YORKSHIRE have accused Ajmal Shahzad of playing for himself rather than the team and revealed they had no choice but to let the disaffected pace bowler leave the club.
Colin Graves, the Yorkshire chairman, said yesterday there were irreconcilable differences between both parties which led to a dramatic parting of the ways on the eve of the County Championship match against Leicestershire at Scarborough.
Graves, who disclosed that Shahzad had been unhappy with the club’s cricketing and coaching strategy for some time, said he called an emergency meeting at Headingley Carnegie on Tuesday in response to issues that arose during last week’s Championship game against Kent at Canterbury.
Graves claimed Shahzad had “made a comment to someone internally regarding his future at Yorkshire” and that the club had no alternative but to bring matters to a head.
Graves met Shahzad and his agent, the former Lancashire and England batsman Neil Fairbrother, and told them he did not want festering tensions to affect Yorkshire’s season.
After listening to Shahzad’s side of the story, Graves determined there was no way forward, although he stressed Shahzad’s departure was “a mutual decision”.
Last night, Fairbrother said both he and the player wanted time to digest Yorkshire’s comments before deciding whether to issue a public response.
But Graves was typically candid as he explained Yorkshire’s frustrations during a press conference held at North Marine Road.
“Ajmal put across very strongly that he is more interested in Ajmal Shahzad than the rest of the team,” said Graves.
“To me, that is unacceptable.
“Ajmal was unhappy last year with the situation on the cricket and coaching side.
“Now, just three matches into the new season, there is still a problem despite the fact we’ve got a new coaching set-up and everything.
“What happened was that Martyn (Moxon) reported to me on Tuesday morning when they returned from Kent and told me that issues had arisen again during the Kent game which the coaches were unhappy with.
“Ajmal had made a comment to someone internally regarding his future at Yorkshire, and, when I heard that, I thought the best thing to do was to bring it to a head.
“I am not going to sit here, three matches into the new season, and let it affect our season and affect our team.
“Cricket is a team game, and, at the end of the day, Yorkshire is bigger than everyone as far as I’m concerned.”
Shahzad’s frustrations were thought to have related to his role in the side.
While he perceived himself as a strike bowler, Yorkshire saw him in more of a selective capacity.
“During the meeting we sat down and went through it all,” said Graves.
“Everybody had their say, and, to be honest, I listened to what everybody else had to say.
“I actually sat quiet for 40 minutes, which is unusual for me, and at the end of it I just turned round and said ‘there’s no way forward’.
“We were just back to where we were before. At the end of the day, cricket is a team game – it’s about the players out there.
“Ajmal couldn’t see that, and I’m not prepared to have someone playing for Yorkshire who doesn’t want to be a part of the team.
“All the comments I’ve heard from Ajmal are always about him; it’s not about the team, it’s about him.
“We wanted Ajmal to be at the club for the rest of his playing career, but, unfortunately, that’s not going to happen.”
Graves denied that his public criticism of the Yorkshire players in the wake of last season’s disappointing Championship relegation was directly aimed at players like Shahzad.
Graves branded the performances “a bloody disgrace” and advised the players to take “a long, hard look at themselves”.
Shahzad was among those who had a summer to forget, taking only 25 Championship wickets at 41.00.
But he was understood to have been unhappy with Graves’s comments – particularly in view of the fact he had a long-term ankle injury.
“I made certain comments at the end of last season but I never mentioned Ajmal personally,” said Graves.
“If he took it personally, that was his decision.
“I never mentioned Ajmal Shahzad at all; if he felt I implied him, that’s up to him.
“There was a lot that I implied because, at the end of the day, we didn’t perform.”
Despite his frustration with Shahzad, Graves said he wished the player well.
Somerset are among the latest to have expressed an interest in signing a man who has played one Test and 11 one-day internationals.
“At the end of the day, I feel disappointed for Martyn and I feel disappointed for Andrew Gale (the Yorkshire captain) because they have tried strenuously over the last 12 months to work with the guy,” said Graves.
“But I also feel sorry for Ajmal Shahzad because, for some reason, he hasn’t taken that opportunity.
“I do really think he is better off somewhere else and I hope it works out for him, and I also hope it works out from England’s point of view because the guy has got potential.
“But, as I’ve said to Martyn, how many matches has he won for Yorkshire?”