Shan Masood has been keeping one eye on the county scores while in Lahore this past week. In between Pakistan’s T20 games against England, he was watching what was going on in Leeds where, on Wednesday, Yorkshire’s head coach, Ottis Gibson, announced Masood would be club captain next year after his move from Derbyshire. He is only the second overseas player to be the county’s skipper. “It is,” he says, “one of the biggest achievements of my career.”
And he was watching what was happening at Edgbaston where, a day later, his new team were relegated to the Division Two of the championship as a consequence of Warwickshire beating Hampshire.
“There’s no point dwelling on it,” Masood says. “You need to keep moving forward. That’s the game.
“Too often as cricketers we get stuck in the past. We’ve seen mighty teams fall and we’ve seen people at ground level go all the way up, so you always have to believe that nothing is permanent. Every day is a new day, and every season is a new challenge. Whether it’s Division One or Division Two, I’m personally not bothered.
“What I’m bothered about is the direction we head in and the way we play our cricket and then, hopefully, the byproduct of that will be the results.” There are, he says, still three trophies to win.
You wonder if Masood realises how hard it is going to be to move on from the past at a club that sometimes seems to be stuck in it.
Yorkshire are still reeling from the fallout from the Azeem Rafiq scandal, the rancorous sacking of 16 backroom staff, and the loss of three senior players in David Willey, Tom Kohler-Cadmore and Steve Patterson. But he says he is going into it with his eyes open.
“I’m a very straightforward person. I try to gather information off of everyone. David Willey played for Multan, so I spoke to him. He is one of the best guys I’ve known in cricket. And I had other conversations with people at the club and with people outside the club.”
Masood, who knows a lot of Yorkshire’s players and coaches from the Pakistan Super League, has had “numerous conversations” with Dawid Malan, Harry Brook and Adil Rashid to try to get a sense of what he is taking on. He has decided that “whatever difference I can make is going to be through my cricket. I don’t want to get into what’s happened there. What’s happened has happened.
“I want to go there and make a difference as a player and as a person and I hope that when I do, Yorkshire can be known for the kind of cricket they play. I want us to be the team that people want to come and see.”
He also had long chats with Andy Flower, his coach and mentor at Multan. When Masood was in two minds about whether to take a break from cricket after his sister died last year, it was Flower who persuaded him to do it.
He spoke a lot with Mickey Arthur, too. Arthur, his coach at Derbyshire, hated to lose him after Masood led their averages in all three competitions this year, but he understood why he wanted to move.
“It wasn’t the easiest of decisions to make, because at Derby I felt at home from day one,” Masood says. “But I just felt this was the next step I had to take in this fairly short career we have as sportsmen.”
He says he had three reasons for joining Yorkshire. One was the pedigree of the Pakistan players who have played for the club, Younis Khan, Inzamam-ul-Haq and Sarfaraz Ahmed, with whom he is especially close. Another was the chance to play at a Test ground. And third was the opportunity to learn from “batsmen who are dominating world cricket” such as “Joe Root, Jonny Bairstow, Dawid Malan and Harry Brook”, although he says he isn’t sure “how much they’ll be around”. They’ve been telling him all about “the battle of the Roses and things like that.
“It is going to be challenging, we need to restore the club back to where it has been. I’ve just been looking at the list of County Championship winners and Yorkshire, historically, were at the top. So we are a team that has the pedigree to do that.”
Masood has not spent much time in England and has played only one match at Headingley, but he went to school in Lincolnshire and university in Durham, so he has an idea about English cricket culture and what it will mean to the British‑Asian community in Yorkshire in particular that the club have appointed a Pakistani captain.
“I want to be a role model to everyone,” he says. “I want to be known as a good person and a good player. If I do that and it has a good impact on the British-Pakistani community, or the Yorkshire community in general, I will be really happy, because those things matter to me.
“It’s very important to be liked as a person first and foremost, before anything else. And there’s a huge onus and responsibility on me to do that.”
Masood is a player who relishes taking on new challenges and he is trying to do it again now by showing he can play international T20 cricket. Turning Yorkshire around will be his biggest yet.