July 27, 1985, Huddersfield, Yorkshire
Right hand bat
Right arm fast medium
Woodhouse Grove School, Bradford University
Ajmal Shahzad, Huddersfield-born and Bradford-raised, made cricket history on May 23, 2004 when he became the first British-born Asian to play for Yorkshire. Adil Rashid's Championship debut two years later - another landmark for Yorkshire players of Pakistani stock - attracted more attention, but between them Shahzad and Rashid changed the perceptions of a county which had finally broadened its commitment and appeal.
A right-arm fast bowler and useful late middle-order batsman, Shahzad was a natural to break the mould. He had a sparky and strong-minded personality to go along with his talent and won plaudits for his displays at schoolboy level and for Yorkshire's Academy. Graham Roope, his school coach, said that he was "far too mature for most schoolboy opponents of his age, and he can bat very well in addition to being a fearsome bowler."
He was also a rare example of an English street cricketer, much in the Pakistan tradition. The neighbour's wall that he used to play cricket against turned out to house the president of Windhill CC in the Bradford League. He was invited to nets as a consequence - proof, if any more was needed, of the natural talent available to English cricket if horizons are broadened.
He endured a couple of slow seasons at Yorkshire as injuries restricted his development, and he managed only a solitary appearance in 2006, but having changed his action to avoid a repetition of his stress fracture and finally allied consistency to his undoubted talent, he was given a first-team chance following the promotion of Tim Bresnan to the national squad. He claimed 40 wickets and scored 445 runs for Yorkshire in their 2009 Championship campaign, and was subsequently named in England's Test squad for their tour to Bangladesh in February 2010, much to the player's own surprise. England saw pace, an ability to reverse swing the ball on dry surfaces and plentiful ambition.
The decisive factor in his call-up was an impressive stint with the England Performance Programme in South Africa a few months earlier, when he caught the eye of the senior management, including Andy Flower. With England opting to rest Stuart Broad for the home series against Bangladesh, Shahzad made his debut in the second Test at Old Trafford. "He looks like an impressive young man," said Flower, "and how well he does will be determined by himself."
That, though, marked a peak for Shahzad. Although he made occasional one-day international appearances - and was a reserve quick on the 2010-11 Ashes tour, seriously considered but ultimately not selected in Adelaide - he could not command a regular place in the side and drifted out of contention after the 2011 World Cup through a mixture of form and injury. Domestically, life also became difficult. He was released by Yorkshire - who cited issues with his team spirit - and was taken on loan by Lancashire for the rest of 2012 season. When Lancashire were relegated that summer, and wavwered over whether to offer him a full-time deal, he opted to move to Nottinghamshire in an attempt to revive his career.
Eight months on, Shahzad had asked enough questions of himself to conclude that his Yorkshire departure was a divorce with faults on both sides. But while he accepted he was "stubborn" in the way he resisted Yorkshire's attempts to curb his natural instincts as a bowler, he was far from repentant, insisting that he remained an attacking bowler best suited to chasing wickets by intimidating batsmen with short, sharp bursts and plentiful yorkers and skiddy bouncers. A holding role was not for him.
Only 22 Championship wickets at nearly 50 in 2013 did nothing to support his conviction that he knew his own strengths. He also admitted to being "infuriated" when he was told he would miss out in the YB40 final at Lord's because Stuart Broad, Notts' England quick, was available for the final. But Jake Ball, Notts' hero of the semifinal, succumbed to injury and Shahzad was spared. Three wickets in the YB final at Lord's as Nottinghamshire beat Glamorgan finally gave him something to smile about. Notts' appointment of Andy Pick as their bowling coach ahead of the 2014 season gave Shahzad another chance to find the mentor he so desperately needed.
Instead, he prospered more in one-day cricket than the four-day game and Sussex became his fourth county in slightly more than two years as he looked to Mark Robinson, the county's coach, to resurrect an England career, that at 28, many presumed to be behind him. A career-best five-for in early season against Worcestershire suggested Sussex could rehabilitate him, as they had done others, but injury limited him to only five Championship games.
The move did not go entirely to plan with Shahzad's form and fitness patchy. He left Sussex in the middle of the 2017 season, by mutual agreement, adamant even then, at 31, that he still had much to offer.
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