Hamza Rashid leads from the front at Cambridge Granta II
Bowler sets a fine example for youthful side
You would not be too far wrong from saying that Hamza Rashid is the elder statesmen of Cambridge Granta II, but he is setting a fine example to his young charges so far this campaign.
After struggling in Whiting & Partners Cambs and Hunts Premier League, Division Two last season, they have transformed into one of the pacesetters this year, with Rashid leading the way.
He is extremely modest about his own form, preferring instead to reflect on the achievements of those around him, but there is no shying away from the fact that he is the leading wicket-taker in the division.
Rashid has claimed 33 scalps at an average of 11.94 runs, with a best haul of five for 39, in what is turning into a golden summer for the spinners; Huntingdon’s Navid Ahmed and Thriplow’s Richie Turner are also in the top four wicket-takers in Division Two.
Rashid has been troubling batsmen for the past 10 years, since first playing for Huntingdon and now Granta, but his arrival in the region was around 20 years ago.
He moved over from Pakistan to play for St Giles in 1999, but in 2001 went to play in Denmark.
“It was in their top league, and the standard of cricket was pretty good,” he said.
“There were less players there, obviously as it’s not played like in England, but whoever the cricketers are they are a really good standard.
“Quite a few people from Pakistan, India, Sri Lanka live there, so the standard of cricket is good.
“It was an enjoyable time.”
Rashid is a leg spinner, but finding his path in the sport in Pakistan, it was a case of learning all skills, and the bowling is an element of his game that has come more to the fore in recent times.
“I haven’t really batted for quite a few years just because it’s about giving youngsters a go,” said Rashid, who put his current recent success down to the dry wickets.
“As I took over the captaincy here, I always wanted to build a team that people just enjoy and it’s going great for me actually, going that way.
“All these youngsters are comfortable playing under my captaincy, and it’s going good at the moment.”
When Rashid joined Granta in 2013 they were in the Cambridgeshire Cricket Association Senior League, Division One, but having taken over as captain from Alex Hooley midway through the 2014 season, they earned promotion to the Cambs and Hunts Premier League, Division Two in 2015.
It means that he has seen a succession of youngsters pass through the second team into the East Anglian Premier League team.
With the likes of Max Holden and Michael Pepper going on to play for first-class counties, Sacha Abbassi and Will Hales are the latest to make the step up.
“At the moment, the team is looking very good,” he said. “It’s all about the youngsters, they have been batting very well this year.
“Miles Aubrey has got 50s and then Felix Serby has been in very good form as a young cricketer, just 16.
“As well, in the top order, we had Sacha Abbassi, who is playing in the ones now, and Akbar Akhter has replaced him and it’s not changed at all as he does the same thing that Sacha used to do.
“He is giving us a very good start every match. It’s a complete team effort at the moment.
“These young boys have all grown up since I’ve been here, and it’s looking good.
“They are getting their chances in the Premier League [with the first team] which is very good to see.
“For me, Miles and Felix will be the future of the club again in a couple of years’ time.”
Rashid is 36 and bar a couple of exceptions, the rest of the team are around 20 or younger, but he does not feel the pressure to lead with the bowling.
“Zaman [Akhter] has been brilliant with the ball this year, and Deepak [Raj] has always been a very good bowler with the new ball, even though he is not on the wicket column that much,” he said.
“You can’t see him taking wickets every week, but he always brings experience to this team, which helps.
“Asaama [Weerasekara] is another who has got an experienced head on him, and it really makes a very good combination with all the younger bowlers as well.”
With such a bowling attack, and the youngsters among the runs, Granta look in a good position to continue to set the pace in Division Two.
But Rashid is coy about their promotion prospects.
“It’s still very early in the season,” he said. “We’ve still got top teams to play.
“Things really change if you lose two matches in this league, you can drop from top to third or fourth position.
“Only one team will go up, so it’s a very slim chance and you need to keep winning.
“All these young boys are doing really well, but it’s too early to predict anything.”