County news May 25, 2004

Yorkshire select first home-grown Asian player

Wisden Cricinfo staff

One of Yorkshire's biggest difficulties in recent years has been their inability to tap the huge Asian population in the county. They have faced criticism for not doing enough to encourage Asians to come through the ranks, but on Sunday 18-year-old Ajmal Shahzad became the first British-born Asian to play for the county.

His debut did not set the world on fire - he took 0 for 35 in six overs against Worcestershire at Headingley and made 5 - but for the county's officials, it represented a major landmark.

Geoff Cope, the director of cricket, said that it was a huge day for Yorkshire. "We have a reputation for allegedly not being helpful towards the Asian community," he told The Guardian. "That's something we have always very strongly denied. Now we have Ajmal playing and we have several other Asian lads in the academy. They will look on today, see that Ajmal has had his chance and think perhaps they will get theirs shortly."

Huddersfield-born Shahzad's performance impressed Cope. "He has not been overawed by the occasion and bowled fairly well on his first opportunity. Now he realises the goal he has to achieve to play at the level that he is demanding."

Shahzad, who was picked for England Under-19s last summer, told the BBC that while the result was disappointing, "it was awesome walking out at Headingley, especially with the huge response I got from the crowd. There's plenty of Asians coming through now and I'm just happy that I'm one of them. I think more will follow."

Shahzad is coached by the former Surrey and England allrounder Graham Roope. "He is far too mature for most schoolboy opponents of his age," Roope explained. "And he can bat very well in addition to being a fearsome bowler."

The only other Asian cricketers to play for Yorkshire have been the Indian internationals Sachin Tendulkar and Yuvraj Singh.

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