Yorkshire have teamed up with Pakistan Super League franchise Lahore Qalandars, with “reducing barriers to entry to cricket for young people” among the express targets after the racism furore that has gripped the county.
According to Yorkshire, the partnership represents a chance for the club to “learn from and emulate” the Qalandars’ Players Development Program (PDP), which provides opportunities and kit bag essentials to 150 young players.
Pakistan fast bowler Haris Rauf came through the PDP and will join Yorkshire as an overseas player for some of next season as part of a player exchange programme to help international competitors learn from each other.
A friendly fixture between the teams is set to be held at the Gaddafi Stadium on January 16, while academy players from both teams will have the chance to train and play abroad, with scholarships for “young, aspiring players” from both Yorkshire and Pakistan on offer.
Yorkshire chair Lord Patel, seeking to restore the club’s reputation after they were pilloried for their handling of Azeem Rafiq’s racism claims, hopes this move can create a county “that is welcoming and supportive to all”.
Patel said: “The work the Lahore Qalandars do both on and off the pitch is remarkable and can serve as a benchmark for clubs around the world – ours included – for how best to spot, foster and support talent at all levels in the game of cricket.
“The Players Development Program is an incredible achievement – breaking the mould for how teams can be created within our sport and demonstrating that through offering access and support, great cricketing talent can be found from all backgrounds.
“Over the coming months, this, coupled with scholarships and new opportunities and experiences for academy players, will represent an exciting step toward a Yorkshire County Cricket Club that is welcoming and supportive to all.”
Rafiq’s allegations of institutional racism at the county where he had two stints between 2008 and 2018 and how Yorkshire dealt with the claims led to an overhaul, with Patel succeeding Roger Hutton last month.
Mark Arthur stood down as chief executive, while 16 members of the coaching and medical staff were dismissed at the beginning of the month, including first-team coach Andrew Gale and director of cricket Martyn Moxon.
They have invited applications for a new head coach and up to six non-executive directors to help the county navigate “the most challenging period” in their 158-year history, while former bowler Darren Gough has been installed as interim director of cricket.
Gough said: “I am thrilled to welcome the exceptionally talented Haris Rauf to our club. I am also excited by the opportunity to learn from the inspirational Players Development Program.
“For many people from a background like mine, cricket isn’t seen as an option, with the associated costs and access to facilities creating real barriers to entry.
“This partnership is an opportunity to take the blueprint the Qalandars has developed to such a success and work with them to define how that can be used to provide access for potential players from across Yorkshire.”