitive nature; it was a personal challenge not to let it happen again. Our first task was to participate in Dallas T20 in July 2013; the whole idea was to assemble the best guys from Houston. Our plan took a sharp turn when top 7 guys were unavailable due to prior commitments or personal engagements. That is when we decided to assemble the professional cricketers from the country and abroad.

First request of branding came in from the teammates Hussain Haider and Moazzam Imtiaz who were willing to change their name to Smart Choice Florida as they saw the value in promoting their players under a professional umbrella.

Members of Smart Choice warm up before a game during the MAQ T20 tournament which was held in December, 2013. Photo by Shiek Mohamed

Correspondent: What triggered for Smart Choice New Jersey?
Sakhi Muhammad: I have to give all the credit to Noman Iftikhar and Adeel Khan who took the initiative to expand the brand. One single thing which impressed me the most was that Stars Cricket Club was highly recommended and praised by so many people for their sportsmanship. After all this game was and still should be a gentlemen’s game.  A true cricketer and a club will always respect the opposition, avoids personal attacks, you can say anything to own players to encourage and pump them but no words should ever be used to put the opposition down. I am excited to be part of Smart Choice New Jersey and hope management continues with the policies to be competitive in the field and be loved with their dealings off the field.

Correspondent: What is the idea behind expanding the Smart Choice franchise to different states and countries?
Sakhi Muhammad: Since our Director PR, Fahim Malik, moved to Pakistan to help and expand his reputable family business, we chose to look into the possibilities of starting a Grade 2 Team and hoping to make to First Class in 2-5 years. We will be working with Pakistan Cricket Board to finalize Smart Choice Pakistan.

Correspondent: Thank you both for taking the time to answer our questions. We look forward for this partnership to flourish and maybe set a precedent which will change the structure of cricket in our local leagues.