NAME: Azeem Rafiq DOB: February 27, 1991, Karachi ROLE: Off-spinner, Right-hand bat NICKNAME: Rafa DID YOU KNOW?: Rafiq is a big Barnsley football fan and trained with them in late 2013 as part of his pre-season training programme.
Azeem Rafiq made an encouraging return to Yorkshire colours in 2016, a little under two years since being released by the county.
Rafiq, an off-spinner who is extremely useful with the bat, earned his county cap towards the end of his comeback campaign.
A former England Under 19s captain, he also skippered Yorkshire’s Twenty20 team during 2012 – the first cricketer of Asian origin to take the role.
He led the county to five wins from his six matches in charge.
Rafiq, born in Karachi, moved from Pakistan to England – Barnsley to be precise – in 2001 before also playing age-group cricket for England’s under 15s and 17s.
He first pulled on a Yorkshire shirt at Under 13s level in 2004, debuting for the club’s Academy side only two years later.
Rafiq’s second XI debut came as a 16-year-old in 2007 in a side including current four-day captain Andrew Gale, Adam Lyth, Rich Pyrah and Steve Patterson.
Having learnt his cricket with Barnsley at Shaw Lane, he took a notable 5-10 from four overs later in the summer for England’s Under 16s against an Australian Schools Under 16s team at Loughborough.
His first-team debut for Yorkshire, in a Twenty20 match at Notts in 2008, ended up being wrapped in controversy as it was subsequently revealed that he had not been registered as an English qualified player in a paperwork oversight.
Yorkshire ended up being disqualified from that year’s competition at the quarter-final stage as a result of fielding an ineligible player.
His qualification was quickly sorted out, and he debuted in one-day and County Championship cricket the following summer.
During only his second match, against Worcestershire at New Road in early June, he hit his maiden century in a high-scoring draw.
He captained England Under 19s at the one-day World Cup in New Zealand in early 2010.
He took a career best 5-30 during the final week of 2012 when Yorkshire secured Championship promotion from Division Two with a win over Essex at Chelmsford, the same year he captained the county and appeared at Finals Day for the first time. He also hit fifties in both innings of the match.
Rafiq briefly ousted Adil Rashid as Yorkshire first choice Championship spinner, but things did not quite work out.
Although he played a small part in Yorkshire’s Championship title win in 2014, he was released that year.
Thankfully, he impressed in league cricket for Sheffield and Phoenix United at the start of 2016 before being invited back to Headingley to play some second-team cricket, earning himself another contract.
He played six Championship matches, scoring two fifties and taking three wickets. He also played six one-day matches and eleven in the NatWest T20 Blast.
Rafiq was Yorkshire’s joint second highest wicket-taker in that particular competition with 15 as they reached Finals Day for the second time.