Jafer Chohan has been hailed a “brilliant talent” by the co-founder of the Academy where Yorkshire picked him up from earlier this year.
Tom Brown, the co-founder and managing director of the South Asian Cricket Academy, has heaped praise on the county’s rookie leg-spinner who is hoping to make his first-team debut in the forthcoming Vitality Blast.
That could, of course, come as early as Saturday evening in the televised North Group opener against Birmingham Bears at Edgbaston.
Before then, he could face a SACA side in a pair of second-team T20 friendlies at Weetwood tomorrow.
“I’m really, really hopeful that Jafer will play some white ball cricket for Yorkshire this year, and if he does I’m sure he will do very well,” said Brown.
“He’s a brilliant talent and a great guy as well. He could have gone anywhere and settled in beautifully. He’s a hard-working kid and a fantastic, highly-talented cricketer.
“At Middlesex, they might not have had room for him in terms of a skillset point of view. But I don’t think anyone was questioning his ability.
“He’s done well with Berkshire, who were the ones who put us in contact with him.
“He walked into our team last summer and got two-for in every game we played. When he joined, we only had white ball games left last season, and he looked the part with all three disciplines.”
Twenty-year-old Chohan, who impressed on Yorkshire’s pre-season tour to Cape Town in March, then claimed one wicket in three four-day matches for the second team at the start of this season – in one, against Worcestershire at Bradford last month, he didn’t bowl due to rain.
Only last weekend, he claimed 6-21 from 12 overs playing in the Bradford Premier League for Jer Lane, bowling Hanging Heaton out for just 96 in an eight-wicket win.
In the second of yesterday’s pair of second-team T20s against Leicestershire at Headingley, he then starred with 3-14 from 3.2 overs as the Foxes were bowled out for 86 as the hosts won by six wickets.
“I want to be playing in every format for Yorkshire,” said Chohan. “And my aim is to make a debut in every format this season.
“I know that white ball cricket is where my opportunities most likely lie initially, but I still have a lot of aspirations in red ball and to be the best overall cricketer I can be.”
Part of the reason that Chohan was offered a rookie deal at Headingley was that he had impressed Joe Root whilst bowling to him in the nets at Loughborough, where he is currently undertaking University studies.
An even bigger reason was the good work done by the team at SACA when Chohan was released from Middlesex, an Academy co-founded by Brown and current Yorkshire assistant coach Kabir Ali.
Brown continued: “If Jafer hadn’t have bowled at Joe Root, would things be different, would he have been signed? We can’t really rely on flukes like that happening.
“I’d like to think he would have because Kabs knew him well. But Joe’s seal of approval clearly went a long way.
“I also think he bowled at Darren Gough’s son a few years ago and did well against him. So even when he went to his son and asked about him, there was another tick.”
Chohan is one of seven players to have passed through SACA and gained county contracts, while another has been picked up by Cricket Scotland.
There are a couple of coaches who have come from SACA into county cricket, including Yorkshire’s former England fast bowler Ali, and others are in the Scottish pathway system.
SACA’s female programme has also borne fruit, with one of their players taken into Warwickshire’s EPP system.
Not bad for an Academy who, after laying foundations previously, only really started work in earnest last January.
“We were hesitant to put numbers on it, but between us we were really hoping to get one or two signed up by counties,” said Brown. “So to get six across our first summer’s worth of cricket and two winters was amazing (Arafat Bhuiyan was their seventh, signed by Kent earlier this week).
“We’re not in control of whether someone gets a contract or not. We just showcase the talent and provide the environment in which they can thrive. I’d have bitten your hand off last January if you’d have told me this is where we’d be.
“We put together the programme not to say, ‘Look, we all need to go out and sign Asian players and coaches’. But our hunch is that there are definitely some high quality players and coaches that the system’s missed out.”
There are other similar initiates running to help further engage and push forwards talent from different communities. ACE is one, for example. That aims to engage young talent of African and Caribbean Heritage.
SACA, says Brown, and ACE amongst others are very much aligned in their determination to increase the cricketing talent pool across the United Kingdom.
“We’ve also got research partnerships with ACE and Take Her Lead, Isa Guha’s Charitable Foundation,” he explained. “We’re putting together two PHDs, starting in September. That will be done in conjunction with Birmingham City University.
“One will look at the female game and another will look at how we continue making talent pathways equitable.”
Former England internationals Ali, Owais Shah and Michael Carberry have been or are part of the coaching team at SACA, and Chohan has nothing but good words to say about the work of Brown and his team.
“For me, I was playing club cricket and in the National Counties with Berkshire,” he added. “I was feeling good with my game, but there was no way in.
“It gave me and so many others a great opportunity, and it’s been a massive thing.”
Brown added: “It’s a short-term intervention, and the game can’t rely on it forever.”
A short-term intervention maybe, but there’s every chance that SACA could have long-term benefits for Yorkshire if Chohan stars with the White Rose on his chest.