Darren Gough says he expects Yorkshire’s Lahore Qalandars style open trials to take place at some point in August.
The county’s interim managing director of cricket travelled out to Lahore last week as part of a county delegation including senior and pathway coaches Kabir Ali and Mohammad Azharullah and Amna Rafiq, the Yorkshire Cricket Board’s clubs and community development manager.
They witnessed, and got involved in, Lahore’s famous trial process which aims to pick out diamonds in the rough.
Pakistan fast bowler, and Yorkshire’s current overseas star, Haris Rauf was discovered that way having only ever played tape ball cricket on the streets of Rawalpindi. Shaheen Shah Afridi and Fakhar Zaman are other notable names.
Yorkshire have a link-up with Lahore, as they also do with South African side the Titans, and are hoping to unearth similar gems – both male and female.
“It was fascinating to see how it works out there,” said former England fast bowler Gough.
“To see how many turned up at four days notice from hours and hours and hours away was unbelievable. Some took a train which took two days from Karachi just for that opportunity to impress.
“It’s quite brutal because there are that many thousand who come to it.
“They have about 10-12 coaches who make a call pretty quickly on each individual.
“A bowler, for example, only gets three balls initially, and it goes in stages.
“The first bit is how they shape up. It doesn’t have to be technique, but whether they’ve got some kind of hand-eye co-ordination and things like that.
“Then they go to the next stage, which is a bit more intense. They bat a bit longer and bowl longer.
“Then they go to the last stage, which is the probably the last 40 or 50 people. And they pick 10 from there who go on to represent Lahore Qalandars on a tour and get a scholarship.
“From that, three go on to play for the Qalandars in the next PSL.
“It’s a huge opportunity for those people, and it was great to be there and experience it.”
Gough described the talent aiming to shine in Lahore as “raw”.
“It doesn’t actually matter if you hit the side net,” he said. “If you can bowl at 88 miles an hour, you’ve obviously got something there, some natural ability, to work with.
“Some had never even worn spikes before. They’d just bowled in trainers.
“I was there quite a few hours and picked out a couple, although not purely myself.
“I picked out one lad who had a Malinga style action. He hit the side net three times in five balls. But, on the speed gun, he made it up to 88 mph in trainers.
“When they put spikes on him, he couldn’t let the ball go and kept bowling beamers. But he clearly had something they could work with.
“I also saw a left-handed batter, who looked good to me, and I think he made the final 10.”
Gough continued: “I expect ours to be slightly different. I think most people who we see will have some sort of cricketing ability and will have played but perhaps been missed by the system.
“I’d like to think August will be the month we can do it. That’s why we went, to see how it worked. Now we’ll put our heads together and plan it.”
Northern Diamonds director of cricket James Carr was also due to travel to Lahore last week alongside Yorkshire Academy head coach James Lowe and James Martin of the YCB. But visa delays prevented their involvement.
“I expect we’ll have to do it slightly differently for the women,” said Gough. “That might be more coming to nets and coaching sessions over a period of time. That just depends on the demand.
“But it’s an opportunity, lads and girls – they have to be over 16, for people to come from anywhere and show us how good they are.
“I’m sure there’s some talent out there. I’m convinced of it.
“It doesn’t matter if they’re 24, 25 or 26. If they’re good enough, we’ll take a look.
“Look, our pathway and Academy works. You only have to look at how many players have gone on to play for England to know that. But there are others out there in Yorkshire and nationwide.
“There will be those who have got to 21 and thought, ‘I’m not going to get in now, I’ve missed the boat’. I don’t agree with that. If you’re good enough and 26, why can’t you have five years as a first-class cricketer?
“We’re opening it up to everyone.
“Anybody nationwide can come, but they can’t be attached to another county. We can’t go nicking Warwickshire’s or Middlesex’s players, for example. But anyone who is not connected, of course. Come along.”
If the dates fit, Gough will seek scouting help from the Lahore Qalandars’ coaching staff, added to Yorkshire’s talented group of coaches.
“I will head it up, but I can’t see every player. So our coaches will have to be harsh,” he added. “We could get 50, we could get 500. We just don’t know because I don’t think anything’s been done like this before in the UK.
“It’s going to be very interesting to see how it all works out.”