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Frustrated Rafiq to leave Yorkshire

David Hopps

August 16, 2014

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Azeem Rafiq added a half-century partnership with Gary Ballance, Yorkshire v Warwickshire, County Championship, Division One, Headingley, 1st day, August 2, 2013
Azeem Rafiq's opportunities with Yorkshire have been limited © Getty Images
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Azeem Rafiq, once regarded as a potential Yorkshire captain, will leave the county at the end of the season after failing to build on his T20 speciality by making an impact in all forms of the game.

Rafiq was a regular member of Yorkshire's NatWest Blast t20 side, his mid-overs partnership with Adil Rashid regarded as a key component of Yorkshire's side, but Yorkshire still failed to qualify for the quarterfinals and Rafiq has been otherwise unoccupied as he has failed to break into the 50 over or Championship sides.

Yorkshire have high expectations for Kyle Carver, an England U19 left-arm spinner, as well as another England U19 allrounders, Will Rhodes, who is also ambitious for more opportunities at senior level. Financial pressures, however, mean they are unlikely to be pursue any major transfers after showing a vague interest in Will Gidman for a time but missing out to Nottinghamshire.

Rafiq will be a good acquisition for a Second Division Championship side with Worcestershire, Derbyshire and Leicestershire - the latter now committed to trying to make more of an impact among Leicester's high Asian population - likely to be among those interested.

His tactical acumen was recognised when he stood in in for Andrew Gale, who was injured at the time, in T20 in 2012. Yorkshire won five of the six matches he took charge of, with the other abandoned. He became Yorkshire's first captain of Asian descent, the role suiting his assertive personality. He also won a place on an England Performance Programme trip to India in that same year.

Rafiq's offspin, though, has not developed as he would wish and he has become impatient for progress this season after a frustrating absence with a knee injury in 2013. That dissatisfaction was a little too apparent at times and regular cricket elsewhere would offer him a chance to begin anew and reflect on how he can best fulfil his leadership potential.

His decision to leave the county illustrates the difficulty of playing county cricket as a T20 specialist - an issue that could yet affect more reputable players, such as Lancashire's England one-day spinner Stephen Parry.

Parry's lack of Championship cricket means that he spends half the season underutilised and therefore cannot attract the sort of salary he would gain with a more regular role elsewhere, nor indeed have the opportunity to reach his full potential.

Rafiq, born in Karachi, raised in Barnsley, played 25 first-class matches, 20 List A matches and 60 T20 games since making his debut in a T20 match at Trent Bridge as a 17-year-old in 2008. Through no fault of his own, he was deemed ineligible to play in the game due to passport and registration issues. Yorkshire had just taken him along for the ride but were shocked to find an old Trent Bridge pitch designed for spinners. They played Rafiq without reflecting on the paperwork and were subsequently thrown out of the competition.

He played a crucial role in the Club's promotion season of 2012 and was integral in the final match against Essex, where he made a fifty in both innings and took 8 for 115 with the ball.

"I am naturally sad to be leaving the club," Rafiq said. "I am hopeful that the chance to get more regular first team opportunities under my belt will help continue my development and is the best thing for my cricket at this stage of my career. I am a proud Yorkshire fan and I have thoroughly enjoyed my time on the staff."

David Hopps is the UK editor of ESPNcricinfo

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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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