A student of the game is a well known phrase the sporting world over. For Yorkshire trio Jafer Chohan, Harry Duke and Yash Vagadia, however, they are more students in the game.
This summer, the threesome – all now members of the county’s first-team squad – will combine their cricket with University studies.
Leg-spinner Chohan and batter Vagadia both signed rookie contracts at Headingley either side of Christmas and are studying at Loughborough and Durham University respectively. They are yet to make their first-team debuts with the county.
Wicketkeeper batter Duke, meanwhile, has been in the first-team picture for a couple of years and has played across all three formats.
“I’m studying International Relations,” said Chohan. “I’m in my second year, so there’s one more after this.”
Vagadia said: “I’m at Durham University studying a joint honours in biology and chemistry. It’s my first year, so just into it.”
And Duke added: “I’m in my second year of a Business Management degree at Leeds University, so just down the road from Headingley.”
One thing for sure, you wouldn’t get much past that keeper and slips cordon!
All three are splitting their time between study and training, with Chohan and Vagadia living in the East Midlands and North East respectively.
“I’m coming into Yorkshire to train twice a week and am training at Loughborough two to three times a week on top of that,” explained Chohan.
“When I come into Yorkshire is dependent on what I’ve got on in terms of lectures or exams.”
Vagadia said: “I go into Headingley once a week, and the rest of my training’s done at Uni.
“I have six optional cricket sessions a week.
“Even if I don’t go to Headingley because I’m too busy, I could train six times a week at Uni for two hours at a time in a perfect facility where you can get all the machines you would at Yorkshire.”
Chohan, 20, only joined Yorkshire last month having impressed playing for the South Asian Cricket Academy and Berkshire as well as catching the eye of Joe Root in a net session whilst the England star trained at Loughborough.
He has given Yorkshire his “full availability” from the start of the summer and plans to go on pre-season tour to Cape Town next month.
“Being at Loughborough, it’s not unusual for them to have people in pro sport. They are very well set up for it,” he continued.
“I’ve been in touch with my lecturers, and there’s a lot of support to make sure I keep up to date with work and even get ahead before the season starts.
“Luckily all my lectures are recorded, so I can watch them on line any time I want. If I need feedback or help, I can get in touch with lecturers.
“I’m used to it because I was at boarding school when I was at the Middlesex Academy. That was a bigger Academic workload than I’ve got now with GCSEs and A-Levels.
“That’s helped me manage my time.
“Yorkshire have also been very supportive.
“I’ve had exams over the last week, and Yorkshire said, ‘You focus on your exams for a week, you’ve trained plenty so don’t come in’.
“That’s been fantastic to have that.”
Chohan’s main aim is to reach the top at cricket, though this gives him a back-up plan for now and something to turn to once he hangs up his boots.
“I’m really interested in travel, which is a big part of wanting to play cricket,” he said.
“With my course, I’ve always wanted to work for NGOs (Non-Government Organisations) and travel across the world doing charity work and things like that.
“That’s definitely something I’d love to do when I finish cricket.
“I’m also massively into food. Having my own business in that industry – having a restaurant – is something I’ve always wanted to do.
“Africa is a place which really interests me. You’ve got cricket in the South, and with the poverty out there it means there’s lots of charity opportunities.
“But I’ve got Pakistani heritage, and I haven’t been back for a long time. To go back there and do some charity work, where there’s lots of under-privileged kids. That’s something that would mean a lot to me.”
Depending on county commitments, we could see Chohan and Vagadia turning out for their MCCU teams in early season friendlies against counties.
“There are some games I could play for Loughborough,” added Chohan.
“Berkshire will also have some T20s at the start of the year, so I’m hoping I can go and play in those as well because Yorkshire have a lot of red ball cricket early on and I think it would be good to work on my skills in both formats.”
Eighteen-year-old Vagadia confirmed: “That’s the plan. We have some warm-up games against the counties, so if I’m not selected for Yorkshire that’s where I will be playing.”
One thing that comes across when speaking to all three players is that it is beneficial to have two things to concentrate on.
Duke, 21, said: “It’s actually helped me make the most of each training session because I know that two hours later I could be sat in a seminar with my head in books.
“It’s been a bit of a challenge balancing it all, but I’m really enjoying it.”
While Chohan and Duke have been used to Uni life for nearly a year and a half, Vagadia is only a few months in.
“It’s been a lot tougher than I expected,” he said. “It’s a lot of work. Uni expects me to do a 40-hour week every week, and then I have my cricket on top of that. But it’s been going well so far.
“I’ve got into a good rhythm. It was a shock at the start with how much work I had, but I’m into the swing of it now.”
Vagadia had a good summer in 2022, playing for home club Hartlepool in the North Yorkshire South Durham Premier League and enjoying personal and team success with the Yorkshire Academy and the second team.
He scored 1,385 runs in all cricket, enjoying a much more productive second half of the summer.
When you look at his list of scores, it throws up an interesting topic of discussion with a player who was studying for and undertaking his A-Level exams through April and May.
While May was far from disastrous, with him scoring two fifties for the seconds and Hartlepool, he did have a number of low scores.
Was that a product of having exams to worry about?
“It was perhaps a bit of that, but it was more so that I was in a bit of bad form,” he reasoned.
“No doubt, it helps when you have your exams out of the way. It makes you relax. I did have some good scores, just not as many as I wanted.
“I can see why that assumption’s made, for sure, with more on your plate.
“I think it was a mixture of being busy and not batting as well as I wanted to.”
Vagadia says he took on a joint honours degree because he was unsure what he would want a non-cricketing career to look like.
“As I’ve got into it, I’ve got into sustainability stuff with climate change and have quite enjoyed it. I wouldn’t mind starting a business in that field if I got the chance,” he added.
“I would also be interested in working in Finance, something related to that.”
For now, though, the main aim for Vagadia, Chohan and Duke will be to count runs, wickets, catches and – of course – trophies. It is clear Yorkshire and the Universities in question are doing everything to support their goals.