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Shahzad lacked team spirit - Graves

David Hopps

May 3, 2012

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Ajmal Shahzad celebrates taking a wicket, Yorkshire v Kent, County Championship, Headingley, 2nd day, April 6, 2012
Yorkshire believe they have done all they can to integrate Ajmal Shahzad © Getty Images
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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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Posted by Metro-ant on (May 5, 2012, 10:37 GMT)

i agree with @crekeetman are they saying that the great bowlers like michael holding, geoff thompson and big bird and dennis lillee were all "disciplined" fast bowlers? He's only 27 this year therefore he is at fast bowler's peak age! the main focus of the great fast bowlers back in the day was that cricket was the batsman's game and we're gonna give them hell in the middle but hey we are talking about YORKSHIRE...... if you know what I mean

Posted by   on (May 5, 2012, 3:17 GMT)

Shahzad's attitude reminds me of Shoaib Akhtar's. As a captain and coach you just dread having such players around and yet you want them in your team as they can contribute significantly towards winning matches . Shahzad needs to come down to earth if he wants to continue to play competitive cricket. A talk with the likes of Umer Gul, Waseem Akram, or Saqlain Mushtaq should help.

Posted by AdrianVanDenStael on (May 4, 2012, 17:46 GMT)

Well if Yorkshire manage to continue their dominance of Leicestershire in their current fixture they will feel that they are in a state similar to "Nirvana". However, all this talk of "team spirit" "smells".

Posted by bumsonseats on (May 4, 2012, 14:49 GMT)

i suppose the whiterose coach should know about not singing from the same hymn sheet. during the 2005 ashes he was the weak link,as england carted him all over the place. joking aside hes a senior player and i dont think it would have hurt them to give him his head.the yorkies as i see it, want to keep a lid on all players who either speak or act out of line.yorkies loss is other counties gain,the red rose i hope come in for him. but perhaps a year to early for them due to money worries.but i expect them to return to the black big time in the following years. as the latest ground refurbishment is looking good.

Posted by AdrianVanDenStael on (May 4, 2012, 14:42 GMT)

The way cricket coaches and players try to manage the media these days, they seem to me to sound more like football managers and politicians every day. Of course Yorkshire are going to try to "spin" their explanation of why Shahzad's leaving by trying to put all their blame on him by suggesting that he wasn't a team player. They don't care if this makes it harder for Shahzad to get another county, SGGH12, because they've no interest in him any longer. I remember Lancashire saying pretty much the same about Chris Schofield when they parted company with him (there are other parallels in terms of each having played a couple of tests and having on-field discipline problems). But ultimately all of this "spin" is entirely predictable (and I'm not talking about Schofield's bowling there); this is exactly what it is in Yorkshire's interest (and that of Lancashire before them) to have people believe about the player they've lost. Whether one believes any of that or not is a matter of opinion.

Posted by SGGH12 on (May 4, 2012, 13:53 GMT)

How is Shahzad supposed to get a county contract now that his former county have branded him a non-team player?

Posted by R_U_4_REAL_NICK on (May 4, 2012, 13:30 GMT)

Classic case of catch-22 here, and I think Charlie Sutton is spot-on! Bowling in cricket is very much a team effort; easy example would be McGrath+Warne combo: McGrath created pressure with his nagging line-and-length, while Warne attacked and forced mistakes. If Shahzad consistently thinks he can just blast-through batting line-ups alone without a team gameplan, then Yorkshire have done the right thing here. Young, naive fast bowlers often just think "the faster I bowl, the more wickets I'll get!" - when in reality, without discipline and game planning, faster bowling = faster off the bat and quicker to the fence for 4's and 6's!

Posted by   on (May 4, 2012, 13:11 GMT)

To Graves last question, I think Andy Flower will be the best person to answer (to tell him what Shahzad is really worth). But I am fully with Shazhad in this. I have seen him bowl and he is really an exciting talent. He does not have the height, so he has to find different ways of getting wickets. Player is always bigger than county cause his aim is to play at the country level.

Posted by Abaa on (May 4, 2012, 12:56 GMT)

MostCulturedAussieLesPatterson: I believe his question was when were England dismal at T20? Because they never were ... T20 Champions and inaugral number 1 in the format as per the official rankings. ODI different ball game. Ups and downs but most recently whitewashed Pakistan after being whitewashed by India. But England are the T20 champs. So it was a ridiculous statement made by ZaynKhan90

Posted by Big_Chikka on (May 4, 2012, 12:19 GMT)

Angry, fast bowlers are in short supply. Someone wants to bowl attacking lines, lengths and take wickets, get back into the national side and cannot be accomodated by his county. Why? He was praised by the Aussie coach a few days ago. doesn't make sense to simply say he's not a team player, it wouldn't have taken YCCC that long to understand him, he's been there years. Sounds like a case of forcing a player to curtail his passion and desire to contribute more to the team because............................. well thats the bit I'd love to understand? Is someone else is fulfilling that role? Is it that he's not capable?...(Graves seems to think so by suggesting he's not won many matches for YCCC). Do tell....allowing so much speculation isn't healthy, as for the player well despite being at the elite level of his sport he's out a job right now. Sad for both the county and the player.

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David Hopps David Hopps joined ESPNcricinfo as UK editor early in 2012. For the previous 20 years he was a senior cricket writer for the Guardian and covered England extensively during that time in all Test-playing nations. He also covered four Olympic Games and has written several cricket books, including collections of cricket quotations. He has been an avid amateur cricketer since he was 12, and so knows the pain of repeated failure only too well. The pile of untouched novels he plans to read, but rarely gets around to, is now almost touching the ceiling. He divides his time between the ESPNcricinfo office in Hammersmith and his beloved Yorkshire.
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