“I was playing club cricket this time last year. To be where I am now is quite a nice place.”
Yorkshire’s fledgling leg-spinner Jafer Chohan has been speaking about his impressive rise to be part of the ongoing Hundred competition with Southern Brave.
Chohan signed his first professional contract at the start of the year, a one-year rookie deal at Headingley having impressed for Berkshire in National Counties Cricket and with the South Asian Cricket Academy.
He has since impressed significantly at Headingley and has penned his first full senior pro contract, for the next two years.
The deal was announced on his 21st birthday last month, hot on the heels of an ever-present Blast campaign in which he claimed five wickets. He returned spells of 1-13, 1-14 and 1-16 and deserved more.
“That was one thing I was a bit frustrated with – that I didn’t get as many wickets as I’d have liked,” reflected the Londoner. “But that’s just how cricket is. One day you can bowl well and not get any wickets, another you can bowl poorly and pick up a few.
“It’s just about being patient. I can’t afford to search for wickets because that’s when you’ll get hit around.”
There isn’t much else Chohan need be frustrated about. As he said, this time last year, he was playing for Geddington in the Northamptonshire Premier League.
Now, he is the beneficiary of a wildcard pick for the Hundred, where he is in a Brave squad coached by former Yorkshire and New Zealand batter Stephen Fleming. Team-mates include Matthew Fisher, Tim David, Chris Jordan, Finn Allen and Rehan Ahmed.
England leggie Ahmed is Brave’s senior spinner, meaning Chohan has been sat on the sidelines for the first couple of games. But he is far from disheartened.
“I don’t know if I’m going to get any games, but I’m here for a month with some of the best players in the world. Stephen Fleming is also a new coaching voice, which is nice,” continued Chohan.
“I’m just trying to make the most of this opportunity. When you’re training with these players, it sharpens your game.”
Chohan went on: “At the back of my mind, when I first signed for Yorkshire, playing in the Hundred was something I wanted to do.
“It’s a competition where all the best domestic players are – you get some fantastic players from around the world as well. But I didn’t think it was anything more than an outside chance of getting picked up.
“To be here now, it’s pretty cool.”
On the face of it, you would say that targeting the Hundred immediately after signing a rookie deal shows a great deal of confidence. But that’s not necessarily the case, admits Chohan.
“That was one part of my game which was lacking. I had ability, but I didn’t have any confidence in that ability,” he said. “I’ve had to really work on it over the last few years, really building that confidence.
“I’m constantly setting goals for myself to keep moving forwards and pushing on. I want to get the best out of myself. And to do that, I need to be confident in my ability.
“It took quite a bit of time – a good four years of slowly progressing.
“It helps when you’re doing well, obviously, and I’ve had some good performances over the last couple of years.
“Before that, the biggest thing is body language. Not only does that have an impact on what other people think about you, it also has a massive impact on yourself.
“To start, it was fake it to make it – chest out, head up and looking confident. Now, it’s become more natural and a part of me, especially on a cricket pitch.
“Also having different approaches to my cricket has been key to that.
“I don’t want to put myself under too much pressure and just enjoy it.
“I’ve wanted to play professional cricket my whole life, so I just want to enjoy it. You don’t know how long it’s going to last. That mindset has helped a great deal.”
Last month, Chohan, who is yet to make his red ball debut for the county despite being in the squad for June’s win over Derbyshire at Chesterfield, signed his new two-year contract at Headingley on his 21st birthday.
“That was really nice, to feel like I’ve got the backing of the club,” he said. “I’ve signed for another two years, and it’s given me a lot of comfort. But I can’t get ahead of myself and comfortable. I need to work hard to improve.”
On his maiden Blast campaign, he said: “I went into it with no expectations. For a first Blast, I was pretty happy with how I bowled. I hadn’t played any second-team T20s, so I was thrown into it and had to learn on the job.
“I was quite happy with how I bowled, and I felt more and more like I belong at that level as the tournament went on.”
Chohan’s development whilst with Yorkshire has been aided by players and coaches alike.
England leg-spinner Adil Rashid is one. Bowling coach Kabir Ali is another.
“Rash has been great, and I’ve also been working with his brother Amar,” added Chohan.
“Rash is someone I’ve always looked up to, not only as an English leg-spinner but someone of Pakistani heritage as well. He’s made me feel growing up that the goal is attainable. It’s been really nice to spend some time with him.
“Kabby has been great. He’s very much aware that bowling leg-spin is an individual thing, so he hasn’t wanted to tinker around too much with the technical side of things.
“For us, it’s been more talking about plans to batters, setting fields. That’s been really good.
“He’s great in filling with you loads of confidence.”