By Graham Hardcastle, ECB Reporters Network
Shadab Khan and Haris Rauf have revealed that a determination to help rebuild Yorkshire’s reputation was a key factor in signing overseas deals with the county.
Rauf played his final match in last night’s Vitality Blast defeat to Derbyshire Falcons, after enjoying a rare spell in red-ball cricket during the LV= Insurance County Championship, while Shadab will return to the club later in the Vitality Blast after flying out for his Pakistan commitments.
The duo depart having enjoyed a warm welcome at the White Rose county, both on and off the pitch, highlighted by a tapeball cricket event at Bradford this week when the pair were mobbed by 700 adoring fans asking for autographs and photos at every turn.
“I feel very proud,” Shadab said, during the community event. “We are used to it in Pakistan, but not England. I love the passion and energy of the fans here.”
Rauf, speaking through an interpreter – Yorkshire’s director of business development, Maroof Khan, added: “I am overwhelmed to see so many people. I didn’t expect this.
“For what Yorkshire is doing and where they are going, to have so many youngsters – boys and girls – here, it is an inspiration. That is what I was like as a youngster.”
Yorkshire’s troubles have been well document following the brave stance of Azeem Rafiq to make public the issues he faced during his playing career at the club.
The club has been cast into a period of much-needed change, led by new chair Lord Kamlesh Patel, with Shadab and Rauf both admitting they relished the opportunity to join Yorkshire to begin a new era.
“When I came here, everyone was excited – and back home as well,” said Shadab.
“The last year Yorkshire have had a struggling time. But it’s very good for me to play here now. I wanted to play county cricket. It’s my dream come true playing for Yorkshire.
“I had some offers, but I wanted to play for Yorkshire because I wanted to help them. They have so far been very good. I am enjoying it.
“It’s good to play because there is a new era starting and everyone is very excited.”
Shadab revealed he will be more than happy to advise any team-mates to join Yorkshire if given the opportunity.
“You see it on TV that everything is the wrong way, but when you come here and see the players it is totally different,” he said.
“Definitely, I will go back and tell people: ‘They are some of the nicest people I have met’.”
Rauf said: “For what has transpired in the past, they are learning from it and positive change is coming across.
“If me and Shadab being here can in any way help bring the community back to support them and chant ‘Yorkshire, Yorkshire’ all over again, that would mean a lot to me.
“For me, it was a no brainer to sign here. I have been received well, and it has been overwhelming.”
Rauf and Shadab were speaking during the community visit to Bradford Park Avenue, where Yorkshire and the county’s Foundation were hosting a family tapeball cricket event.
Tapeball cricket is huge in Pakistan, where bowlers try to bowl quick and batters try to whack it miles, and it is one which honed Rauf’s skills on the streets of Rawalpindi, first playing at the age of nine.
From there, the 28-year-old won through the famous Lahore Qalandars Development Programme trials.
“Tapeball is the reason I am where I am right now. I felt nostalgic, and it was like I had come full circle. I was itching to get out there and play again,” he smiled.
“At my best with a hard ball, I bowl at about 155kph, but I can go to 170 with a tapeball. When I bowl in tapeball cricket, it is hard to play!”
As a spinner, Shadab admits he is not best suited to tapeball. Though it has had its uses for the Islamabad United captain.
“It’s very big and it’s been brilliant for Pakistan. Most of our fast bowlers, like Haris, have come from tapeball cricket,” he said.
Both Haris and Shadab are now returning to Pakistan to take part in a three-match ODI series against the West Indies in Multan from June 8-12.
While Shadab will come back to finish the Blast with Yorkshire, Rauf’s spell at the club is over – for now.
“I will want to come back again (in the future),” added Rauf, who claimed a best of five for 65 in eight appearances.
“They are good team-mates, and we have had a lot of fun together over the last few weeks, with both players and coaches.
“It has been a pleasant change from playing ODI and T20s. I have not played the longer version of the game, but despite playing three or four games back to back, my body still feels in good shape.
“The new ball has behaved a bit differently. Take nothing away from the groundsmen, but I was hoping for a bit more juice in the wickets.
“But, in the long run, it will help me. My aim is to play Test cricket for Pakistan, and the collaboration between Yorkshire and the Lahore Qalandars has been fantastic for that.”