Chaos for Yorkshire as quarter-final postponed
A gaffe in paperwork has thrown Yorkshire's Twenty20 Cup campaign into chaos, forcing the postponement of their crucial quarter-final clash against Durham at Chester-le-Street, when Yorkshire's 17-year-old offspinner, Azeem Rafiq, was deemed by the ECB to be ineligible to play.
Rafiq, a former England Under-15 captain and the youngest to have played in the Twenty20 Cup, represented Yorkshire against Nottinghamshire at Trent Bridge on June 27, helping to lift the club into the quarter-finals. However, two hours before their match today against Durham at Chester-le-Street, the ECB called it off when it transpired that Rafiq, who came to Pakistan about seven years ago, was not registered to play first-class cricket. Furthermore, his presence in the country was also under question as he doesn't hold a British passport.
Should Yorkshire's game against Nottinghamshire be made null and void, the ECB's Cricket Discplinary Committee could replay it.
"ECB made it clear to both counties that in view of the alleged ineligibility of Azeem Rafiq that it was possible that the panel could order the replay of any match or matches which could affect any quarter-final," a press release from the ECB said. "The ECB are convening a meeting of the panel as a matter of urgency so that any relevant matches will be played before Twenty20 finals day at Southampton on July 26, 2008."
According to a disconsolate Martyn Moxon, the Yorkshire coach, Rafiq's mistake was to miss a minor point on one of his forms. "Obviously it's a very complicated set of rules," he told Sky Sports. "As I understand it he was on our list as [a player] but as an academy player rather than a full-time player. He needed to have signed a piece of paper that he agrees to sign a rules and regulations of the ECB. Unfortunately he [didn't sign it] and that's where the problem arose. Since then it appears his status in the country [is also] under question.
"The problem then was that the player is not qualified as an English cricketer, so if Yorkshire had applied for registration, they would have had to de-register Rana Naved [the Pakistani allrounder] to be able to play Azeem Rafiq in the game against Nottinghamshire.
"Clearly there is a precedent from a Worcestershire-Gloucestershire game where a match was replayed, but the panel has wide-ranging powers and that can lead into all sorts of areas - whether that be fines, disqualification, replaying the match, it is up to the panel to determine."
A point of confusion, if not concern, is the delay in the ECB's handling of the matter. Moxon implied that the board knew of the situation 24 hours after their match against Nottinghamshire but David Collier, the ECB's chief executive, insisted that the affair only came to their attention early this morning.
"The fact was, we didn't know - we pointed it out to Yorkshire in terms of his ineligibility. That was only found out very first thing this morning," he said. "It was found out from our own internal department who were checking on players' registrations, and it did not appear there was registration with this player [Rafiq]."
The consequences are complicated, not only for Yorkshire but for Nottinghamshire and Glamorgan who could suddenly be handed a lifeline into the quarter-finals should Yorkshire be thrown out of the competition. It was a possibility to which Moxon appeared to be resigned. "As I understand it there's going to be some kind of hearing," he said, "so we're hanging on by our fingernails at the moment."
Durham had sold 6000 tickets for today which will now need to be refunded. "Through no fault of our own, and without feeling too sorry for ourselves, we seem to be suffering all round," said Geoff Cook, the Durham coach. "We have to wait until the process is sorted out between Nottinghamshire, Yorkshire and, I think, Glamorgan, and then we will expect to play the winners here at the Riverside. It's very complicated, very sad for the game and very sad for the competition. I feel very sorry for the lad involved."