County news May 3, 2012

Shahzad lacked team spirit - Graves

Ajmal Shahzad is free to leave by Yorkshire because he is a strong-willed individual whose reluctance to accept team discipline has caused an irrevocable breakdown in relations, according to Yorkshire's chairman, Colin Graves, and director of cricket, Martyn Moxon.

"Cricket is a team game and Yorkshire is bigger than everybody," Graves said as he acted to counter criticism of Yorkshire's ability to lose an England fast bowler only one month into a new season. "I am not prepared to have somebody playing for Yorkshire who does not want to be part of the team. All the comments I have heard from Ajmal are about him, not about the team. And as far as I am concerned, cricket is a team game. There is no point having a player where he doesn't want to be."

As first reported on ESPNcricinfo, Shahzad's stormy relationship with Yorkshire had been a prolonged one, with the disagreement over his bowling tactics leaving the county and player increasingly at loggerheads.

Shahzad saw himself as a free spirit, who should be allowed to bring his attacking inclinations to the fore with a rich diet of bouncers, yorkers and slower balls. Yorkshire, much in the manner of England, wanted a more disciplined fast bowler dedicated to building pressure. The new coach, Jason Gillespie, was unable to win Shahzad over.

Whichever county signs Shahzad, or takes him on loan until the end of the season, should be aware that they have an attacking bowler on their hands who will not easily be regimented. Perhaps some suitors will accept that quite happily.

Graves called a clear-the-air meeting with Shahzad, his agent Neil Fairbrother and Yorkshire's coaching staff at Headingley on Tuesday after receiving reports of Shahzad's discontent during a Championship match against Kent at Canterbury and that he had voiced his intention to leave at the end of the season.

"I decided the best thing to do was to bring this to a head," he said. "I listened to everybody - I sat quietly for 40 minutes which is unusual for me - and at the end of the day I turned round and said there was no way forward. We were back where we were last season, everybody else was wrong and Ajmal had his own ideas. This is a team game. I am not prepared to have someone playing for Yorkshire who does not want to be part of the team.

"He was unhappy with the situation last year on the coaching side and we are three matches into this year, with a new set-up, and we still have a problem. We decided it was the best thing, if he didn't want to be around next year, and he was unhappy this year, that he should leave. We don't want ongoing management problems with one person."

Moxon is offended by implications that Yorkshire's approach has been insensitive. Insensitive perhaps not: abrupt definitely. "I am absolutely gutted that we are losing somebody with Ajmal's potential," Moxon said. "I have told him how highly I rate him many times. We have tried to do everything we can do to accommodate him and make him happy playing his cricket at Yorkshire. However we feel that the issue has gone beyond repairable.

"We would not be letting him go if we did not feel it was better for both parties to part. What we do want is an amicable separation. We do not want to be slagging each other off in the media.

"This is all about Ajmal's cricket and where he wants to pursue his career. The club and the staff have bent over backwards for several years now to try to satisfy Ajmal and how he wants to play his cricket but it has become clear that we will not get the best out of him at Yorkshire.

"Obviously when there is a parting of the ways then something is not right. It is about how he sees himself as a bowler. How we see him as a cricketer is exactly the same as the England management see him. Sometimes Ajmal doesn't agree with that. He has very strong views on how he sees himself. He wants to be doing lots of stuff. The last thing that a team needs is a player who is unhappy.

"Jason Gillespie has very strong ideas about what he wants the bowlers to do. If one bowler strays away from that plan, that bowler is not a team player. That is what we can't afford. There is no one person bigger than the team. We saw in 2010 when we were a tight unit we did well. When you have one or two people not singing from the same hymn sheet you have a problem. I was hoping that Jason would be able to come in and give Ajmal the backing, the encouragement, the advice and the nous that he wants, but he is a strong character and he has his own views."

The fact remains, however, that Yorkshire have false-started in their efforts to return to Division One at the first attempt. The Australia quick Mitchell Starc is due to arrive within the next few days and, if Shahzad finds a new county, more funds will be available. Will that money finance Headingley's debts or go on another bowling reinforcement? "We haven't even discussed it," Graves said.

Graves dismissed suggestions that Shahzad's departure will play badly in Yorkshire's Asian communities, where so much work has been done in the past decade to forge relationships. "As far as I am concerned I have worked with the Asian community for 40-odd years. I know the Asian community better than anybody. At the end of the day that community will be as disappointed as we are.

"I feel sorry for Martyn and for Andrew Gale who have worked strenuously for the past 12 months to try to make him part of the time. I really hope it works out for him. But how many matches has he won for Yorkshire?"

David Hopps is the UK editor of ESPNcricinfo

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