Cricket: Azeem Rafiq overjoyed after earning new deal at Yorkshire

Azeem Rafiq, left, has earned his Yorkshire cap and a new deal
Azeem Rafiq, left, has earned his Yorkshire cap and a new deal

Azeem Rafiq, the captain of Yorkshire League South side Sheffield and Phoenix United, has signed a one-year contract extension at Yorkshire.

Rafiq, the off-spinning all-rounder, resigned for Yorkshire in June after two years out of the professional game. Rafiq was released by Yorkshire in 2014 after effectively falling out of love with the game.

But a change in approach and attitude earned him a second chance with the county and the 25-year-old said: “I’m really pleased! It’s been a bit of a whirlwind since June, but I’ve enjoyed every second.

“To be part of a successful team and to play a little part in that is great.

“In the longer term, of course a new contract is what I’ve been working hard for.

“Back in June it was about grasping a second opportunity and playing every day like it was my last. “I just wanted to soak up as much as I could from what is a great environment.

“My aims were to enjoy it more than the last time and to contribute in any way I could to some success.”

Rafiq’s extension was announced on the eve of Yorkshire’s title decider against Middlesex at Lord’s, as they search for a third successive County Championship crown.

“This is my first time as a player at Lord’s and to go there and win the County Championship would be very special indeed,” Rafiq said.

“Having practiced there before this game, it’s an incredible place and winning there and lifting the trophy would be something to look back on at the end of my career.

“To win the Championship for a second time for myself and a third time for the Club; I think it would be one of the biggest wins in the club’s history.

“I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t nervous but we are in a very simple position; we have to win. It’s also an exciting position to be in.

“The opportunity to win and be crowned champions for a third year in a row would be incredible.”

Rafiq was thrown in at Lord’s after Adil Rashid, his Tykes teammate, asked to be rested due to fatigue, although the leg-spinner later added that a family member - thought to be his grandmother - has been ill in hospital.

“I didn’t feel that I am in a strong enough mental frame of mind to be at my best,” Rashid said.

“Although I did make myself available, if I was required to play I felt I could be letting the lads down.

“But coupled with my personal reasons I have also had a heavy period of cricket recently for Yorkshire and England which has been both physically and mentally draining and it is very unfortunate timing.”