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Ajmal Shahzad – From Parks to Pavilions – Cricket Heritage – Short

Ajmal Shahzad – From Parks to Pavilions – Cricket Heritage – Short


My kind of feeling and feedback of
Qaid-E-Azam League was a bunch of people really wanted to play cricket together didn’t care where it was, how it was,
what the facilities was like whether the grass was cut or not cut, whether the pitch was prepared or not we would find a way of playing because we really want to play and we want to enjoy it and we want to spend a Sunday, Sunday day together. My next-door neighbor at the time was
called Harish Rana and he and he always used to knock on my door
and say “Do you want to go play cricket in the street?” So we’d form a team- you know we’d knock on everybody’s doors and probably get five or six people out. Somebody bring a bat or everybody bring their own bat. We’d get a couple of tennis balls initially started off just with tennis- just playing with tennis balls and stuff like that and then when that became a little bit easy, we started putting tape on the side of the board it’s a kind of traditional Asian way of playing cricket We used to use a gentleman’s gate as our wickets and it turned out that this gentleman was a chairman of a cricket club. He used to see us playing in the street everyday hit balls into his garden, hit his window, hit his cars one day came out and you know didn’t tell us off or anything and said “If you want to, if you’re interested in playing some cricket, you know I’m a chairman of a cricket club- do you fancy coming down?” Parents were a bit reluctant at the time,
they didn’t know this gentleman but they kind of put a bit of trust in him and
he took us down to the cricket the cricket field down at Wind Hill
and we got involved in nets and you know, within a matter of a few weeks we were playing competitive cricket. Played cricket for Bradford Grammar School,
got noticed, did really well went to Yorkshire School Trials, didn’t get in. There was another cricket coach at the time
he’s passed away now He put me through to England School Trials. Which Which is a dramatic jump, because you’ve gone past Yorkshire School Trials now. and they selected me to play for them. Off the back of that I got picked in
Yorkshire Schools from these trials I remember one of the sessions I went to I bowled particularly well, I just remember
getting a lot of wickets bowled a little bit erratically, but getting a lot of wickets. To which, my bowling coach at the time who ended up being my first
Team Yorkshire Bowling Coach Steve Oldham, said “What would you say if we were to offer you a contract?” It was at a time where Imran Khan
came to Bradford University and he put a statement out there that in broad terms: Yorkshire were racist off the back of not many Asians playing for them. You know the thought crosses your mind:
is it because I’m Asian? you know is it because of what’s being said- three, four weeks ago in the papers? It was mixed emotions,
because you’re thinking: well, I know that my dad wants me to
study and work hard and he’s put all this time and effort
into me going to school you know how much uniforms cost, you know how much your educations cost you know your dad is working long hours
to put you through education are you really going to just drop all that
to pursue a cricketing career? Growing up obviously from Pakistani origin and my first one day match I went to go watch was England vs Pakistan at Headingley and it was a game where I think
Waqar made a bit of a comeback and took seven wickets and he was one you’d look up to, a beautiful bowler you know the reverse swing this is what our kind of Pakistani nation were known for so he’d play, I’d love watching him and
the likes of Waseem Akram just purely for the skill level and just
how he was so unique, such a fast arm, you know this is the stuff
that you need to be different and then the likes of Shoaib Akhtar:
you know, fastest bowler in the world. Aggressive, moody sometimes we’d bowl great,
sometimes we’d bowl poorly. Trademark Pakistani bowling in a way If any difficulties arose, it were only in- you know, fasting, religious festivals, etc. Fasting was difficult, you know, being a professional sportsman. We have two Eids a year “Why do you have two Eids a year?” etc, etc. “Why do you eat Halal food? It seems the same.” “Why you not eating pork?” “Why don’t you drink?” and you’ve just got to educate them. So yeah I’ve gone down to Loughborough, been to the state-of-the-art facility thinking: this is where elite people are made this is where the big boys come and I’m following their footsteps you know you walk through them doors and you look left and there’s K.P on the wall you look right and there’s Colin Wood you look left and there’s Strauss there’s Harmison, there’s Flintoff, there’s-
you know you’re thinking: this is where they all come for,
this is where they’re training and you see them there, some of them
are training there and you’re thinking: This is it. This is the big boys. Alright, cool, calm, it’s all good. I get a call from England Selector Jeff Miller: “How you doing Ajmal? You alright?”
“Yeah, I’m good, I’m good.” I’ve heard the name, never met the guy “I’m alright, I’m good.”
“Mate, you had a fantastic tour-” -we want you on the main England Squad.” I’m thinking: this is getting better and better, is this- Where’s the cameras? This is different and now it brings a tear to my eyes,
now thinking about it because it was nice. I went to Dubai, I went to Bangladesh, went to- T20 World Cup went to the Ashes played Bangladesh here, made my debut,
made my debut in all formats. I was the 650th player to ever
represent England in Test Matches. If somebody meets me and I said to them: “I am a British born Muslim, born and bred in Yorkshire, raised in Bradford.” I want them to think: “You know what, solid bloke, he’s a geat lad- great asset, we love his attitude and you know what if that’s the only Asian I ever see then they’re a nice bunch of people them, great people.” It’s bigger than just me you know Alhamulillah, thankfully with the will of God my name will always be there but they’ll be plenty more coming through than there are at the moment and its about building on it, and building on it,
and building on it and trying not to bring that down in any way. I try to bring it back to its barest bones in the fact that my dad came from Pakistan and studied Accountancy and educated his children and you know came with nothing and done all this for us. To leave all his family back home,
to leave all his comforts and to come and start afresh. No mean feat, no mean feat I genuinely feel that, I mean- it would be difficult for me to do that in today’s day and age for anyone to pick up and leave their family,
and everything they know and to go and set up sticks and he’s done that so I mean: I owe it to him, and my family to do that.

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