Zafar Shahaan Ansari
December 10, 1991, Ascot, Berkshire
Left hand bat
Slow left arm orthodox
"Cricket is not the end for me. My life isn't directed towards it. Cricket is a part of my life." Very few professional cricketers dare to say that in the 21st century, offering as it does an open invitation to coaches and supporters to suspect that their talent is not being maximised. But Zafar Ansari was prepared to say it and he proved true to his word when he announced his retirement early in the 2017 season just a few months after making his Test debut
England's shortage of spinners of proven pedigree worked in his favour when he was summoned to the winter Test tours of Bangladesh and India in 2016 as another batsman-spinner option alongside Moeen Ali. He was not a big turner of the ball, but his cerebral left-arm slows got an airing on a Test debut in Chittagong. There were further caps, too, in the first two Tests of the India series, but with five wickets in all to his name, and only 49 runs, he succumbed to a back injury and was replaced by Liam Dawson midway through the tour. Even then, those who knew him or had been around him sensed he may want more - or different things - out of life.
Ansari was richly talented. He excels at music and school and took his double-first at Cambridge seriously. But cricket had become his chosen career. Having come through the Surrey academy system as a left-arm-spinning allrounder he signed a full contract before the 2011 season after making his first-team debut in the CB40 the previous summer.
His first notable outing of 2011 came when, while playing for Cambridge University against Surrey, he dismissed Kevin Pietersen on his way to 5 for 33. He was rewarded with a Twenty20 debut a month later against Essex, where he starred with an unbeaten 30 from 18 balls before a tidy spell helped win Surrey the game and Ansari the Man of the Match award.
But it was in Championship cricket that Ansari has made his biggest impact. He emerged as an opening batsman of guts and old-fashioned defensive solidity before dropping into the middle order in later seasons. In 2014, he topped 1000 first-class runs at a distinctly un-21st century strike rate of 36. His left-arm spin was used primarily on wearing pitches in the second innings. Add in his sprightly fielding, and Ansari was a cricketer of resourcefulness and unusual maturity. He had been touted as a future Surrey captain.
Ansari made an England ODI debut in a weakened XI against Ireland in Malahide at the start of the 2015 season - Peter Moores' farewell as England coach. But for a badly broken thumb, he could have made a Test debut for England against Pakistan in the UAE in the autumn of that year, but hours after his selection was announced he was injured fielding at cover against Lancashire at Old Trafford. An operation followed and although the injury troubled him during the 2016 season, one year on he was again part of England's Test squad for the tour of Bangladesh. However, it soon became clear Ansari was about more than runs and wickets.
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